Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The 'S' Word

If you have ever been a reader of  my blog, you will have been made very aware of our issues with sleep. Yep. I let everybody know. So much so, I was convinced for a while that the postman didn't even attempt knocking before posting the 'sorry we missed you' slip through the door, and sadly on my part, I really don't blame him.

It has taken me weeks to sit down and write this post for many different reasons. This has been the biggest challenge for me when it comes to motherhood. It left me feeling deflated for months, affected my relationship and to be perfectly honest let me feeling like a crap mum. How come everyone else's babies seemed to be sleeping? Where am I going so wrong? and when told by well-meaners that 'everybody goes through it' it left me reeling and defensive. If everybody went through it, I just couldn't fathom how people would go on to have more.
While that may sound a little harsh to some (and a bit sad really) sleep deprivation is no picnic. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. It is a constant hangover, mixed with fatigue and that surreal feeling that comes along with jet lag. When I managed to nod off, I would wake up minutes later thinking I had dropped Eva, despite the fact she was safe in her moses basket. It was terrifying and I honestly didn't know how we were meant to be caring for this beautiful baby when we were too tired to look after ourselves, there are only so many cups of coffee your body can consume in a day.
I'll just chuck in a little disclaimer at this stage and say that this blog isn't intended to be a negative one, i'm not looking for a pity party either, rather it is one for all those new mum's out there going through the same thing, and there are plenty. You are far from alone. 
It does get easier. And if it doesn't get easier, you certainly get used to it. In the meantime stock up on concealer and coffee to help you ride out the storm.

Eva is now thirteen months and it is only when  we look back we realise how far she has come in regards to her sleeping, I mean wow we are often treated to stretches of up to five hours . Yes so we are still co-sleeping- and enjoying it, most of the time- all apart from the erratic arm movements and toes in the spinal region) but we're definitely progressing.
It was only after her 12/13 month jabs which has sent her sleeping up the left again has it really reminded me of those challenging early days and with these feelings ripe in my mind I thought it was the perfect time to blog about our sleep journey.

We were never really off to a good start in the sleep department. From around 30 weeks I suffered from pretty bad pregnancy insomnia. Many nights I'd wake at 3am and take myself downstairs where I could still be found when Stuart was leaving for work. Luckily back then it was just a case of mauling my way through a box of cheerios and crawling back into bed, emerging only for lunch and (lets be honest), pee breaks. So as hard as the lack of sleep at night seemed, I managed by napping sporactically during the day. I was on easy street and didn't even know it.

Fast forward to the first few months of Eva's life when sleeping was non existent, it got to the point we were asking the doctor HOW was it possible that our daughter was surviving on so little sleep? it could not be healthy.
She didn't take to her moses basket (We tried three) Refused to sleep in her cot, hated her bouncer, we even tried parking her pram beside our bed if it meant we could have an hour of continuous sleep, but that too was short lived. 
We read every sleep related website, every message board and forum. People recommended sleep training books and we had family cutting out newspaper articles in the hope they would help. Our brains were so consumed with information on how to implement the best bedtime routine that we could have been sleep professionals, yet our own baby hadn't quite got the memo.

When reading articles by so called 'experts' or listening to  fellow mummies who had their bedtime routine down to a T I would find myself frustrated especially when they would offer their own pearls of wisdom. Don't get me wrong, i'm very open to suggestions- I don't exaggerate when I say we were  desperate and would try anything, but 
ohhh we have heard it all. Put her to bed earlier, keep her up later, try baby massage, a bath, bottle and book. porridge to keep her going longer through the night, lullabies, a night light, controlled crying, the shush pat method, lavender spray, sleeping bags, a rigid set routine, blackout blinds, drop a nap, add a nap, dream feed... Everything!

While we attempted a good few, with the exception of controlled crying (this mama is just not cut out for it) we  quite naturally fell into the good ol' controversial  Co-Sleeping. 
That's were they're going wrong'  people may say. and it very often comes out of the mouths of those with snoozy little sleepers that like to clock up to 12 hours of sleep a night (Yes! I said it) but anyone who has been through something similar will know that you do whatever you have to do to get some sleep, even if it is only a 30 minute powernap- For your health, for your sanity
While i'm not saying co-sleeping is 100% the route to go down, after all there are (like most things in life) risks involved but it certainly worked for us and we do most nights manage to get at least six hours of solid sleep, however it was very gradual and definitely didn't happen over night- try six months. I've found that co-sleeping is such a taboo subject, one that some mum's don't like to admit they do out of fear of being judged which is completely ridiculous and upsetting that they should feel judged over their choice of parenting. I know I can definitely relate. No first time mum wants to feel as though they are failing, that they are doing something wrong.
I've accepted that as long as you follow appropriate safety precautions and your baby is happy and healthy you are doing an amazing job. You know your  own baby best.
As confident as I sound in regards to co:sleeping, for us it was definitely  a case of desperate times call for desperate measures. There were nights the two of us would take turns pacing the hallway literally crying with exhaustion. Our own mum's at the other end of the phone offering to take Eva so we could pull ourselves together. So while we enjoy the closeness that comes along with co sleeping, if we are ever blessed with another baby we have both firmly agreed our bed is unfortunately off limits.

The next challenge for us is moving Eva into her toddler bed and oh what a challenge it will be but with those  5.5 size feet not getting any smaller and being wedged into my spine through the night i'm ready to accept that now is the right time. 
On another note I have the utmost respect for single mothers/fathers/those whose partners work away and don't have the option of a few hours kip  at the weekend while their partner holds the fort downstairs or even just the ability to jump in the shower for 10 minutes and zone out. But if I have learnt anything about parenthood it is that your body has this remarkable, mind boggling way of pushing you on through the exhaustion- after all there is no phoning in sick, no staying in bed all day to catch up on ZZzzz's. There are days you run on empty and somehow seem to pull yourself together and get somehow, get through it.

So there it is. I put my hands up and admit I have no advice. None whatsoever. No tips or tricks or even my own pearls of wisdom.I simply offer some glimmering hope that one day soon it all clicks into place with your little one and that googling 'how to get my baby to sleep' at an ungodly hour will soon be a thing of the past.

The hormonal, sleep deprived Sarah with the Uncle Fester eye bags would have cursed at anyone writing that, 'Cheers for the help'  and in a way I find it so entirely bizarre that I am and touch wood, it stays that way. But one thing I know for sure,  it  that it has all been worth it to have this little lady in our lives. Every last sleepless night.

© A New Mum Without A Manual

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