Category Archives: Baby Bonding

Sleep Success and Some Dodgy Mothering

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Sweet Sleep

Sweet Sleep

A few weeks ago now I had dinner with a couple of girlfriends and was encouraged to take some more “me time”. I had to laugh at the suggestion (on the inside of course) but did my very best to take on the encouragement and went to the movies with Bella. You may remember the fallout from last time I was here. It wasn’t good.

Exasperated, I tried to explain to my girlfriends that the real struggle I had, head and shoulders above the rest, was sleep deprivation which made little challenges like a crying baby in a movie almost unbearable to deal with.

Unfortunately, a sleeping baby seems to be the pin up of good parenting, the holy grail if you will. I’ve written about this all before. But it seems that by some miracle, Bella heard the conversation I had with my girlfriends, heard the desperation in my voice and saw the tears and decided that very night to sleep the whole time I decided to. She has continued to do so ever since. In fact, she seems to have transformed into this little snuggle bug who at about 9 o’clock each evening, presents herself to me on the floor face down, asking for a massage. When she decides she’s had enough, she turns around, climbs onto my lap for a kiss goodnight and then motions for her bed.

This is what I would class as an almost supernatural occurrence of masterful proportions. And you know what? I’m as proud as punch. I’m proud because I stuck to my guns for the last 14 months and continued to feed, cuddle and sleep with her when others told me not to. I did it even when I was exhausted and teary and even when my doctor told me my lack of rest was becoming dangerous given my history of depression. But what makes me so proud is that despite being warned that my constant responsiveness to her (or spoiling) would render her needy and insecure without me, she now after sleeping with me and then just in my room, sleeps happily in her cot. FOR THE NIGHT!

Oh sweet sleep. How I had longed for thee.

Now after some gratuitous pats on my own back I have discovered a new delight I hadn’t anticipated. I’m not crazy after all. I’ve started reading again, planning for the future and worrying about how I look. Ok, the last bit isn’t so great but it certainly does indicate I am thinking more about me and less about all things Bella. I hadn’t realised that getting up so many times a night had left me feeling a little bit like the walking dead. I’m excited, that’s all I’m saying.

Here’s the thing, since I’ve become a mother and realised how truly challenging it can be I have become a lot less judgemental about how other people live their lives. I’ve done things on my own parenting travels which I’m not proud of and which quite frankly I’d rather keep quiet. As my sister puts it, “who cares if you use a dummy (pacifier) or not, what are we all fighting about?!”

We rarely put it out there, the things we’re not proud of. It’s hard to admit that you may parent occasionally in a way that is not synonymous with how you see yourself. Is it okay to be an “attachment parent” and use a dummy (pacifier)? Is it okay to bottle feed and co-sleep? You catch my drift. We are so nervous about being judged by other mums and so intent on keeping up the air of maternal perfection, we don’t share with the very people who just may be able to sympathise. Here are some of my insecurities, in no particular order:

I bottle fed. When Bella was on the breast, I cried every time she was crying, knowing I would have to put her on and became terrified of her because it hurt so much. I used a dummy from the very first moment I couldn’t soothe Bella on my own (she is now pretty much addicted to said dummy). I regularly give Bella processed cheese (She loves it what can I say). She watches television (there, I said it). When she was really tiny, sometimes she’s stay in her bouncer for hours because I was so tired. Sometimes when she’s bored and whinging, I give her a snack even though I’m pretty sure she’s not hungry. She regularly plays with my iPhone. Sometimes she’s tugging at my pants for attention and I ignore it because I’m looking at Facebook. I once found her playing with my razor; more specifically “brushing her hair” with the razor (you can imagine…). She once drank my coffee when I was out of the room and was buzzing for hours (totally weird she liked it I know). I used to drink heavily and dump my milk, giving her formula just so I could go out. My husband dropped her in the bath one night. I regularly turn five consecutive pages of a book at once hoping she won’t notice because I can’t be bothered reading to her. I’ve smelt her nappy first and pretended I hadn’t till the Toolman does. At times I have longed to be alone without her. At times I have longed for my life before her.

But all the time I have loved her. And I have done a lot well too. I know we are not supposed to say that. We’re not supposed to tell each other that we think we are good mothers and we’re certainly not supposed to tell each other what we do that’s a bit dodgy.

But today I am telling you and I’m also saying that on the sleep front, things have finally worked out for us. I made an informed choice about how to manage my lack of sleep  and I’m so glad I persisted in following my instincts. It may change and I really hope it doesn’t but for now, I’m a happy, sometimes dodgy mama.

