I am a mum of three. Our oldest daughter is nine years old. We have twins that turned seven end of August. There is a 28 months gap between the children. This means there was a time all three of our children were below three years old. Yesterday I was reminded of those days when I was a sleep deprived tired mama. It started raining around midnight and our eldest daughter woke me up because she was scared of the thunder and lightning. She was awake till three am so I hardly slept the whole night. I therefore decided to write this post to encourage all sleep deprived tired mommas out there.
When the twins were born, my mum came to stay with us to help with the children. I took four months maternity leave from work. For my readers in the West, in most African countries, maternity leave is paid if you are employed ( just thought I would throw that in there. Africa isn’t backward after all. We have our challenges but in some areas we get it right). My husband was able to get about a month of paternity leave. We also had a live-in helper. That means for the first month, there were four of us looking after the three children. Guess what, it went a long way to relieve the exhaustion, but it wasn’t enough.
I was always tired. During the first month after the twins were born, the night shift was reserved for me and my hubby. The day shift belonged to my mom and our helper, but since I was also breastfeeding, it meant even during the day, I needed to be available to breastfeed two babies on demand.
When hubby went back to work, my mom joined me in the night shift. During the day we scheduled our napping and resting around the babies. If I needed to rest, mom and the nanny would look after the babies and if she needed to rest, i and the nanny would look after the babies.
After two months, my mom also had to go back to her home. I still had two more months of maternity leave. My husband rejoined the night feeding shift again. It was really a lot to manage so we decided to get a second maid to assist with the house chores during the day. She didn’t live with us, but she worked three days a week. I am grateful to God that we had the resources to do this.
Eventually my maternity leave ended and I also I had to go back to work. Thankfully my mother came back for another month just to ease the transition for both me and the babies. The other thing I appreciate about the Zimbabwean law, is that once a mother returns back to work from maternity leave, she is entitled to an hour of breastfeeding per day. She can choose to go to the office an hour later or leave the office an hour early. In hindsight, this was a real blessing for which I am grateful.
I have to acknowledge and admit that I had a lot of family support as well. My sisters, sisters in law, nieces and nephews were all a phone call away. Most weekends I would call someone to relieve me for about three hours in the afternoon, just so I could get some sleep.
Outside of work, our lives revolved around the children.(it’s still kinda like that nine years later). The only place that we went outside of our home was church. Friends that needed to see us had to come visit us. It’s pointless trying to socialize with three kids all under three years. We tried it and failed dismally.
I got a lot of unsolicited advice, even from those whose circumstances were very different from mine. Some would say sleep when the babies sleep i.e follow their schedule….but they were two different babies and they had two different sleeping patterns so whose schedule was I supposed to follow? Twin girl ( Joanna) was and still is a late sleeper so I would stay awake with her until close to midnight. Twin boy (Isaiah) was and still is an early riser together with older sister (Mimi). That meant I was awake by 5 am. Honestly, I think I only started getting a full night after the twins turned two years.
So what is the purpose of this post? To tell all tired and sleep deprived moms to hang in there. It does get better with time. They grow up so fast and before you know it, the sleeplessness nights will be a distant memory.
Get all the help and support that you can, from your partner, from family and from friends. That’s the only way you can maintain your sanity. I wish you well and I promise, you will be able to sleep again.