DISCLAIMER – This story contains images that some people might find difficult to see.
I write this post with much emotion. The feelings are still extremely raw for me my sister and her family, my heart is literally beating out of my chest as I type. But it’s real and it will be worth it if it helps just one mom seek the help she needs.
I’m the oldest of 4 sisters and two years ago this week, in 2016, I received a call about my youngest sister, C.
“Ash, C has been in a terrible car accident. She is in the resuscitation room.”
A life without my sister, her husband without a wife, and her two beautiful children, literally flashed before my eyes and I fell to the floor.
In the month prior to the accident, C had flown across the world to help me when I was having a life crisis and was facing preterm labour with my son. Without notice, she showed up at my door and jumped straight into my life to help me put it back together and take care of my daughter. That is the type of person she is; ALWAYS putting everyone before herself, anyone will tell you that. I admire this about her. But it’s also her biggest weakness, because she doesn’t take care of her needs before anyone else’s.
We talked lots during her visit. She had a 1-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, both of which have never slept very well at all. Whilst we chatted, she admitted through tears that she was always tired. The 4am wake ups and constant bedtime battles and night wakes with two children had led her to be prescribed antidepressant medication, and my heart broke for her.
I begged her to let me pay for my sleep consultant to help her. She was in Canada but works with families all over the world, so distance wasn’t an issue. I heard the same thing I heard many times before.
“It’s ok. It will pass. I am a mum, it’s just how it goes.”
On a good day, with an almost 2-year-old that slept through the night and napped like a champ, I was barely keeping it together. I don’t know how, with 2 kids and a full-time job and a household to maintain, she was managing. But she always had a brave face and that “I have got it together” demeanour about her. She couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. That is 100% her decision to make and that was the last time I asked. I left it at that.
It was only 2 weeks later that I got that call about the car accident. In the hours to come, the story unfolded. She had been doing her usual nightly battle with the kids, staying in their room very late until they fall asleep. After, she would sneak out and go to bed. They would wake multiple times, sometimes at totally opposite times, and then they would all be up for the day at 4:30-5:30 a.m.
That morning, she left to go to work. Her husband offered to drop the children at childcare, which was not their usual routine. This was divine intervention that kept this story from being a tragedy. It was 7:20 a.m., as she passed an elementary school. She fell asleep and woke shortly after impact with a tree.
I wanted to share her account of the story, but I can’t bring myself to ask her to relive it in her words.
She had fallen asleep at the wheel. Badly crushed in her vehicle, fire crews used the Jaws of Life to cut her out and transport her to hospital. Someone special was watching over her that day. She made a full recovery and no one else was harmed. Due to the circumstances, her license was taken away for 6 months, her insurance costs increased greatly, and we are all reminded how close she came to losing her life each time we see a fender bender.
To this day, her husband can’t talk about cars, or accidents of any kind. He became far more aware of the burden she carries by getting up with the kids and everything else that comes with being a working mother.
After this accident, I trained as a consultant myself. I couldn’t imagine a life where someone who added so much value to this world, wouldn’t get the help she needed. I myself have made mistakes whilst being tired… Leaving the stove on with water that boiled to nothing, forgetting and leaving taps on or leaving the house in just socks. Sleep deprivation can be far more serious for some, and I want to help everyone I can.
If you are struggling and would like to talk to someone, I would be happy to lend an ear, offer free advice, or support you through a sleep journey if that’s the path you want to take. Please do not be afraid to talk about your struggles and please understand that sleep difficulties are common, but should not be considered normal.
For many of us, we will never come close to a sleep-related incident like this and I am glad, because it shouldn’t get this far before you get the help you deserve. There is no shame in sleep training. It is not a dirty word. Giving your family the benefits of sleep are life lasting and go far beyond the needs of being tired.
If you are making silly mistakes, feeling vulnerable to accidents, and feeling like you might need to talk to a doctor about medications to help manage anxiety or depression, I am urging you to give me or your Dr a call.