Tag Archives: exhaustion

Sleep Interrupted

18 Jul

Sleep – or lack thereof – has been a big issue in my life lately. I’ve never really been one to sleep for long stretches, and particularly since entering the world of motherhood, I consider six hours to be a good night’s sleep. But these days, even getting that amount of shut-eye is a challenge. There are a number of reasons for the recent sleep deficit, ranging from a run of kids’  tummy bugs to the fact that I’m an occasional insomniac.

Saturday night was particularly brutal. I went to bed early enough, because I was planning a long run early on Sunday morning. The kids were asleep, and James, who had been afflicted with a tummy bug, seemed to be on the mend.

At about midnight, when I had barely been asleep for half an hour, I woke to the sound of James crying his little heart out. My husband and I went to investigate, only to discover that the poor child had had a tummy-bug related accident. I whisked James off to the bathroom to clean him up and comfort him; my husband took care of changing the sheets and throwing soiled sheets and pajamas into the washing machine. James, bless his precious little soul, kept apologizing, even though I assured him that it was OK.

We got James settled and went back to bed. By the time I got back to sleep it was well after 1:00 a.m. A couple of hours later, I was roused to consciousness by a light tugging at my arm. I squinted in the darkness and saw James standing beside my bed. He took my hand, wordlessly led me to his bed, and plaintively asked me to stay with him. How could I refuse, right? So I climbed in and got settled, and James promptly threw up all over me.

As quietly as I could, I got James and myself cleaned up, threw yet another load of sheets and PJ’s into the washing machine, and having run of clean sheets, settled the two of us on the futon in our living room.

We went to sleep, and until about 4:00 a.m., I slept the sleep of the just.

At that point, George started to feel lonely, so he abandoned his bed and went in search of me. His first stop was my own bed, where he apparently found his Dad alone, and woke him up just to say, in a tone riddled with indignation, “You’re not Mommy.” Then he found me on the futon and squeezed in beside me.

There is not enough room on the futon for me and two long, lanky kids, both of whom sleep splayed out like starfish. But my discomfort was outweighed by the fact that I had my boys, one on either side of me. And so I (sleeplessly) passed the rest of the witching hours squished between my two gently snoring kids, with elbows and knees poking into my back, and my head bent at an uncomfortable angle.

Eventually, I gave up on the idea of sleep. I made coffee and drank some, and then, with my body screaming in protest, I went out for a 12km run.

It was not a good run, except in the sense that I actually finished it. By seven in the morning it was already scorching hot, I was not properly hydrated and above all, my body was utterly exhausted.

And because I love being there for my kids whenever they need me, at any time of the day or night, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doortoriver/2903845014/)

Rough As A Badger’s Arse

18 Apr

To say that I am feeling rough today would be an understatement. I have that exhausted, fuzzy-in-the-brain, all-over achy feeling that is usually associated with the aftermath of a weekend of heavy drinking and dedicated partying.

I guess this is partly true. On Saturday our bridal party threw a Jack & Jill party for us. One of the groomsmen showed up with several bottles of wine and a beer-filled cooler that could have sunk a small ship. “Drink!” he commanded. “Enjoy!”

Well, orders are orders. I drank. I enjoyed. The guys crowded around the cooler of beer like bees around a honeypot, while me and most of the other women present tucked into the wine.

It was an outstanding evening. There was food, there were happy people, there was a lovely raffle prize (which was won by my five-year-old), and there was the incredible spectacle of my soon-to-be mother-in-law enthusiastically throwing a pie into the face of her firstborn son, the groom-to-be.

Eventually the guests left, leaving Gerard and I to settle our over-excited children. By the time we fell into an exhausted sleep ourselves, it must have been close to two in the morning.

I woke up yesterday morning with a well-earned hangover – the kind that comes complete with a queasy stomach, an excruciating headache and a death wish. I stumbled into the bathroom to get some extra-strength Tylenol and some water. Then I somehow – probably by luck more than anything else -found my way back to bed, and with the room spinning around me, I went back to sleep.

For a change, the kids were not up at the crack of dawn, as they usually are on weekends. They let me sleep, the little treasures.

When I woke up for the second time, I still felt kind of gross, but at least I felt as if I was going to live. I got up and went for a run (I say that as if it was a seamless event – the process of getting up and going for a run actually took about three hours).

The run was hard. The weather was bad. I was exhausted at the end of it – as if I hadn’t already been exhausted to begin with.

You’d think I would have slept last night, but no. Not only is George going through one of his phases of not sleeping, my mind is chock-full of details right now and just isn’t letting me rest. I tossed and turned and eventually fell into a fitful sleep, not long before I had to wake up.

