Posts Tagged ‘sleep-deprivation’

The other night, as my husband was setting his alarm for the next morning, I casually quipped: “Be sure to set it for 11pm, 1am, 3am and 5am in case the children forget to wake us.” My, how we laughed.

Of course, Mr Justice then proceeded to vomit at 10:30pm, 12:30pm, 2pm, 4am and 4:45am, with a couple of crying interruptions in between by Tiddles McGee thrown in for good measure. And each time, after the sick bowl had been rinsed out and disinfected, the sheets and towels had been changed and fresh water had been administered to the little patient, I would crawl back into bed and pray that this time it would be the last time and that sleep would be my reward.


Really, I should have known better than to make such an amusing quip about the alarm clock. After all, I had already jinxed us badly enough by confidently declaring our Gastro-Free status that very afternoon to a friend we were visiting, only to have Mr Justice coat the toilet with the contents of his stomach an hour later. So I had known that the night ahead was going to be a bad one. But I didn’t think for a moment it would be that bad. Perhaps if I had, I might have never gone to bed in the first place. I might have stayed up all night watching back-to-back Barbie’s Fairytopia movies whilst simultaneously sticking Bionicle armoury in my fleshy bits instead because, quite frankly, that might have proved more restful and relaxing.

I mean, let’s be honest here: sometimes broken sleep (or in this case, sleep which has been dropped from a great height and shattered into a thousand million pieces and then ground firmly underfoot by a thousand angry feet) is worse than no sleep at all. For one thing, there’s all that damn pressure to get back to sleep as quickly as possible and grab as many Zs as you can before being woken again and then there’s the bitter disappointment of being woken up far sooner than you’d hoped.  In the confusion of it all, I began to think of Mr Justice as a newborn baby and, at the first sound of a new vomiting episode, I’d look at the clock blearily and think “But he’s not due to vomit yet!”

Of course all the time I also had that extra pressure of knowing that the morning would bring two extra charges to feed and water, in the form of Master J and Cyclone Bella. And much worse still, that I couldn’t just declare the day a Doonah Day where we spent the whole day slothing about in front of the television in our pyjamas, eating food out of a tin. You see, the next day was The Pixie’s birthday and there were Big Expectations. She was already utterly devastated that I’d canceled her Fairy Morning Tea at the first sign of vomit and I was going to have to pull something pretty special out of the hat to make up for it – all whilst entertaining five children in quarantine conditions on next-to-no-sleep.

Now, I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get through the whole day with a smile on my face. Don’t ask me how: it’s all a pink-streamered blur. I don’t even think The Pixie noticed for a moment that her mother was a mere caffeinated-shadow of her former self. As I tucked her into bed that night, she said “Thank you for the bestest birthday ever”.

Of course, it wasn’t until the next day that I found myself shouting a lot and then sitting on my bed, in self-imposed Time Out, holding a wad of home-made green playdough in my hands and sobbing my little heart out. But that? That’s a story for another day.

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Traditionally, when it comes to packing for our annual winter holiday, we include some “special treats” to share with our good friends KC and MM. For example, we might pack some fine wine, gourmet chocolates, top shelf whisky OR we might bring along a sample of the latest rotarvirus. Yes, this year we gave the Gift of Gastro. 

For the record: this was supposed to be my first real winter holiday. After all, I was no longer pregnant or breastfeeding or even walking around with a child permanently grafted to my hip. The kids were all old enough to occupy each other for minutes at a time. Minutes, I tells ya! I had a good book, a 750-piece jigsaw puzzle and a ready supply of cheap fizz.  I had plans to relax, goddammit. 

However, when The Pixie vomited ingloriously on her younger brother’s head later that first night, that little fantasy was brought to an untimely end.  And, certainly, when she shat her pants an hour after that, it was a little like pissing on the still and lifeless body of said fantasy from a great great height. Or even splatter-crapping on it, just to make the metaphor more relevant and all.

Still, we forged ahead with our holiday. A couple of days later, when The Pixie’s relationship with the toilet was a little less dependent, we made our annual pilgrimage up the Big Mountain to go tobogganing. 

