Spending weeks in a fugue state with only a few hours sleep at night in between programming or writing essays has not been an uncommon experience for me. I even enjoy it, truth be told. But it is nothing like the sleep deprived state I am experiencing right now with a newborn baby.
When working on a project it is work, sleep enough to continue working, eat so you can work and, just now and then relax to clear some space in your head. You fix yourself in a focussed state of mind, concentrating on the task, constantly processing information.
At this moment I can barely recall information, let alone store it. Instead of hours of time merging uncounted into one long stream of conciousness I find time being counted by smaller and smaller increments. The one that most matters is the time between the last feed and the next. Then the time of the feed, the time on each breast, the time to calm the baby, to change his nappy. And once night falls, the space between feeds broken up into increments of crying and calming.
And during the day in those hopefully empty spaces between the feeds when baby is asleep you try to fit in something of a life. The trip to the shop for supplies, to the hospital for weighing, read an email, walk the dog, wash yourself, wash the baby, make a meal, eat the meal. Today we didn’t eat anything until after 4pm. Dinner is broken up into preparing, then pause, then cooking, then pause, and finally eating, sometime late in the night. But you don’t find yourself hungry because that’s too much effort. Instead you just get crankier.
Sleep is snatched whenever possible, but it frequently isn’t. Increments of sleep are uncounted, it is too complex, too difficult for an addled mind. And just as you drift off, the crying starts again. You look at your wife. She is fast asleep, she has sat and fed him, will feed him again in a couple of hours, so you get up and try to calm him again, knowing that he will wake up again soon, or it will be feed time once more and your help is required.
You comfort him. You think you might be frustrated, even a little angry at him. But when you pick him up and hold him to you all you can feel is love and the need to nurture and protect this little life. Then he opens his eyes and looks at you. He does not understand, but you can see him trying to. And that’s what being human is all about, trying to understand the universe.
P.S. We did get some relaxation last night by watching Mamma Mia on DVD, though I hope he won’t grow up loving Dancing Queen.
P.P.S. The Raising Kids DVD and website are really useful resources.