My ears were ringing and my eyes hurt. Every bone in my body was aching and my head pounding. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since I slept for more than two hours at a time. Two weeks? Three weeks? I didn’t know because I could barely remember how to spell my name, much less have any concept of how long I had been sleep deprived.
It was hard. It was so damn hard. Coming off my maternity leave and going back to work long before it was time to return was a hard decision. It was one that I thought through and weighed the pros and cons. But I really didn’t think it would be this bad. I knew I would miss my baby and I knew that I would be tired, but I had no idea I could be this tired. The kind of tired that you simply do not know or understand until you have children.
I chose to go back to work early because financially, it made good sense. As a single mother, I wanted to make sure that I could give my daughter and myself the best life possible, and that meant that I had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. The first few weeks at work weren’t too bad. I was enjoying the new job and liked the work I was doing. But after a few weeks, my daughters sleep started to regress and it regressed badly. It was at the point where she was up four to five times a night. My longest stretch of sleep was three hours and that was on a good night. There were some nights where my longest stretch was barely ninety minutes.
Weeks had passed and I didn’t know if I could continue. My body was aching and my concentration levels were diminishing. I so badly wanted to make it work, I loved the job and it paid well and it was helping me save for a house, but the lack of sleep was causing me to deteriorate. I even started to forget words and phrases. I called my eyelid and eye cover, that’s how tired I was.
My parents gave me breaks when I asked for them, but I hated asking.
I didn’t want to look weak and I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t do it.
Because I knew I could do it. I had something to prove. I wanted the world to know that single moms can have good jobs and raise their children and make good decisions and get ahead financially. I wanted everyone to know that I could do it all on my own and that I didn’t need anyone else. I wanted to prove that I was strong.
And then, one day, the fatigue caught up with me. I was trying to do laundry, play with the baby, and answer work emails. I couldn’t concentrate because my head was pounding and my eyes were going blurry. I knew that I was physically exhausted. My mom asked me if I was okay and I tried to answer, but instead I just started to cry. She asked what was wrong and I told her how overwhelmed and tired I was. She looked at me and said gently “then why didn’t you ask for help?” and that only made me cry harder. I wanted to tell her why, but I knew how crazy it sounded. I knew that I didn’t need to prove anything to my parents. I knew that they were proud of me for doing what I needed to do and making tough decisions to create a better future for me and my daughter. So why couldn’t I ask them for help? Why couldn’t I swallow my pride and tell them what I needed?
My mom and dad were amazing. They started taking my daughter a few nights every week so that I could catch up on my sleep. I felt guilty not waking up with her for her nighttime feedings, but I also knew that she was in very good hands.
Amazingly, her sleep regression eventually improved and I am happy to say that my thirteen month old now sleeps through the night. It was a tough battle at times, but it taught me a lot about myself and my family. It taught me that I can depend on my family for anything. That they will help me out whenever they can and that they love me unconditionally. It also taught me that strength does not mean facing all of your battles alone.
Strength is having the courage to know when you need to lean on someone else.
My strength is in my daughter. I strive to be my very best for her. And if that means having to ask for help or swallowing my pride, then so be it. If it means that it will somehow help me create a better future for her then I am perfectly okay with that. She has taught me more about strength in thirteen short months that I have ever known in an entire lifetime. She is the best thing that ever happened to me, she has helped me to become a strong and determined woman and I hope some day she can say the same about me.
Katie lives on the east coast of Canada and is a single mother to a beautiful baby girl named Charlotte. When she’s not busy raising her daughter, working full time, writing, or taking pictures, she spends what little time she has trying to figure out how to make a living off of eating chocolate and drinking wine. Her work has been featured on Scary Mommy and Mamalode. She can be found on Twitter and Facebook and you can check out her blog at she didn’t come with instructions.
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