I read a post on Facebook from the fabulous Cat on a Trampoline today about respite – do you have much time away from your littles, particularly those with additional needs, overnight?
My answer? No. None. Not once since Tink arrived have we had a night together without her . Dave has managed the odd night away here and there for one reason or another, but I have had only one night away from the smalls in the last 3 and a quarter years, and that was to attend my graduation in Wrexham. I spent the night in a Premier Inn with my Mum, who is renowned for her snoring (sorry Mum, but you know it’s true!), so it was hardly the relaxing, peaceful, sleep-filled night away one would hope for when child free.
I’m going to be honest, because that’s the point of my blog; to let me get things off my chest before they snowball and the black cloud that is depression floats back into view. It’s hard. It’s been really, bloody hard. Especially in the early days, when Tink didn’t sleep too well due to silent reflux and I was postnatally depressed. Again. I would sit here, on my own with a teeny, cuddly, crying thing, one eye on the clock for school run time and I would sob. Sleep deprivation is a killer. There’s evidence for that out there on t’interweb if you can be arsed to look. There were times when I thought about getting into my car and driving away. No idea where, but anywhere away from it all where I could get some sleep. There were times I thought about getting in my car and doing worse, but we won’t go there now.
I don’t blame anyone for not helping in those early days. Who wants a tiny baby who doesn’t sleep too brilliantly to keep them awake all night? She was our baby – our problem. She wasn’t even that bad a sleeper compared to H, who never slept through the night/woke at a reasonable hour until he started school. My parents do so much for us in terms of childcare that they need a break too. They didn’t need a small person who came with extra medication and the risk that she would stop breathing in her sleep to worry about. However, if they, or anyone else would have offered, I would have bitten their arm off. Just one night.
And so, Tink turned three in March and we have still never had that one night, even though she’s a pretty good sleeper now, somewhat unusually for children on the spectrum. We don’t even go out together for dinner or the cinema; we sometimes manage a breakfast or lunch date if our working patterns are aligned just right. We don’t like to ask anyone to babysit unless it’s absolutely necessary. But then, isn’t spending time together absolutely necessary for a healthy relationship? We’ve had a few problems over the last couple of years and we’ve come close to breaking point; it usually boils down to us not spending quality time together. And then we do nothing about it. I think we’re just too proud to admit to anyone that we’re struggling and need help in the form of time together.
I was luck enough to receive a wellbeing voucher today, for some considerable value, as I am registered as Tink’s carer. I can choose to spend it on pampering, services such as cleaning or gardening, or there’s even a night away. It may not be the coveted ‘night away together’ that we’ve been dreaming of, but I wouldn’t have my Mum’s snoring to contend with…