So as I told my friend, it was like being on a long haul flight…to Singapore with a six hour stopover in Sydney, fussing babies everywhere. I mean everywhere. Scrap that, it was like being on a long haul flight sitting up the back ass of the plane.
I bring you the Sleep Seminar.
Never have I seen a more diverse but desperate group of women than today, all sitting perfectly in rows straining to hear a professional and any pearl of wisdom they may be able to throw their way. Half way through I was wondering why there was no sister solidarity, no pats on the back, no real understanding. And then I remembered this wasn’t a kumbaya fest of compassion, this was survival of the fittest. The plane was going down and we were scrambling over each other.
Our pilot of the day is renowned for teaching what is often referred to as “instinctive parenting”. You know the type; we’re talking slings, breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I should probably disclose here that on the continuum that ranges between a military mother at one end and a twenty five year old hanging off a mothers breast at the other, I’m probably more inclined to lean towards the later. I’m aware I have given two rather ridiculous examples of parenting but you see the point I am trying to make. If Placentophagy rings a bell, you too are probably up my end. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter what end you’re up because we’re all in the same line.
In fact, I tend not to think about my choices too much, I just go with “if it feels wrong or slightly dodgy, don’t do it” mentality. I’ve tried the analysing thing and all the books and theories do make sense when you read them in isolation but in practice, going with your instinct in the moment seems to work for me. This is the exact sentiment that our pilot preaches in her many books so I was convinced she MUST have the answers for me.
Alas, I came away no more informed than when I went in. To be fair, I’ve read her books cover to cover so the blame really isn’t hers. It’s just that like many mothers who were there today we were looking for answers to the greatest puzzle we’ll face….how to get our babies to sleep. In a very small nutshell, here’s your answer.
If your bub is under the age of 18 months….
If your bub is still teething and waiting for the last milk teeth….
If your bub is not walking confidently and thus going through rather massive physical and developmental changes…..
“So, just to clarify” I asked at the end of the seminar, “You’re saying that actually, my baby is normal and what? I just need to get up and continue to feed her? Maybe a few times a night. Continually, every night. So, that’s it?…..THAT’S IT?!!!!!” I had friends with me so was holding back the tears. I’d already been that mum at mothers group, I couldn’t possibly break down again!
Surely this lady didn’t understand. This author and woman I had idolised hadn’t seen me book my ticket to this thing at 2am, exasperated and fighting with my husband, everyone sleep deprived. She obviously didn’t get the memo that told her I had been looking forward to this for weeks as it was surely going to solve everything. And she certainly didn’t hear on the grapevine that the anticipation of attending had been the shining light at the end of the tunnel that had kept me going.
And here my friend, is the exact predicament that many a mother end up on. SLEEP DEPRIVATION Alley and CONTROLLED CRYING Rd. I always get to this part of the neighbourhood somehow. Sometimes it’s an amble and sometimes I run screaming there but I always look round that corner and stop. I stop dead. Because it’s not for me.
Now I strongly believe that it is not our place as women to criticise how another woman mothers; our behaviour alone is enough of an advertisement. I’m also a strong advocate for women doing exactly what they need to in order to get through and be the best they can be.
But here is my gripe. If I always turn around and waddle back down Sleep Deprivation Alley, why is it that I am continually told that it is my “choice”, that I could easily solve the problem and get to PEACEFUL SLEEP Way via the very road I don’t want to go down. You see, I’ve spent the last ten months trying to dig under my house and get to Peaceful Sleep Way via an alternative route. I’ll be damned if I’m going to undo all the work I’ve done on my tunnel by turning around at this point. And dismissing my struggles and confusion while continually sending me down the very road I don’t want to go down only works to invalidate me.
I’m pretty sure at this point you’re all getting the gist of my state of mind as I’ve created a whole village with stop signs and underground tunnels to get my point across. Have I mentioned the bomb shelter where I occasionally go for a good delirious and hysterical laugh or cry? But this is it. This is my experience of mothering and I suppose today I received a shock. I’m normal, my baby is normal and this is hard. It’s brilliant, it’s exceptional and it’s hard.
People love to say, “If it works for you, do it”. Well you know what, most of the time, it doesn’t work for me. Co-sleeping for instance is most of the time a bit of a juggling act of fingers, toes and milk. Expressing milk for months on end because my bub never attached certainly does not work, I do it because I think it’s best. And sometimes I just want to shout it out, “For God’s sake, I’m trying here!”
And I have complete faith, because I need to, that all mothers alike are trying. We may all have different bests, go down different roads or be on totally different continents but surely we are all aiming to raise happy and healthy individuals? Either way, after all the circles I go in, after all the books and the professionals I listen to, it seems one thing is clear. We’re normal. It’s normal.
My inability to make a point without using a complex systems of geographical analogies may not be…But when I go to bed late tonight, preparing myself for only a few small hours of sleep, I have to know that we’re doing alright.
And that may jsut be all I can hope for.