Do you sleep when baby sleeps, or clean the house instead?

Posted Wednesday 18th December 2013   By Ericka Waller

When I had Thing-One, the hospital midwife told me to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps‘. I ignored her. I’ve always believed that I know best.

She said ‘don’t worry about the state of the house’. I nodded in response, whilst thinking ‘That’s all well and good, but it won’t buy the baby a new bonnet.”

I frantically cleaned before each visitor came to see my baby. In the evenings I went running, desperate to lose the marks of motherhood that clung stubbornly to my thighs.

When my babies slept, I scrubbed dining tables and polished wooden floors. I painted garden fences and swept up leaves. I was a little dynamo that did not stop.

I made my life as hard for myself as possible. I said yes to everything that meant even more work for me. I did not read books, or turn on the TV.

Evenings were for more cleaning and tidying. Weekends were for sorting out cupboards and exercise. 

I ran myself into the ground.

And then my feet stopped working.

All that pushing, all that cleaning, all that stress took it’s toll. I woke up one morning unable to get out of bed. The diagnosis was Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic auto-immune disease with no cure.

I have spent most of this year in bed. My children have spent most of this year with our childminder. My husband has spent most of this year working twelve-hour days to pay for our childminder, coming home to lift me into the bath and cook the dinner.

I realised soon after being confined to bed, that having a clean bathroom didn’t really matter. Nor did having a leaf-free garden.

All I wanted in those lonely hours, was my children. But they could not be there, because I could not look after them. All those years of lifting the hoover left me unable to lift my cup of tea, let alone my daughters.

Accepting my illness was pretty tough. I had to unlearn all the rules I had set for myself. I had to lean on people and ask for help. I cried in the long white corridors of the hospital I once gave birth in, for the girl I was before I got ill. The girl who never stopped.

I am writing this late today, because I went back to bed after the school run. I have not unloaded the dishwasher. The floor needs hoovering. But I am not going to waste the small energy I have on these things. I am going to save it for my babies, and kissing my husband.

You can read about my Rheumatoid Arthritis journey here.