This, of course, sounds much more glamourous than it actually is. The People With Money go up to the actual resort where they ski and drink schnapps in their designer ski gear while the nanny looks after the children. In stark contrast, we slide up and down on off-cut bits of lino on the toboggan run next to the main carpark, wearing our make-shift snow gear comprised of rain coats, gumboots and trout-fishing waders.

Anyway, this year the snow trip started well: we didn’t need to pay for snow chains, the Love Bus passed itself off as a “car” and not as a “people mover” at the toll gates, and we got The Best Parking Spot Ever. Moreover, I didn’t have to carry anyone up the toboggan run or have to free my breasts Houdini-style from my snowwear to feed a screaming baby while sitting in a large pile of cold wet snow. Result.

As we paused for lunch in the tiny kiosk, I felt jovial enough to fondly recall a previous year’s visit, when I’d been breastfeeding a Baby McGee as a four-year-old Justice gleefully pissed a huge arc of urine out the front door while the sun glinted off his stark-naked buttocks and bus-loads of tourists drove by. Boy, was I glad to have left those days way behind us…

CUE: Tiddles McGee projectile vomitting onto the table. Which was all at once completely unexpected and yet entirely predictable. As I mopped it all up with KC’s help, I couldn’t help looking at the lady facing us, stoically eating her hotdog as if nobody had just emptied the entire contents of their stomach just metres from her. I guess, to her credit, she might not have noticed. I mean, someone else’s child might have been vomiting in that kiosk at that moment and *I* certainly wouldn’t have noticed, if only because I was too friggin’  busy catching my two-year-old’s vomit in my hands.

Still, how us grown-ups all laughed around the dinner table that night at my kids’ whacky vomittin’ ways and that Crazy Hot Dog Lady, all ha-ha-ha-ha-ha in that way that people who have NO IDEA what is ahead of them only can.

By morning, of course, we were a sorry shadow of our former selves, with another three of our number having fallen to the dreaded bug and McGee rounding up his vomiting spree with a burning fever. Those of us still standing began eyeing each other suspiciously, like characters in a slasher film, trying to work out who would be struck down next. But unlike those hapless slasher film characters, we managed to get the hell out of there and back to civilisation – albeit with a few emergency vom-stops along the way.

Of course, the grand irony in all this is that we’ve been in the market for some Summer Holiday Friends for some years now. Could it be that the Winter Holiday position, having been ably filled by KC and MM for the past five years, is now open too? Of course, KC and MM have yet to hand in their official notice, but probably only because they – and their legal team – and, quite possibly, their legal team’s legal team – are still vomiting.

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This Weekend Edition of the NDM explores different strategies that can be employed in the pursuit of that most elusive of delicacies: The Good Night’s Sleep. All of these strategies have been used in our household at some point or another, with varying degrees of success – if, that is, you consider pretty much no success at all to be a degree of success, which I do, because it’s the Little Things you cling to when you’ve had as little sleep as I have the past six years. So here goes:

Comforters present any parent with an interesting conundrum – whether they be a stuffed Rottweiler (such as Mr Justice’s – and it’s a soft toy, not a taxidermy project, in case you were wondering) or a manky old scrap of grey cloth (such as The Pixie’s – see “The Duck One” for more information).

When they are clear and present, comforters act as gentle ushers to the land of Nod. However, when they are Missing In Action, possibly left behind in the park or – worse still – lost somewhere in the House That Ate Paris, they are the agents of Satan Himself.

The Pixie, in particular, is prone to unprecedented hysterics when Duck One has gone walkabout at bedtime. And while she might fall asleep while you’re ostensibly “still looking for it” (or rather, having a stiff drink in the loungeroom), she will wake throughout the night – as if she had instantly thawed out after being cryogenically frozen mid-sentence – and carry on exactly where she left off. 

And as for those delightful Gastro nights when the comforter is usually the first casualty of war… frankly, I think it way easier to withdraw Australian troops from Afghanistan than it is to wrench that beloved vomit-soaked object from an already-ailing child’s hands. Which is why I would recommend anyone considering the introduction of a comforter to their child to think very carefully about the material it is made of – something fashioned out of easy-to-wipe-down plastic would be practical, or better yet, try looking at some type of hard plastic receptacle that could double up as a Sick Bucket. 