So whatever your thing is, try telling someone around you. Tell them what you’re embarrassed about and tell them what you do well. We don’t have to be perfect. You never know, they may just do the same.

*If are struggling with sleep and would like some more info on why I chose the to refrain from using sleep traingin techniques, you can follow this link.

http://www.pinky-mychild.com/sleep/sleep-articles/the-con-of-controlled-crying

 

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Birthday Blues

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My little girl turns 11 months today. It was at about this time, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, eleven months ago that I was being repaired and my husband and I were in shock to find that the name we had picked for a girl simply didn’t fit the one we had just brought earth side. I was expecting a Zahra but alas, we made a Bella.

In the first few weeks after she was born, I yearned for a one year old. I begged the universe (and most people game enough to come in contact with me) for a one year old. “I promise, I promise”, I begged the toolman, “When she’s one I’ll be a great mother. I’ll dance with her and everything. Just let me sleep, pleeeasssseeeee”. Sound familiar? In my post partum delirium I rationalised that I probably wasn’t going to be the best mother to a baby but I can make a cracking pot of homemade play dough so surely a one year old would be more my caper. In truth, I wished poor Bella’s life away just a smidge.

But now that my first important milestone is on the horizon, quite predictably, I want to go back. Not too far back mind you, I can leave the visit to a mother baby inpatient unit behind me; maybe just back a few months. I want to remember her tiny. I want to hold her against my chest with the luxury of hindsight and know that she can nap right there without having to put her down so that I myself can steal an hour of sleep. I honestly can’t remember what those early months were like; what she smelt like, the shape of her head.

There is so much good stuff ahead of me. There’s a whole Australian summer to be had right around the corner with a little girl who is so delectable she has to be seen to be believed (no seriously folks, people stop me in the street *blushing mother*). And let me not get to how delightful I can only imagine it is going to be when I am no longer sitting on a pump for hours a day. So why am I feeling so sad? Why am I suddenly worried about weaning, about losing that tiny baby who I only knew for such a short time?

The great irony is that when you are told to “enjoy it” in the early months by mothers that have gone before you, I don’t think I am alone in saying you want to pull out a hot rod and poke them in the bum with it. Because at that point you simply can’t enjoy it….you’re too sleep deprived, too emotional and teetering so close to the edge, the only thing stopping you from jumping is the energy it would take to fling yourself over.

I still go without sleep but I’m sadly used to it and as a rather important addition to the equation, I now love being with my daughter. I even love her tantrums …..They show she’s got some spunk. I just want a little more time.

More time to finish her scrap book I am making her; the story of how she came to be (minus the rude bits). More time to plan her birthday. More time to put up the Christmas tree, adorned with only pink and purple ornaments just for her. More time to play with her. More time to remember her just as she is. I’ve even become obsessed with looking at pictures of myself when I was pregnant with her.  What is going on here?

Perhaps this is a lesson about enjoying the moment. Not stressing about the future or the past. About letting the little one in your life turn one and simply enjoying it. Or perhaps this is the joke played on women worldwide. The one that gives you a little tickle and the fantasies and the daydreams of a brother or a sister begins.

Somebody get here quick and slap me!

 

 

The Look of Love

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Did I not see it here? How would you describe this feeling?

 

I’ve just had the most delicious experience with Bella. Slightly perturbed that the home hairdresser I had booked to cut my hair today was a no show, and on my new regime of trying to consciously enjoy my time with my daughter, I climbed into our bed with her. Armed with a bottle of fresh milk, we snuggled down under the doona and played peek-a-boo till she finally gave up on it. When she gave me her undeniable cue that she was tired (she loves to grab whatever top she is wearing with both hands as if to swaddle herself), I brought her up into my arm for a cuddle.

Amazingly, even at only ten and a half months, she knew how to reward me and stared so directly into my eyes, I am sure we were talking to each other. At one point I even thought to myself, “Can you hear me?” as I matched her loving stare.

Something incredible happened though that I wanted to share. I understand that this may be an epiphany-come-lately that most of you out there have experienced already but I realised that my daughter loves me. It’s not just me that adores her. She actually loves me. What have I been so scared of all this time? Yes, I am her mother which means I am responsible for her and yes, my life has changed in a way that often requires selfless sacrifice (quite the shock to the system after years of selfishness). But if she loves me and I love her, won’t we be alright in the end?

