As I was heading to bed last night, it suddenly struck me that tomorrow would be the last day in which I’d have any time to myself, until July. It was a horrifying realisation. It would be the last day that I had no work, no toddler and no Uni until the middle of Winter. I adore my baby, my job is great and I love studying, but I really cherish my ‘just me’ time. And I don’t get it often enough. So here I was, heading to bed, planning all the things I would do, for me, in that last precious 8am to 3pm slot I had coming up. Of course I had to tick off the Exercise, Rest, Create activities, my life savers that keep me well. A gym visit, some writing and the last episode of Broadchurch on I-view. Then there was the important process of maintaining relationships, so lunch with a friend I’ve been meaning to see since before Christmas. Retail therapy, something new to wear for the first day back at work. House work, some cleaning and food prep to make next week flow a bit smoother. School work, prepping for the start of the new academic year. The day seemed to be busting at the seams already. But I could make it work. I had to. It was my last chance to do all of this. The list was complete, I said a quick prayer for some sleep (the usual fruitless plea – “please let her sleep through”) and I lay down.
The first stretch of sleep for Little M. is the longest of the night. After that first wake, you can guarantee that the next stretches will not be longer that 3 hour blocks, if I’m lucky. 9.30pm was the first wake up. A whole two hours of sleep for her, thirty minutes for me. I couldn’t believe it, because I now knew the pattern for the night. Midnight awake. 3am awake and stayed awake until 5am, “stroking” my hair and hanging off the boob. At 5am the first glimmer of sunlight, the smallest of beams across the top of the black out shutters, raised a chorus of “Sunshine! Sunshine! Look, time to get up. Sunshine!” from the wriggling bubba. We have been reading Nurses When The Sun Shines in the vain hope that it would encourage night weaning and improve sleep. All it has done is reinforce the idea that as soon as the sun comes through the window, it’s game on and no more bedtime. With about as many hours sleep as I can count on one hand, I felt the familiar nausea, and a sense of dread. How was I going to pull through the day? And oh no, it was supposed to be MY day, my last day til Winter. I was gutted and angry and sad. “Oh, I want to hug you and snuggle you. I love you soooo much”, came this little voice and tight squeeze on my thigh, as I spread jam on bread for M’s breakfast. And that moment, those words and actions, is how you get through it.
Having dropped her at daycare, I headed straight to the gym. The first kilometre on the machine was, as always, really tough. I was so tired and still nauseous. The thing about running is it’s a mind game. Pure and simple. Your back and legs can do it, your lungs and heart can do it, it’s your head you have to convince. I have a strategy though which I am happy to share. Make sure you run at a weird pace, like 6 mins 19 seconds a KM. Then, say to yourself, “You just have to run 1KM then you can stop.”
At 1KM, the clock says 6:19 and you tell yourself, “It’s less than 4 minutes til you’ve run for 10 minutes, keep going, then you can stop.”
At 10 minutes, you are over 1.5 KMS so you say to yourself, “Only another 400 metres and you will be at 2 KMS, then you can stop.”
And so on. Like I said, mind games. Another amazing thing happens when you exercise though. Even on those days when you are sick with tiredness and have no idea how you will ever manage the mountain of things you need or want to do, those wonderful natural chemicals are released. Dopamine and Endorphine and Serotonin. You feel euphoric, on top of the world. You are strong and happy and unstoppable, (even if you definitely weren’t these things 6 minutes ago.) They reduce stress. You know you can accomplish anything you have set your mind to, that list is now going to be really managable. They diminish the perception of pain. They act better and quicker than any over the counter pain-killer, the sickness in the stomach stops. They make you feel calmer and more in control of everything, once you have stopped, and the rest and recovery process has begun. It is no wonder it is additive once you start exercising regularly.
I rushed home, full of energy and enthusiasm to continue with my day and went straight to writing. By 9.30am I have written an entry and run 5kms. That is some accomplishment. I know that MY day is still going to be a great day. Hey, I might not fit in everything on my mental list, but I’ll have a damn good crack at it. And enjoy it, which is what it is really all about anyway.
As someone who loves learning, I find such joy in discovering the lessons in every day events. Yet another lesson I have learnt since becoming a mum is that we can never, ever plan completely because we are no longer in charge of our time, things are pretty much out of our control and we must accept this. This is a tough one, this lesson. But the skills we learn along the way are pretty impressive. We become super efficient. I can clean the bathroom and vacuum so quickly these days, it’s like I have grown extra sets of arms. We learn to prioritize quickly, and live happily with the consequences. The food shopping can wait until tomorrow, a previously frozen meal was put away for occasions just like this one. We learn to develop a ‘Laissez- Faire’ attitude to things that no longer serve us. We have no room for the time-wasting activities and people in our lives and let them go. What and whom we are therefore left with, are really important and we have the space and time to enjoy these to the full. We need to make sure that we continue to embrace the MY day, or MY hour or MY minute, because when we put ourselves first, even for a short while, we are creating a happier, more content person. Only then can be a better mum and partner. And finally, when you get those little words and thigh hugs from the ones who have you as the centre of their world, remember you have never been so loved. I would gratefully give up a further night’s sleep for another one of those moments. Um well, that might just be the dopamine speaking, I’ll definitely be praying again tonight.