My final word on the subject of comforters is this: don’t make the mistake I made in effectively becoming Tiddles McGee’s comforter. I am currently working on a plan to transfer some of his abundant Mummy-Love to a stuffed monkey. Those who have met me in person might think that an easy enough task but so far he seems to be able to tell the difference. I’ll let you know how I go with it. 

Night Horrors
If your child is prone to waking up at night with the night horrors, my advice is to get a night-light. There are all sorts available on the market – hell, you can even get talking night-lights if you want (you’d hope it would say useful stuff like “Get back into bed Right This Very Minute or So Help Us All” or even just “I’m getting your father”). However you could just do what we do which is to use a regular lamp with one of those energy-saving light globes that starts off shedding less light than a match when you first turn it on and then ends up, a few hours later, radiating more light than the sun. I don’t know if you’ve had a look at your exhaustion-ravaged face in broad daylight recently but let me tell you now, I’ve looked at mine and it’s not a pretty sight. So when my children wake screaming in the night and see my face before them,  they have naturally reassessed the monsters their nightmares are made of and chosen sleep as the far-less-scary option. 

Rocking/Patting/Smacking Your Child to sleep
Violence is not the answer. It might feel like it at the time, but it’s just not. Just walk away. Walk away and take it out on the cat instead. In any case, even with the gentlest of patting and rocking, we all know that there’s nothing to be gained from this in the long term, especially when – once the job’s been done – you have to slowly crawl out of the child’s bedroom like a whipped cur. Geez, you might be desperate for sleep and all, but try have a little self-respect, will you.

Also known as the win-lose situation. The win? It is a guaranteed way to get your child to sleep through. The lose? Don’t count on getting any sleep yourself, particularly if you’re like me and pre-disposed to waking up upon hearing even your child’s nostrils flare from four rooms away, let alone when it is amplified from within the same bed. 

Every night I end up sleeping with Tiddles on the fold-out couch in the kids’ room – and every morning, I optimistically pack the bed away – not so much to tidy the room up (that would be completely out of character) but because I live in hope that the next night will be different and I might get to spend the whole night in the marital bed away from the relentless glare of the “day-light-night-light” and having Tiddles try to thrust his little toe up my nostril every few hours. This is when my mantra of “It’s just a phase and this, too, will pass” really comes into its own – if, that is, you define “coming into its own” as pretty much “not getting you anywhere at all particularly fast or otherwise”. 

Controlled Crying
For heavens’ sake, pull yourself together. If you really must sob through sheer exhaustion and the overwhelming feeling  that you just can’t go on, try exercise some self-control and cry into a pillow in a room far away from the children. They’re like dogs in that way – if they even get even the slightest whiff of distress on your part, then they’ll make you their bitch forever. 

If all else fails, three quarters of a bottle of gin should do the job – although I hasten to add I’m advocating medicating the parents here, and not the children. Unless, of course, you’re on board a long haul flight – in which case, Phenergan away. But remember you run the risk with Phenergan that it might send your kid the Other Way and so this is definitely a case of Try This At Home First before you find yourself trapped for 14 hours at 39000 feet with a free-basing toddler.

But back to the gin: chug it down – use a funnel if you have to – and you’ll be surprised what you’ll be able to sleep through. Of course you might not even stir when Social Services come to take your children away – and some could argue that this almost certain eventuality – plus the ensuing hangover – might somewhat detract from the overall benefits of a good night’s sleep. But listen, you can’t have it both ways, okay? Sheesh! 


There’s a saying – at least in our household there is – that “Sleep is for the weak”. But then, aren’t the weak going to inherit the earth (or at least the meek, a term that not only rhymes with the weak, but also implies an inherent weakness) and that’s hardly fair because they’re all so well-rested and that’s prize enough in my books. But then again, to be quite honest, I’m hardly in a state to inherit the earth right now: capital gains tax aside, I’m just too damn tired. Ask me again in the morning…

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