The wide awake but not awake society.
The heating pipes in the bedroom are old and rhythmically tap along to the white noise machine. This has become the soundtrack to the night. Other mothers stir in the darkness clasping warm bundles close to their chest. Across the street, in the next town, at the top of the country or further. Thousands of us not sleeping and rocking babies. Bleary eyed.
Eating biscuits at a time you have no business eating biscuits.
Late nights are lit with the glow of a phone screen. Facebook notifications flicker. A yellow toned light that sends a silent message, we are here. We reach out to fend off loneliness. For support, for sanity. Mums for mums. The twelve am crew.
A sleepless community.
Someone will be always be around to listen, there is strength in our mutual tiredness. We are soothed by one another. Pacified. At 2am I listen to the rain and worry about the colour of poo, the number of blankets in the cot. Stuff that makes you lay awake in bed thinking “Is this normal?” Advice is sought from the late-night mothers, strangers bonded by the role shared.
The baby may have fallen asleep but worries keep us awake. You watch and wonder. We check they are breathing, are roused by the slightest sound. As soon as heavy heads hit cold pillows a cry calls us awake again. Surveying the lights on the baby monitor in unity we hold our breath. Hours roll past feeling both fleeting and infinite until the light returns in a subtle glow around the edges of the curtain.
I Skype my best friend whilst our kids wave at each other and stick out tongues. Another person with sleep shadowed eyed that understands.
The groups that save the daytime.
It’s easy to slip into a routine of naps and feeds and not go out, but home can be a lonely place. Even though you have another human being constantly strapped to your body motherhood can be excruciatingly isolating.
So, we step out with clothes covered in stains.
Monday is toddlers, Tuesday strollers, Wednesday a music session, Thursday Hatchlings and Fridays we do playdates. At church, the town hall, a children’s centre. Rooms with mums and babies, babies long grown, hungry babies, babies still sleeping. Here half warm teacups are scattered high up on window ledges. A transformative, exhausting, gratifying time where ten women sit on wipe clean mats together. Young and old. You can talk about nothing or everything. Mainly rashes on armpits.
I love you for not telling me that the nights are long but the years short. Or to cherish the moments when I am so tired, my hands are shaking. There is no judgement if we eat 3 slices of sponge. Or say the same thing repeatedly without knowing.
When mum friends become real friends.
You get told to meet other mums, and you should. But it is daunting when you feel barely there, like a shadow of yourself that could blow away on the wind. A 7lb 10oz newborn explosion decimated the core of my life and everything familiar. Your identity shifts and flees from the body as your children are tugged free from it.
I was, and sometimes still am, terrified of other mums. Am an awkward person who talks a lot of crap.
Disconnected, arriving at that first group with an 8-week-old baby this mother felt uncomfortable, shy, singing the wrong words to ‘Wheels on the Bus’, and flushing at the embarrassment of having nothing to say and knowing no one. She cried afterwards. Go again, keep trying. We all fumble together to stitch together our careers, minds, bodies and relationships. Trying to abate the overwhelming, and needless, guilt we constantly feel. Laugh together. Don’t just say a casual hello at the school gate or respond an automatic ‘I am fine’.
I am so grateful for other mothers. My own, my old friends, my new mum friends, school run mums, mums online.
With love from baby Norah and I, from underneath our duvet in the dark.