To borrow a wonderful phrase from a book I read (This Charming Man by Marian Keyes, if you’re interested), today I am feeling as rough as a badger’s arse.

After another seventeen or so cups of coffee, I might start to feel normal.


26 Mar

Kibbutz Yakum, Israel. In my tree.

This post is a continuation of the story of my time in Israel in the early 1990’s…

Moments after I had finally fallen into a fitful, uncomfortable sleep, I was jolted awake by the sound of a man speaking in a language I did not understand. By the time my exhausted mind had registered where I was, the Hebrew had morphed into accented English: We’re on final approach to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Return to your seats, fasten your seatbelts, etc. etc.

This was it. The beginning of what would probably not be an entirely new life, but it would at least be a temporary escape from my regular life. I was more than a little anxious. Here I was, a shy, socially awkward person with recent trauma under my belt, in a strange new land with strange new people. What was I thinking? I didn’t know how to interact with other people at the best of times. I had a sudden fear that I would be way out of my depth here. I wanted to turn around and run back onto the plane I had just left.

There were about fifteen of us going into the Kibbutz program. We made a somewhat motley group, standing on the sidewalk outside the airport with our luggage, waiting for our transportation. Our huddle was thrown into disconcerted disarray when a pair of Israeli men who were walking down the sidewalk didn’t make efforts to circumvent our little group, instead marching straight through the middle of us, talking animatedly to each other and offering us loud, lively, incomprehensible greetings. Somehow their exuberant friendliness negated any sense of rudeness or intrusion. Our coordinator explained to us that this is just the way many Israeli people are.

After what seemed like an interminable wait in the cold and the rain, six of us were bundled into a minivan along with our luggage. Our coordinator said goodbye and wished us luck, and then the van door slammed shut and we were flying down the road. About an hour later we arrived at the place that would be home for the next several months: Kibbutz Yakum, near the coastal town of Netanya, about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv.

Once we had arrived at Yakum, we were divided into pairs and given rooms in the volunteer village. Lesley, a woman who ate scary quantities of food and yet remained impossibly skinny, was paired with Antoinette, whose claim to fame was that she was a distant relative of former South African president F. W. De Klerk. My roommate was tall Loren, with whom I struck up an immediate and lasting friendship. The only two men in our group were placed together: Alex, a gentle, kind-hearted soul with obvious developmental delays, and Wayne, who had sat beside me on the plane.

Once we had dumped our luggage in our rooms, one of the other volunteers, a Swiss man by the name of Ollie, fetched us and took us to the dining hall. He led us to a table occupied by an ancient woman called Nurit, who turned out to be the volunteer coordinator. It was her job to schedule and post the volunteers’ working rosters. Most of the jobs were rotated weekly, but if a volunteer liked a particular job, he or she could request to be permanently assigned to it.

By the time Nurit had told us how everything worked and given us a tour of the place, it was dinnertime. At that point we were so exhausted that we barely registered anything about the food or the people who were sharing the table with us. We had all planned to have dinner and then go straight to bed for some much-needed sleep, but our fellow volunteers had other ideas. They took us to the clubhouse, where they had set up a welcome party in our honour.

It would have been rude to refuse. Despite the fact that we started the party feeling ill from exhaustion, we wound up having a fantastic time. We stayed up late, drinking and talking and laughing with our new friends until the small hours of the morning.

Thus began our new life as Kibbutz Yakum volunteers.

Random Things That Happened Today

6 Mar

Today has been busy. I have had a house full of people, as most of of the wedding party came over to toss around ideas and go over to-do lists. At the same time, I have been running on no sleep as my son George seems to have developed yet another tummy bug (please, God, don’t let either of my kids end up in hospital this time).

Anyway, with all of this going on, it’s a bit difficult to put together a coherent blog post. So for today, I’m going with the random.

Things that happened today, in no particular order, are the following:

  • I woke up this morning and saw a fresh layer of snow outside. My first thought was, “Cripes, more f*cking snow.”
  • I failed to go for my run. After no sleep it would have been virtually impossible. I would have been found wandering aimlessly around the neighbourhood chanting incoherently to myself.
  • I dragged a massive pile of laundry into the laundry room and then failed to actually put it into the washing machine to wash.
  • I delegated a list of wedding planning items to the best man. He will be receiving many emails from me from this point forth.
  • I cleaned out George’s designated puke bucket several times.
  • I made a giant pot of coffee and drank most of it myself, and ended up feeling jittery, but still exhausted. Not a pleasant feeling.
  • I realized that I need stuff to put in the kids’ lunches during the week and I haven’t been to the grocery store. I decided to just wing it with what I have for the next day.
  • I realized that I since I don’t actually have the capacity to make a lot of sense right now, I should just give up today’s blog post as a bad job and try again tomorrow.


