If you've been wondering why, when you bump into me on the street, I sometimes look unkempt. Or why, when I get to the supermarket, I have to return home for my purse. Or why, if you cause me a minor upset, I sometimes react as if you've put me in mortal danger, well I'll tell you.
I haven't slept for two and a half years.
See, I'm not even exaggerating. I'm not saying four and a half years (the age of my eldest). Yes, we had our share of sleepless nights at first with Lily, but then - like a NORMAL child - she began to more or less sleep through most of the time (which is the holy grail of parenthood). Plus, with only one baby you have always got the option of turning to your partner and saying "you do tonight, and I'll do tomorrow night," going to the spare room and SLEEPING.
Not so with the twins. Those of you who know my boys will know they are chalk and cheese. Yes they are brothers, but they couldn't be more different otherwise. I have to say, it's something I really love about them - their individuality and watching their little personalities blossom. BUT when they were babies this translated into unique sleep patterns. They were born at 36+1 and needed to be fed frequently. But did they wake up at similar times to feed?
Don't be ridiculous.
The outcome was, in the first few weeks, each boy would wake up about three times, at different times.
I am lucky - Ray has always taken on half of the work when it comes to night feeds. For medical reasons, I wasn't able to breastfeed the twins or Evie, which was disappointing. But the upside was that I wasn't alone in those lonely hours.
I was knackered though.
With the boys, Ray and I would be so tired at times that we'd see shapes floating in front of our eyes, would find ourselves jerking into momentary sleep in the car on the way to the supermarket, would feel ghastly all day every day.
Of course, after a while, it settled. To just once or twice a night. Each.
But was still two to four "wake-ups" every night.
This continued until they were fourteen months old, when one day, I woke up with a strange feeling - was it Christmas? Had something wonderful happened?
It was. It had.
The twins had slept.
Shortly after this, Ray had a stroke and I found out I was pregnant. I vowed that, when Evie was born, I would do ALL the nights - I couldn't let him get that sleep deprived again (we don't know if this was a factor, but it seems pretty likely to me).
The pregnancy progressed, with the boys continuing to wake up about 50% of the time. Then, four months after they first slept through, we had another newborn, Evie.
And within a week my resolve was gone and I had to accept Ray's help.
Evie is a sneaky little bugger. She pretended she was going to be the ideal baby. She used to wake up every three hours - but that's pretty good for a newborn. Soon this went to four, and sometimes even five hours. Once or twice, after she was about 11 months old, she slept through.
And then, she suddenly didn't.
For the last two months plus, Ray and I have got the kiddies to bed by 8pm, sunk our aching bones into the sofa, lifted a cup of tea to our quivering lips and ...
WAHH UHUH WAAAAHHHH
A red, wriggling, wide-awake baby has had to be brought downstairs, fighting every attempt to calm her down. Half an hour later (with luck) she's back in bed. But she's then been waking at least twice per night.
Is she teething? Well, it's been two months, and she hasn't got any teeth yet... She has no fever.
And take it from me, the girl ain't constipated.
Last night was one of the worst nights. Ray and I got to sleep about 11.30pm. Evie woke at 12.30am until about 12.45am (not enough to interrupt sleep entirely, but takes the edge off when you've just sunk into a dream). But then she woke up and was INCONSOLABLE from 3.00pm to 4.30pm.
Which gave us a couple of hours of fitful sleep before Lily got up (which, having been zonked since 7.30pm she is quite entitled to do).
In six months time - in fact less - we will have another newborn. We HAVE to sort Evie out. We NEED some sleep desperately.
So it's back to basics. I am going to write down everything Evie eats and drinks; going to write down the time(s) she falls asleep in the day (which, believe it or not is rare - the girl is WIDE AWAKE) and try to find a pattern.
I'm going to check her bed linen, buy her a new cot bumper, put the thermometer back in her room to check it's not too hot/cold.
Maybe she's not eating enough? Maybe something is affecting her sleep that we haven't taken into account.
The only thing I'm sure about is that she's not SLEEPING enough.
This has to change. It's about survival.
In the meantime, if you see a strange woman, with unkempt hair and possibly still wearing pyjamas wandering through the town, be gentle.
I just need a little bit of shut-eye.