The Backlog Catch Up

I felt it today. Thea is 3 months and 8 days old and today was the day I felt it. Not before, surprisingly. But today was the day it struck me.

I’m talking of the type of tired you feel when your eyes start to droop closed when you are waiting for the kettle to boil. The tired that if you sat on the lounge for more than two minutes you could quite literally sink into it and just sleep for an hour or two. The irritability of feeling as though you want to run away, fast. The type of exhaustion of sincere hard work, only to not be rewarded with a week of annual leave or a cocktail. All you are given is possibly a shower alone at the end of the day and maybe, if you’re lucky, an uninterrupted hour of a tv show without anyone touching you between 8-9pm. You’ve got to get up and perform again tomorrow though, so don’t stay up too late.

I don’t even know what triggered the mood. Could have been the annoyance of my hair shedding all throughout the house, leaving strand after strand all through the basins. Could have been an adrenaline dip after organizing every square inch of my home, only realizing once I’ve stopped and completed that task how tired it made me. Could have just been that I’ve been a parent of two for 3 months and 8 days now and that shiz catches up to you. It could have been feeling as though I have no freedom between breastfeeding and settling Thea for (short) naps and resenting that, with a little side dish of lockdown for good measure.

I enjoy it. I really do. I longed for these days and I feel really lucky to be living them right now. I’m not wishing it away. I love this season. I love hearing the laughter. I love hearing toys being played with. I love that being at home is, in general, a slower pace than being at work. I feel like I am soaking it is more this time around and making it enjoyable for myself through decisions we are making as a family. But I feel a bit like I really wet sponge: I’ve gotten good at soaking it all up that I need to be squeezed dry again. I need a break from the water. I’ll go back in in a moment. But I just need to be aired out for a sec.

Thea isn’t a terrible sleeper. I feel like I’ve got oodles more energy compared to when Henry was a baby. I cheat and bed-share with her of course, so that promotes a lot of rest. But she still feeds twice throughout the night which is completely normal and probably pretty good at her age. So on paper I should be sweet. On paper, the boxes are ticked for ‘getting enough sleep’. We sleep in every single day while Josh gets up with Henry (total babe amiright?) so I feel like in my head I have no such right to feel exhausted. All I’m doing is baking and breastfeeding and playing Duplo all day so why am I feeling totally crushed?

When I just pause for a moment though and I think of all the things my body and mind have done within the last year I totally get where the tiredness comes from, and I am surprised I am not more tired. I dealt with a ferocious 9 months’ worth of not only growing a baby inside my body, but hyperemesis (aka food poisoning like symptoms). I worked through that. I nurtured my toddler through that. I gave birth 4 days after my final day of work. I haven’t slept a full night in 3 months and 8 days. I am suffering decision fatigue, making countless decisions daily about the kids, what we need at the shops, what to do on the weekend, planning car trips around nap time and feeds, what craft activity to do next, what items to purge or hold onto during our home clean up, how many layers to dress the kids in now that its starting to get chilly overnight. Then bigger choices like career moves, whether to continue breastfeeding, budgeting. My mind is tired and foggy and it’s the type of fog instant coffee and The Bold Type just cannot mend. When I write it all out like this, it’s no wonder I am tired.

I’ve coined this phenomenon The Backlog Catch Up. Your baby doesn’t have to be a terrible sleeper to feel burnt out. Your partner doesn’t have to be a dud non-helper to feel as if you are treading water. You can have the happiest home, supportive family, be financially secure yet motherhood can still daunt you and virtually will work you overtime regardless. Its just part of the season.

Motherhood doesn’t choose who it wrestles with more or less. It initiates all its mothers in unique and nuanced ways, no matter where you’re at. I am severely tired from the backlog of emotions from the last 18 months: miscarriages, trying to conceive, carrying and growing a baby through hyperemesis, birthing my baby, processing and making sense of all the hormones and symptoms that early postpartum brings – it’s all just caught up to me. We are in a seemingly calm space now, but its like since slowing down to a walk, all that ‘stuff’ that I’ve just listed has crashed into me.

I feel like Motherhood is telling me to choose me as I navigate the back log catch up. I am deciding (more decisions, ew) that I am not going to feel guilty for needing a minute, needing a hot shower, needing my husband to handle Henry morning and night for now. I’m deciding I’m not going to force myself to be an exclusive stay-at-home mum this time. I’m deciding what things may help lift my fog and recharge me to cure the tiredness of ground-hog day. I’m deciding to not question myself or feeling to need to ‘prove’ my tiredness. It’s a symptom of being a mother at times (most) and that is a fact and is okay. I am going to accept help. I am going to hustle when I want but simultaneously slob out when I want.

Perhaps the Backlog Catch Up is an old trick of Motherhood’s to keep us all in check. Maybe it’s a monitoring system. To connect us back to our true selves. To make us critically think as mothers, ‘what do I need right now?’. To teach us that no good thing is created overnight. To sharpen us yet soften us at the same time. To help us discern when we need a break or when we’ve pushed it too far. To encourage us to reflect on all we have achieved. To call upon our divine army’s colleagues for support to strengthen the collective army of mothers as a whole. To teach us to read and learn the signals and justify them to no one.

You cannot out-justify a mother. The divine army of motherhood moves mountains, completes the impossible and works 24/7 for each child she has. There isn’t even maths for that. Divine work requires divine rest and rejuvenation regardless of the type of baby you have. If you’re tired and you don’t know why or you think its unwarranted, think back. Think back to everything you’ve achieved. Think back to everything you’ve done in the last ten minutes, ten days, ten months, ten years. You are tired because you’re doing divine work. And that type of divinity catches up to (amazing) mortals like us.