Lives of Quiet Desperation

It was Henry David Thoreau who said in Walden: 

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

I think he must have meant not just men, but women also. Sometimes I feel a huge discord between the life I talk about and the life I experience internally. Quiet desperation (and at times not so quiet) has been the theme of the last two weeks for me. I tend not to blog much about difficulties at home, and I suppose that’s why I don’t talk about them in real life either. It seems ungrateful and like I am craving attention when I begin to talk about the things that I am finding hard.

But the last two weeks have been hard. Hell, the last two years have been hard. Hard in a different way to the years before them. When baby F arrived I thought I could never have a sad day ever again. But of course it is impossible (I think?) to spend every day of your life in joyous rapture – unless you are Buddha. And baby F was sent to test my parenting skills to the absolute limit. After my husband moved out, we had a week of calm at home. The children were all sleeping. I was sleeping. No one was arguing. I was planning a long period of early nights and restoration of my poor weary soul.

But toddler F got sick. It started with a cold, and then a cough. That developed into days of extreme fever (105 degrees), which gave way to more coughing and then a severe sinus infection and still the coughing. The result of all that is that she has woken around 4 times every night for two weeks without a break (up from the usual one or two wakings that have never settled). She goes from silent sleep to blood-curdling screaming in an instant. It never fails to shock my system into panic as I hurtle into consciousness. It’s a distressing and depressing thing to deal with every night. It starts around 22:30, which is usually not long after I’ve fallen asleep. She will then wake at midnight, 2am and 4am. Every. Single. Night.

And the screaming never seems to stop. In the daytime she is as demanding as ever, freaking out if I misunderstand what she is saying, or don’t give her exactly what she wants. She often screams on the entire school run, and then clings to me red eyed and silent while I wait in the playground, refusing to walk or stand on her own two feet. She is afraid of seemingly everything (refusing to get out of the car at the beach today, for example, and crying to go home). She screams blue murder when I try to get her in the bath. She cries if I walk too close to someone’s dog.

She can’t sleep unless I am in the same room at bedtime, which is not easy when it comes to doing bedtime for the boys. She sleeps around the same number of hours as my 6 year old and I am sure she is constantly exhausted.

On top of that, my 8 year old is rarely asleep before 9:15pm, and cannot seem to stay in bed before that, so there is no evening time for me to unwind. By the time I’ve settled him and crawled into bed myself, it’s not long before toddler F starts up the first screaming session of the night.

As you can imagine, my state of mind is not at its best. I’m irritable with the boys, impatient with everyone and everything. All I want to do is sleep and yet I never can. I’m a crappy, miserable mother and my empathy for my children’s problems has been much reduced of late. So then I add guilt and self-abhorrence into the mix. My children are crying and I don’t care, but then I do care and I regret feeling so detached and then I cry because it all just hurts and feels so bloody hard and they deserve better than I can give.

My husband took all three children out for the day yesterday and I crept back into bed at 9:30am after saying goodbye and didn’t wake up until 2pm. Today he was here and I had to creep upstairs and sleep for 90 minutes in the afternoon because I couldn’t think straight and was losing my patience with the kids yet again.

My exhaustion feels bottomless and I have no idea how to stop the night screaming that is disturbing all of us.

Add to that my period (nice timing), and the fact that I have started having regular nightmares again for the first time in years (I think caused by the general unease of my husband not being here at night), and I am an all round basket case. I’m in tears one minute and laughing the next. Then I’m shouting at everyone for some stupid misdemeanour that wouldn’t normally bother me. It’s a horrible, unpredictable, exhausting way to live.

So I am leading a life of quiet desperation at the moment. I am praying for easier days (and nights). I am hoping that the haggard, lined and faintly surprised face I see staring back at me in the mirror starts to look a little less sallow and a little less aged at some point soon. I will take my quiet desperation out into next week, on the school run, and to all the activities that I do. And hope that someday soon I get enough rest to feel a sense of quiet happiness instead.

This Week’s Goal + Training Log #10 and #11

I’ve fallen behind on my updates. Not that there is much to update, what with school holidays, lack of sleep and a death in the family!

