If you’ve ever had a baby or been near someone who had a baby then you’ve probably heard the phrase sleep when baby sleeps. Sounds simple. Almost sounds luxurious when you think of how much a baby sleeps.
Which is all well and good, except there comes a point when you want to do something human and prove to yourself (and your cats) that you’re more than just a baby feeder/diaperer/sleeping apparatus. So I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a novel to write, that doesn’t want to wait for me or baby, and I can finally write again, so why not? I should have plenty of time.
See, the thing about newborns is that they’re deceptive little creatures with powers over time. One moment you’re feeding baby and it’s 7am. The next you’re still trying to get baby to sleep an it’s 9am. Where did those two hours go? You have no clue. Then it’s 9.30am and baby’s asleep and you think, finally – I can write!
Except: you really need to pee, you haven’t eaten in six hours, you’re dehydrated, the cats are dying from hunger, and omg is that smell you?
If you’re lucky, you have a snack at hand, a water bottle, and someone else to feed the cats. The shower can wait. You can get some writing in!
If you’re unlucky, you scramble to meet your basic requirements of survival and then it’s 10.30am and, oh shit, baby’s eyes just flew open.
Occasionally, you get a longer stretch. And then it comes down to a different choice because, remember, you’ve been repeating this same 2-3 hour cycle for weeks now and you. are. beyond. exhausted.
Sleep when baby sleeps? Or… write when baby sleeps?
It’s a fine balancing act. Too much sleep and you start to think you’re a normal human being again. And, well, you don’t get any writing done. Too much writing and you don’t get enough sleep, but the hallucinations from sleep deprivation fuel your creativity and plot. They also fuel your loved one’s reasons for an intervention.
So each time the baby sleeps, I have to choose. Sometimes it’s an easy choice, sometimes it’s not. But no matter which I choose, I’ve had to lower my expectations. Just like I will probably not get more than five hours of accumulated sleep each day, I will probably not reach 50k this month. But that’s okay – 5 hours is better than 4, 3, 2, or 1 and whatever amount of words I write will be better than nothing.
Has anyone else tried to write with a newborn? Succeeded? Failed? I’d love to hear your tips!