A Night Away From Home

11 Feb

They should sell T-shirts that say, “I survived my child’s first overnight stay in a hospital.”  Or they should give out badges, like they do in Girl Scouts. Because let me tell you, it is quite an accomplishment. Just one night in the hospital with my son left me feeling jagged and raw. While I was sitting there yesterday afternoon wondering when I would be able to grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee, I sent a message to my friend Amy, expressing my pure admiration for the fact that she did this in a far more serious situation, day in and day out, for five months.

It all started when James started tossing his cookies at the daycare on Monday. For a full 24 hours he was throwing up and having attacks of diarrhea, and even when they kind-of-sort-of passed, he didn’t get better. By the time I got home from work on Wednesday evening, he was still not eating or drinking, and he was crying out from the pains in his tummy.

Recognizing that most kids’ tummy bugs are over and done with in a day or so, and we were now at the end of Day Three, I took James to the walk-in clinic (no family doctor – ours had the gall to retire, citing stuff like “time with family”). The doctor at the clinic examined James for five minutes and decided he wanted none of it. He told me to get James to the hospital. “Now,” he said.

The triage nurse at the hospital was cranky. She was abrupt and acted as if we were inconveniencing her. I didn’t hold it against her. She was nearing the end of what had probably been a long shift in the emergency room, but still. Being cranky with a sick five-year-old seems a bit much. She did her thing and then sent us off to see the admitting doctor – go to the room at the end of the hall and wait in partition D, she said.

The doctor was cranky. He overheard James saying that we were looking for “Number D” and grumpily said, “D is not a number.”

For God’s sake. I mean, I know E.R. doctors are taxed to the limit. These guys are on their feet for long shifts during which they no doubt have to make many life-or-death decisions, but come on. Don’t take out your stress on a five-year-old child who is visibly ill.


The doctor examined James and said that he was severely dehydrated. He invited me to feel James’ hands. I did, and they were ice-cold. The dehydration had made his core body temperature drop right down. We were taken to a dedicated examination room and IV fluids were started. Within 20 minutes, James’ temperature was looking better.

The on-duty pediatrician came in, examined James, and made the decision to keep him in overnight. He was transferred to the pediatric floor, and we were installed in a room. I helped the nurses get James as settled as he could be, and then I lay in the bed provided for me and failed to sleep. Every now and then I kind of sank into a trance, only to be roused by the comings and goings of the nurses who came in to fuss over James every now and then.

James was in much better spirits when he woke up in the morning. He still couldn’t eat, but he requested and received a Popsicle. In a turn of events that was very sweet, when the nurse came in with the Popsicle, he asked her if she would please get another one for his Mommy. We sat there in companionable silence, eating our Popsicles together (and it was so welcome – my throat was parched), and then another nurse came in bearing gifts.  Apparently, every child admitted to the pediatric floor gets a bag of toys that they get to take home with them.

I borrowed a BlackBerry charger from the doctor, and was able to be in touch with the outside world again. I read and responded to emails, James played with his new toys plus the ones his Dad had brought him from home during the night.  Apart from the occasional stomach cramps and attacks of diarrhea still plaguing James, all was well, if a little bit boring. IV fluids continued to drip into his system, and the comings and goings now involved a different group of doctors and nurses.

In the middle of the afternoon, I was finally able to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich. By this point I was beyond exhaustion and beyond hunger. With the nurse watching James, I fled to the donut shop, where I got a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Then, in a bid to extend my freedom for a little longer, I went into the gift shop and got James a new Cars toy and a book.

Back upstairs, I drank my coffee and ate half of the sandwich. I promptly threw both of them up.

Lovely. Just as my son is getting better, now I start to get sick?

Since I have not had a repeat episode since then, I am assuming that my system was just responding to exhaustion, and that the shock of actually receiving food for the first time in 24 hours was a bit too much for my body.

In the late afternoon, the pediatrician came in and declared James almost well enough to go home. He was hydrated again, he was drinking on his own, and he had even managed a bit of food. All we were waiting for, she said, was for him to pee. Once he had peed, we would know that fluids were getting both into and out of his system OK. In the I.T. world, we would refer to this as end-to-end testing.