Goal

Photo books 2010-2017

I have done nothing on this goal for the last two weeks. Not a jot.

I don’t get any time at the computer when all three children are home.

Progress

2010-11: Arrived
2012: Done. Awaiting ordering.
2013: To be started

Training

A good week followed by a bad week:

Mon – Rest
Tues – 5km 30:28
Wed – Rest
Thu – Rest
Fri – Rest
Sat – Parkrun PB. Aced it in 29:50 and FINALLY achieved my sub-30 minute 5k, HURRAH!
Sun – 14km run in 1:35. Can’t quite believe I ran that far!

Mon – Rest
Tues – Rest
Wed – Rest
Thu – Rest
Fri – Rest
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest

I have put every day in as a rest day for the latest week, but the irony is that I haven’t really had any rest. I’m feeling really crap about running and everything in general at the moment. My joint pain has flared up really badly too, with a lack of sleep (same old story), and too much wine. Hoping to break out of this next week and get back to it. I can’t give up now – I’ve been running for months.

A Walk In My Shoes

Just for fun this afternoon I wrote down everything I did for the seven hours between 1:30pm and 8:30pm.

  • Change baby F’s nappy
  • Make lunch for me and the kids. F won’t sit in the highchair because of the cat, so I eat my lunch, with her eating her lunch, on my lap
  • Clear away lunch stuff
  • Call coroner
  • Convince all three children to get dressed so we can walk to post office. Bribe C by telling him he can take his remote control car in the lanes
  • Deal with baby F who refuses to get in buggy for first 10 minutes of trip
  • Deal with tantrum from C and take car away as I have already explained he can only use it in the lanes, not on the road
  • Post eBay parcel at post office
  • Walk home, baby F falls asleep in buggy
  • Wheel buggy into house and try to catch up on a bit of work I was supposed to do at the weekend
  • Finish an editing task and email a client
  • Get drinks for the boys
  • Tell the boys there are going to be some changes around here and that Mummy is going to get organised. Okay they say, and run off to play.
  • Shout up to the boys to stop bouncing on the beds
  • Log into eBay and mark parcel as dispatched
  • Hit re-list on a dress that didn’t sell and reduce the price
  • Empty tumble-dryer (we have no washing line, so I am tumble-drying in 25 degree heat), and fold up washing
  • Empty washing machine and put damp load in the tumble dryer
  • Open all the doors and windows as the house is overheating
  • Take the tags off some new winter clothes for the boys and run them through a quick wash
  • Get the now awake baby F out of the buggy
  • Try to take off her shoes but she refuses
  • Put the buggy back in the car
  • Put the shopping bags back in the car from this mornings supermarket trip
  • Enter post office spend in my budget (I use YNAB)
  • Help L find C’s watch
  • Help F put on a thick winter cardigan she has found on the floor even though it is boiling hot
  • I walk away after putting on the cardi, which is apparently the wrong thing to do because baby F immediately has an inconsolable tantrum
  • Bring the washing upstairs while she screams on the floor as she is too angry to hold or to comfort
  • Take the cardigan off because she is sweating and overheating
  • Tell C who is lying on my bed naked to put his underwear back on
  • Put some washing away until baby Fs rage calms to normal crying. This takes almost 15 minutes from start to finish
  • Cuddle her (now she isn’t thrashing against me) and sit and read some picture books with her
  • Move to her room as she wants to play with toys
  • Help L look for his watch. The boys room is so messy we can’t find it
  • Go back to baby Fs room
  • Help baby F try on several outfits she has pulled out of the cupboard
  • Break up a fight between L and C
  • At 4pm decide that the TV is going to have to babysit as I cannot leave the three of them unoccupied and I have to prepare and cook dinner
  • Pick up and put away all the outfits away that baby F has pulled out
  • Change baby F’s nappy
  • Track down the lady who offered to help rehome the cat by going through this mornings call history on my mobile until I get the right number
  • Call her and check I didn’t imagine it, and apologise for crying on the phone this morning
  • Empty the tumbledryer and fold up all the washed and dried bedlinen, some of which has sat on the floor for two days after the boys managed to smash a glass lampshade all over the bed with their lightsabers
  • Put the next load of washing in the tumble dryer
  • Chop up a broccoli and a cauliflower for tonights dinner
  • Get baby F a drink
  • Put the last 40g of a 200g bar of wholenut chocolate that I’ve eaten over the last few hours back in the cupboard. I now have a mouth ulcer
  • Get pots and pans ready for dinner
  • Sit down and watch some CBeebies with the children <– THIS IS MY BREAK TIME ?
  • Three minutes later answer the phone to the cat shelter who can take Little Bob this evening. End up in tears again over everything. Wonder how I’m going to manage to drop him off without being a sobbing mess
  • The husband arrives home. Pass the kids over and, give him a fun summary of my day
  • Take the last load out of the tumble dryer and fold up the clothes
  • Make cheese sauce, cook sausages, cook veg
  • Wonder, while I am cooking, if my stress levels contribute to how anxious baby F seems to be all the time. Feel guilty. Feel guilty about always having so much to do. Feel guilty about the cat. Feel guilty about everything
  • Serve dinner. L says ‘Yuk’. C leaves most of it. They all eat some yoghurt and apple
  • Feed the cat
  • Break up a fight between C and L over cheating at Guess Who
  • Deal with C’s tantrum over it being too late to get a new jigsaw out
  • C hits me on the back while I am sorting out toothbrushes for L and baby F in the bath. C refuses to get in
  • Finally convince L to let me remove the remnants of the three stick-on tattoos he got over a month ago
  • Get F and L out of bath.
  • Send L to get dressed and read downstairs
  • Read stories to F
  • Get F a drink
  • Put F into cot
  • Get cat box out of garage
  • Go back upstairs and cuddle crying F
  • Say goodnight to C (husband has read stories)
  • Go back and cuddle F again
  • Gather up cat things
  • Get husband to help get cat in cat box
  • Drive to rescue house, leaving baby F still crying, and try not to imagine horrible things happening to Little Bob
  • Arrive at rescue house and discover a wonderful lady in a wonderful house with a wonderful cat “hotel” in her garden
  • Drive home and thank the universe for looking after Little Bob
  • Stop for wine at the local shop, even though I finished the last of an open bottle yesterday and I said I wouldn’t buy any more
  • Get home and tell the husband the cat lady is lovely
  • Go and reassure L, who is still awake, that Little Bob is going to be fine
  • Open the wine and sit down, grateful for a good end to a difficult day.

