Well, I’m not going to lie – I am feeling quite smug. I feel like I’m nailing motherhood (haha, I know, pride comes before a fall and all that) or at least getting to grips with it a bit more. Everyone says it gets easier after six to eight weeks, and at the moment I can attest to that. Of course, it might (and probably will) all change tomorrow, but let me enjoy this little smug moment for just one moment, please!
I wrote in my last post about the book, ‘The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan’ by Alison Scott-Wright, and how I was trying out her method of scheduled feeds and naps. Well it really seems to be working for us. It’s not been long, but my baby girl is finally napping during the day like a normal bubs. As I write, she is conked.
I mean, this is amazing to me. It’s taken me eight to nine whole weeks of exhausting days (and sometimes nights) battling with her to shut her eyes, even when I can see she’s wired with tiredness. But what I understand now is she was like that because she was ‘overtired’.
Now this in itself is not a breakthrough. I knew she was overtired before. But what I couldn’t do was get her to actually sleep. The pram sometimes worked but often didn’t. I was mostly successful with the soft stretchy sling in the afternoons, and that was a breakthrough in itself, but I would be then confined to the sofa with her until she woke up – I never felt I could do anything else during that time. Rocking her sometimes worked but she’d often wake up as soon as I put her down. Shushing and white noise were useful, but everything was hit and miss – there was no predictability.
It all came to a head a few days ago when I met up with my NCT group for the first time since lockdown. The night before had been a hideous nightmare and I can’t have had more than two hours’ sleep. To make matters worse, Baby R was awake all morning, which was frustrating and tiring. I left the house to meet the group, and no sooner had I set off with the pram did she start whimpering. By the time I got to the park where I was meeting everyone, she was properly howling. I tried to put her in the Baby Bjorn carrier, which I’d only used once before, but she screamed in that as well.
She calmed down a bit once I got her in my arms. But when everyone got to the meeting point, the girls wanted to go for a walk, so I had to put her back in the pram. And yes, dear reader, she started screaming again, of course. The other six ladies’ babies were all asleep, happy and placid, and there I was with an inconsolable baby. I felt utterly defeated. One of the girls said: ‘Do you want to go and feed her?’ and I could feel my bottom lip wobble and my eyes fill up as I nodded yes.
But no one followed me. I found a tree to sit down under to feed her, and cried my eyes out as I watched the girls carry on. It was a proper ‘woe is me’ moment. The other girls kept on walking, and I couldn’t have felt more alone and like a social outcast. I just thought: this is what it’s going to be like for ever – we won’t be able to go anywhere, take part in baby and toddler groups, visit friends, meet other mommies… I will have no life!
After I fed her, I seriously considered going home, I was just so embarrassed for crying like that, and a bit upset that the other girls had left me. But I told myself: you’re exhausted, and it’s OK to get upset. It’s only because you’re seriously tired. I also reminded myself that I’d only met these girls a couple of times (due to lockdown restrictions). They weren’t my friends, really; they had no loyalty to me. And perhaps they thought I’d prefer to have some time on my own.
Anyway, a couple of them WhatsApp’d me to check I was OK, and after about half an hour they came back and it was fine. I was still a bit teary, but I got over it. What it taught me was I should have prioritised my baby over everything. I knew she was hungry and was unlikely to settle until she’d fed. Next time I’ll say: ‘you girls go on. I have to feed the baby and I’ll catch you up,’ instead of going along with the crowd. I also shouldn’t beat myself for losing it – I’m sure I’m not the first mommy that this has happened to!
That very night I picked up the Sensational Sleep Plan book, which a friend had given me a day or two before. And I was hooked. It talked about scheduling, three-hourly feeds (eventually leading to every four hours) and the reassurance technique for naps. I can honestly say this book has transformed my life! Baby R is actually sleeping in the day now, I’m not overly feeding her, which I was convinced I was doing before, and I understand her ‘awake’ window, and the consequences of ignoring her sleepy cues.
It’s been a bit tricky the last few days as we’ve come to Cornwall to visit my other half’s parents. Trying to keep to a schedule when your in-laws want to play with their grandchild and do stuff is not ideal. I have also found it difficult leaving the baby to ‘self-soothe’ (i.e. go to sleep on her own when she hates it and ends up crying, which you have to largely ignore except for the odd ‘reassurance’) with his parents in the house in case they think I’m cruel. I know I’m not – the baby needs to sleep, and she doesn’t do so otherwise – but it’s hard enough at the best of times without the worry of other people judging you. Especially your parents in law!
However, it’s been OK for the most part. Yesterday she didn’t sleep enough in the day and, as a result, it was a real battle getting her down last night. I ended up rocking her for an hour (I can’t face using the reassurance technique at night yet), which calmed her down in the end (totally against the book’s recommendation) but it was tough. It reinforced to me how important it is to be consistent with her naps during the day, even though it’s important to be flexible or else your baby’s sleep ends up ruling your life.
I was dead against coming to Cornwall at first, and the five-hour road trip down here. But I’m so glad we came. My in-laws have been brilliant. His mom has cooked us amazing food, and we’ve had Cornish pasties, incredible fish and chips and the best ice cream I’ve eaten in years (in North Cornwall they put clotted cream on top of your ice cream – it’s SO bad, but SO good!) My husband’s dad has taken the baby while we’ve eaten, which no one has done for me in over two months, so that’s been great. And ultimately, I’ve been able to relax a bit. I even read the paper for half an hour in the sunshine a couple of days ago – it was the most relaxing 30 minutes I’ve had in weeks.
Baby R coped with the journey pretty well. We timed it at her bedtime, around 8pm, and stopped midway so she wasn’t in the car seat too long. She was a bit whingy for the first part of the trip, but slept much of the rest, and only started stirring when we got here. The downside was we arrived at 1:40am, and my other half was struggling to stay awake while he drove the last stretch. That’s pretty scary stuff, so we’re setting off an hour earlier today – I so hope it goes OK. But it’s definitely been worth the effort. A change is as good as a rest, as they say, and I feel heaps better and more rested, despite the initial effort. Just keep your fingers crossed for us tonight that we make it back in one piece!