General mommy fatigue (the kind you can live with if you have to)
It’s an expression I used daily PB (pre-baby): ‘I’m exhausted.’ I used it after a long work day, a tough gym session, a late night. But I had no idea what it meant. Because child-induced fatigue is not the lethargy of the progeny-free.
As you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a parent – or about to become one. In which case, you know what I’m talking about. But for those who don’t (sorry to scare you), general mommy exhaustion is a lot like torture: unrelenting, insensitive to the day of the week and likely to make your body ache.
The weird thing is that you’re able to work through it. Yup, you can do a day’s work, do a Pilates class, ‘cook’ a meal and go to Clamber Club with your toddler, through a mist of weariness so thick and heavy it should come with a gas mask. My body’s simply learned to work with less sleep, interrupted sleep, poor sleep.
Tips to survive it: Suck it up. Out-source the baby one night a week. Exercise even when you’re worn out. Go to bed earlier. Buy a good coffee machine.
Situational mommy weariness (the kind that comes and – thankfully – goes)
This particular brand of exhaustion is traditionally accompanied by a valid reason – teething, a growth spurt, illness, a mammoth work deadline, late-night drilling by the selfish plonkers who are renovating next door, or girls’ night dinner that turned into a multiple-bottles-of-wine bitch-fest and ended at 2am.
It’s the kind that, were it your regular state, you’d be unable to survive. But in small doses, your mind and body snap into ‘fight’ mode and you muddle through.
In my case, I repeat ‘I’ll sleep on the weekend’ until I stop rocking myself manically in a corner – completely forgetting that my littlie doesn’t yet know her Sundays from her Tuesdays and will wake me at 5am to play on ‘her’ iPad.
Tips to survive it: Remember that everything passes – eventually. Learn to say ‘No’. Only accept invitations to things you really want to go to. Shop online.
Medical exhaustion (the kind that leads to, or results from, depression)
This one is a biggie, and I know because I’ve had it. It’s the kind that either prefaces or accompanies the medical condition called postnatal depression, and it feels like volunteering to be wrapped in wet plaster and chucked into Zoo Lake. You can’t sleep; you can’t stay awake. You weep or disconnect, and you can’t control either your anxiety or your conviction that the world has ended.
This is the kind of exhaustion that only therapy, medication and/or the care of a good doctor can fix. In some cases, sleep therapy is prescribed, necessitating admission to a hospital. But, at its core, PND has little to do with the quantity of sleep you’ve had, and more to do with your hormones and psychological state.
Unfortunately, it also comes at a time when your resources (physical and emotional) are depleted, you’re being pulled in all directions – including towards and away from the beautiful, terrifying, dependent creature you produced – and everyone is telling you how lucky you are. So you’re guiltily exhausted. Lovely.
Tips to survive it: Call your GP. Now. Understand that you’re 100% normal in feeling this way, but it is going to get worse before it gets better. Be aware that PND does not go away on its own. Delegate. Or just let others take over. Breathe.