Through The Night

Having decided, after 21 months of incessant night waking, to let baby F cry it out, here’s how it’s gone:

Night 1

I moved her cot back into her room as she had spent the last week in with me and was getting even worse at night-waking, crying up to six times a night for a cuddle, even though she was sleeping right next to me (so much for that idea). I had an errand to run so the husband put her down at bedtime. This in itself was a recipe for disaster and she cried for a while before dropping off. She was exhausted after another day of barely napping so thankfully it didn’t last too long.

She then woke at 11pm and had an almighty screaming session. After a few minutes I went in and gave her a cuddle, mainly to reassure her that I was home. She then slept until around 5am. This is a HUGE block of sleep for her, and I was frankly astonished she lasted so long. I left her to cry for a few minutes at 5am and she stopped and went back to sleep. She woke again at 6:30, which is our getting up time. Not too bad for the first night.

Night 2

She fussed so much at bedtime. She didn’t want to go to bed and cried as soon as bath and stories were done. I went back in about ten times after putting her down as she was crying and screaming in her cot. She finally dropped off at about 19:20. She woke at 1:15 and screamed like crazy. She was crying ‘Mama! Mama!’ so I went into to check her (can you see how I’m not very good at this??). She was fine, so all I did was say ‘Sleepy-time’, which she understands, and I walked out without a cuddle or doing anything else. She screamed for 15 minutes and went back to sleep at around 1:30.