A couple of hours later, James’ bladder obliged, and we were given the all-clear to leave. The IV was disconnected, final temperature and blood pressure checks were done, and we were out of there. James was definitely a much more healthy, brighter child than he had been before going in.

It felt almost obscenely good to be back home.

James is OK. George, who was doing a great deal of his own throwing up in our absence, seems to be on the mend. I have not tossed my cookies again (although, to be fair, I haven’t taken a chance on eating either).

Equilibrium seems to be returning…

And I am truly grateful to the doctors and nurses at Centenary Hospital for taking such good care of my baby.

To sleep, perchance to dream

16 Apr

On Monday night, George had one of his stay-awake-for-half-the-night nights. It happens once every two weeks or so.  He goes to sleep easily enough, aided by the melatonin we give him with his bedtime milk, but then he wakes up in the early hours of the morning – anywhere from midnight to 3:00 a.m. – and he stays awake for about three hours.  He is not upset, he does not cry.  Apart from occasional bursts of laughter (which, to be honest, are a bit creepy at four in the morning when nothing is funny), he is actually very quiet.  He is not still, though.  He gets up and wanders around, or he climbs into bed beside me and starts playing with my hair, or he sits on the end of my bed rocking back and forth.  It is a level of activity that leaves me in an uncomfortable state of consciousness: he is not active enough to force me to just get up and do something useful, and he is not still enough for me to be able to drift back to sleep.  So I lie there in bed in a state of exhaustion, trying to settle him and get him to go back to sleep.  Experience has taught me that I cannot really force this.  When he has these nights, the best thing for me to do is just lie as still as I can, ignore George as much as possible, and wait for him to go back to sleep.

As long as he sticks to his regular schedule – about once every two weeks – I can handle it.  I always feel like the undead the following day, but at least I know that I’ll be getting relatively normal sleep for the next two weeks.  This is just part of his autism that I’ve kind of learned to live with.  Autism and sleep disorders frequently go together, and I reckon that once every two weeks isn’t too bad considering what some parents have to go through.

This time he did not stick to the schedule.  Instead of waiting for two weeks, we were treated to another one of those nights after a mere two days.  On Wednesday afternoon Catherine came.  Catherine is the new respite worker, and this was the first time she was working with George.  For a first encounter, they did OK with each other, but George was definitely stressed out by this change to his day.  After Catherine left, he was prowling around with a mood that could have gone either way at a moment’s notice.  At bedtime he was narky, unsettled, and uncooperative.  We were patient: knowing that changes in his daily routine do tend to reflect on his sleeping patterns, we had kind of expected this.  George eventually settled down in my bed and went to sleep.

At about 1:00 a.m. he woke up in a mood.  He was crying, he was angry, and he was noisily rooting around in his box of alphabetic fridge magnets announcing to the world that he wanted “small letter a”.  Much to his chagrin, we removed his access to the box of fridge magnets, and with some soothing, he settled down with his dad.  To give him more space, I abandoned my spot on the bed and went to sleep on the sofa-bed.  Predictably, George followed.  When he wakes up in the middle of the night, he goes into full-on “Mommy mode”.

For three hours, he was playing with my hair, sitting up on the bed, lying down again, demanding that I scratch his back, telling me he wanted popcorn, getting up to wander around and look for his box.  I was mostly ignoring him, occasionally telling him to lie down, moving his hand away from my hair (the way he constantly plays with my hair sometimes drives me crazy, especially in the middle of the night).  I was watching the clock, and at about 3:30 a.m. I ruefully accepted that I would not be going for my planned early morning run.

George eventually fell asleep at about 4:00, and I fell asleep shortly thereafter.  I woke up just over two hours later, almost weeping with exhaustion.  Somehow I got through the day, helped no doubt by the knowledge that I would be leaving early due to a medical appointment. Throughout the day I was filled with anxiety: Catherine was coming again.  Were we in for another tumultuous night?

George and catherine had a successful session.  When Catherine left George gave her a hug; he was happy and smiling for the rest of the day.  He was contentedly playing with his box of magnets, which had been restored to him.  Although I felt pitifully tired, I went for a run (it was a good one too – I well and truly flounced my target pace).  At bedtime, George was relaxed and cooperative, and he went to sleep right away.  There was a brief moment of anxiety in the middle of the night when we heard him digging through his box.  Once more, I removed the box – this time, George went back to sleep immediately, and I spent the rest of the night in glorious oblivion.

Having had two virtually sleepless nights over the course of three days, I still feel exhausted.  Sometimes a single good night of sleep is not sufficient to wipe out the sleep deficit.  I am looking forward to another night of good slumber and a restful weekend.