Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
I never knew exhaustion until I had a child. I know that’s pretty common for parents to say, but it really is true. I mean, yes, I had pulled all-nighters studying for exams or writing papers. I had pulled overnight shifts. I had driven 24 hours straight from Massachusetts to Florida. I had partied all night and gone to work the next day. I had done many things to cause self-inflicted exhaustion but it wasn’t anything close to those first few weeks of having a newborn.
I will spare you all the stories of how life-changing it is, because I do appreciate that tales of parenthood are not for everyone. However, I have to say, I thought I knew exhaustion. How wrong I was.
There was one night in particular that I remember. The Daughter just wouldn’t go back to sleep after a middle of the night feeding. It had been the third night of little to no sleep. My husband had gone back to work which meant he did need his sleep so he could make the 4 am commute to Boston so I was taking nights and when he came home at 2, I was getting some rest then. It didn’t seem to be enough though because this particular night, I was in rough shape.
The lack of sleep, the nerves of having this new life to care for, the thoughts of whether or not I was doing it right, on top of my aunt’s cancer battle and me trying to not get my head in a negative space on any front, was wearing on me. I was exhausted. It was true exhaustion. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I cried. I just cried while I held the Daughter. I didn’t know what else to do. It was a release. Each tear, helped me get one step closer to the other side of that mountain.
After the Daughter went to sleep, I put her down and went to sleep myself. The next morning, I promptly put out a request for some babysitting, either from the Husband or my Mom. I recognized the slippery slope of exhaustion and knew that I was going to burn out if I didn’t take care of it soon.
Luckily, I had a great support system. They didn’t even need to ask. In fact, they all said they were waiting for me to hit the wall and were there to help me. I was lucky. If I hadn’t been able to have that support, I’m not sure how it would have turned out. The exhaustion would have probably kept piling on top of itself and a disaster would have occurred, no doubt.
Do you remember when you felt true exhaustion? How did you cope with it?