She woke again at 2:10 and screamed hysterically. It was very, very angry screaming. Again she was repeating ‘Mama! Mama!’, but with real rage. I felt awful, but kept reminding myself that we have literally tried EVERYTHING else out there, and we have reached this point because neither of us has slept a whole night in almost two years. I never left the boys to cry, aside from a short phase of bedtime screaming when L was a toddler. They never needed it – sleeping through was something they just did that I took for granted. Baby F is actually waking as much now as she was at three months old and I am losing my ability to parent my children properly because I am just so exhausted all the time. After 25 minutes of total rage, she cried a bit quieter, still just saying ‘Mama, Mama’. It was so awful. But all that she ever really needs is a cuddle.

That’s fine in theory, but when you have to get up six times a night just to cuddle your toddler for five seconds so she can go back to sleep, you know you have created a habit that is bad for both of you. I reminded myself repeatedly of all the reasons I had decided to do this while I laid awake listening to her. She cried on and off until 2:50 when she changed to saying ‘Out! Out!’ but it might have been ‘Ow! Ow!’ so I went in again (how can you not? How can you know they are okay?). Well, she was fine, sat up in the cot. I laid her down, said ‘Sleepy-time’, and left the room. She started crying again.

One minute later she started calling out ‘Bee Bee! Bee Bee!’ which is her special blanky. I sighed and went back, because maybe she couldn’t find it in the dark. I gave her Bee Bee, said ‘Sleepy-time’ and came back out. She started crying again immediately, now back to ‘Mama! Mama!’. Are you bored of this story yet? Because it was very trying in real life. She carried on crying until 3:50am and I didn’t go back again. Then she slept til we all get up at 6:30. Waking up felt like I was surfacing the titanic.

Onto night 3.

Night 3

She went to sleep at around 8pm after a lot of fussing and crying, and me going back around 8 or 10 times to cuddle her.

Then she slept through, without a peep, until 6:30am.

I KNOW, RIGHT??

Like – what the hell happened?????

The FIRST EVER TIME she has slept through the night. EVER.

I on the other hand woke at 1:30am for the bathroom. Then at 2:18 because I was hot and fidgety. I stayed awake until around 3:30 even though I was so tired because I just couldn’t get comfortable (restless legs is real, people. As weird as it may seem to those who have never suffered this evil ailment). At 5:45am C came in because he’d lost his teddy. At 6:30 we all got up.

I don’t know if this was just a fluke because she was so tired after night 2, or whether the multiple conversations I had with her about sleeping and not crying for Mummy in the night actually made a difference. I can’t imagine that this will be repeated, but at least I know it’s possible. That’s more than we’ve had for the last 21 months!

This Week’s Goal + Training Log #9

family photo book page layout

Goal

Photo books 2010-2017

I did nothing this week. The husband was on holiday from work so it was a family-focused week with trips out and treats. Plus, I had a total hard drive failure, so it took me three days to reinstall everything and then download my 640GB back-up to get things back to normal (I really need to do a digital declutter). At least it didn’t happen in the middle of a work project.

My 2010 and 2011 books arrived in the post and I love them!

Photo of them so far, below. I’ll do some better ones once I’ve got them all together.

Time spent on goal: 0 hours 0 minutes

Progress

2010-11: Arrived
2012: Done. Awaiting ordering.
2013: To be started

Training

The week started well with baby F finally over her vomit bug and starting to sleep a little better. We even had a single night of no waking, which was pretty cool. I did a great run+HIIT session on Monday.

But it all went downhill from there. Baby F came down with a viral infection that got steadily worse as the week progressed. Two nights of lots of crying with a really blocked nose were followed by five nights of fever, crying and general misery (for both of us). It’s now Monday and she’s still feverish and now croup-y on top of everything else. Two docs have checked her – she just needs to fight off the virus.

I’d planned to run five times, but managed three. And I am so worn out. I have been stuck at 30min 5kms for six weeks and I don’t think I’m going to level up until the sleep thing is under control as I’m just running on empty (literally).

Nevermind – as long as I keep doing something I’m doing good.

Mon – 30 min easy run, 8 min HIIT
Tues – Rest
Wed – 3.9km, 25:05
Thu – Rest
Fri – 5km, 30:55
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest

%d bloggers like this: