Clearly, tiredness is not a condition reserved for new parents. As someone who has a three-hour round commute to work, the pitfalls of sleep deprivation are far from alien to me. However four weeks ago today I discovered a whole new level of exhaustion – and it’s hilarious.
That’s right, despite being woken at 3am to change my darling son’s nappy which, for the fourth time today, has been filled with a substance very similar in appearance – and odour – to a Chicken Korma, my overriding memories of our first month of nights will be of absolute hilarity.
Any parent will tell you that there is a difference between the tiredness you feel when you’ve not had enough sleep, to the effects of sleep deprivation caused by the constant disruptions to a pattern you’ve built up over several decades.
Before I go any further I must make it clear that Kayley (my infinitely better half and mother to Albie, our beautiful son) has it much worse than I. For the last four weeks she’s averaged two to three hours sleep per night at best, had the little man dangling off her nipples on a near constant basis, and has dealt with aches and pains you don’t expect to worry about until much later in life – and that’s all before even mentioning the ordeal of childbirth (which, in large, I’ll save for another blog). All the while being the kind, caring, loving, beautiful woman I fell in love with eleven years ago.
So to properly understand the roots of the exhaustion which has caused these four weeks to be so side-splittingly brilliant, we have to go back to the night he arrived, which in fact began 31 hours prior to his actual arrival. Two days after his due date, Kayley started to feel twinges around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Initially, we brushed them off as normal pregnancy movements but by 6pm the twinges had become definite contractions and we set about timing their lengths and regularity – little did we know that this part of labour was going to last 12 hours. Despite increasingly panicked calls to the hospital we were told to stay at home until the contractions were longer and closer together. ‘Try and sleep through them’ the midwife suggested without even a hint of irony. But there’d be no sleep tonight, nor the next 30 nights.
We decided that Louis Theroux might be a good tonic to see Kayley through the excruciating cramps she was experiencing every couple of minutes, but it turns out that his pithy style of journalism is not conducive to soothing the pains of early labour. In the end, we opted for the Lion King because after all, there’s never a bad time to singalong to Hakuna Matata.
To cut an extremely long story short, we eventually arrived at Southend University hospital a little after 6am and Albie Alexander Hewis was born 16 hours later at 10:18pm. We didn’t manage to actually sleep until 4am – by which time we’d been awake for 45 hours. So the sleep starvation had started way before we even got our bundle of joy home.
So all the above may explain why for the weeks following I turned into a bumbling wreck, unable to speak in coherent sentences and muttering absurdities that left us in stitches. And on that, here’s the main point of this blog, the top five hilarious things sleep deprivation made me say/do:
1. Ant McPartlin’s shop
Kayley: Ben, can you hold Albie please, I need to go to the loo.
Me (waking up): Huh?
Kayley: Please can you hold Albie for me?
Me: But what about Ant’s shop?
Me: Can you just go over the road and find out if Ant McPartlin has a shop?
2. Off to the parade
Kayley: Ben, would you mind winding Albie? I need to get some sleep.
Me (waking up): Are we going to the (*humming*) doo doo dee dah doo?
Kayley: What? I just want you to hold him.
Me: Are we going to the (*humming*) doo doo dee dah doo?
Kayley: No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Me: The (*humming*) doo doo dee dah doo… the parade?
3. An interpreter
Thursday, 3:45am – Kayley must have handed me Albie while I was still half asleep. She returns from the toilet to find me stood in the corner cradling him, apparently still asleep.
Kayley: Ben…. Ben… BEN? Are you OK?
Me: What do you want me to do with this (Albie)?
Me: I don’t know what to do with it. We need an interpreter!
4. Song selection
Me (still asleep): What song is he singing?
Kayley (awake, feeding Albie): Who?
Kayley: He’s not singing a song.
Me: I know that. But he has to choose one, from West Side Story.
5. The scariest moment of my life so far
Me (jumping out of bed, half asleep): Shit!
Kayley (waking up): What?!
Me: I fell asleep on Albie! Is he ok? Did I hurt him? (*showing her Albie, cradled in my arms*)
Kayley: Ben! That’s your t-shirt you are holding, Albie is over here in his crib.
I think laughing about these instances, literally belly laughing at ridiculous times in the middle of the night, is part of what saw us through that first couple of weeks. It’s an insanely challenging time – I keep wondering how you can just turn up to a hospital and return home with a human, I needed more training to use the coffee machine at work – but we’ve got through it. Now we need to teach him the difference between day and night – wish us luck!