Suddenly I didn’t give a damn about the hairdresser; my curls could go wild. Because here I have a little girl, who is part me, who for now just looked at me like I was her world. And I was all good, not a bad bone in my body. Nobody has ever looked at me like that before.

If I wasn’t so happy, I would dry reach at my own sop. Is this what it’s been like all along for other mothers? I envy the speed with which they’ve had this realisation but I don’t resent my tardiness.

I got there in the end and once again, my little girl was waiting for me at the finish line.

Bless!

The Mama Dance

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If I was to tell you that immediately post birth I was contemplating picketing outside the hospital with a placard that read “Natural Birth = Cruelty to Women”, you might just guess the gist of my birthing experience.

Perhaps that is why it has taken me a while to get back here. Last time I wrote I was adamantly supporting the use of a birth plan and had my sights set on a romantic candle lit evening, birthing a baby. Even though I ended up with nothing of the sort, I should probably say straight out that I still maintain the same theoretical position. Without doubt, had I not employed the invaluable help of a midwife and a birth plan, I would have certainly been given a caesarean.

Even so, I had desperately wished that at this point, nine months on, that I might be one of those women who looked back fondly on their birth experience, regaling stories of softly lit candles and warm baths (despite everything I’m still convinced they exist). Unfortunately, I cannot deny my birthing experience was more of the “Help me- Help me- Greek- martyrdom-tragedy” variety. Fear most certainly was my number one companion and enemy throughout the ordeal.

But I think that all of that is probably a topic for another day when I have the energy to go there. Today, like all good blogging days is about getting back on the writing horse. Even if now post baby it is accompanied by a slight bladder weakness as we get into a trot (let’s face it, I’ve already wet my pants just climbing into the saddle).

You see, mothering is above all from the moment you give birth, well how can I put it?…Humiliating. It starts when your waters break and then appears to simply continue on until you die (are you getting the martyrdom thing now?). Yes, yes, the miracle of birth and all that… but seriously folks, I run out of fingers trying to count the amount of times I’ve wet my pants in public, opened doors not realising I have two rather elongated breasts waving to my toe,s or farted while in line at the supermarket (the later I always try to pass off as someone else, the nipple thing is harder to hide).

Whilst pregnant, the women that go before you smile wryly while watching you rub oil into your belly, waxing lyrical about the joy of carrying a child. WHY DOES NOBODY TELL YOU WHAT IT IS LIKE? I asked my friend this very question after giving birth and she answered simply, “Because it doesn’t seem very helpful. You’re going to have to find out anyway”. Good answer I suppose.

But here’s the thing. The real crux of it. The big taboo. There are some of us who find both birthing and bonding akin. It’s hard, it takes work and half way through you’re wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into.

People say that when a woman gives birth and first meets her baby, love hits her. But the love I share with my daughter started as a little spark that would catch light but moments later go out. I had a really difficult time bringing her into the world and when we first met, I have to say it shocked me. Here was this little girl, my little girl, defenceless and needing me completely. I don’t hide the fact that I didn’t know what to do. Throw me a nephew or two and I could throw them under my arm and run with it. Show me my own newborn and I was useless. I thought for years that I was a natural mother but suddenly, in that moment, when I had to step up and “mother”, I was paralysed with fear.

How would I look after her? How would I give her everything she needed? The day I brought her home from hospital I cried to the Toolman, “I’m so scared I’m going to hurt her”. She was and is the most precious thing in my life and it took some time to realise that I wouldn’t break her. And if I’m honest, it took some time for us to get to know each other; for me to accept that she was mine and that I could look after her. Hey, it’s a work in progress.

Everybody that saw her said things like, “Isn’t she lovely, oh you must be so proud” and at each I smiled and said yes. In reality I was thinking, “Really?”. I remember my mother saying to me at one stage, “Now you know how I feel about you” and I thought at the time, “Right…it’s like that is it?”. Women don’t talk about this.

So here is my advice. My word of warning perhaps. Yep, getting that baby either out of your vagina or your stomach is going to be hard. Like, really hard. I hope it’s beautiful but if we’re talking Greek tragedies, think Troy ok? But you’ll get over that bit, trust me.

Be prepared though ladies for bringing that bundle of joy home. Know that it’s ok for them to cry; that it is their way of communicating with you. Know that they won’t die of hunger; your obsession with producing milk is probably your instincts in overdrive. This isn’t the dark ages, there are options. But absolutely most of all, know that quite simply one day, it will all come together…

For me, a few months after I had given birth, I looked at my daughter and I wasn’t scared to be alone with her. I wasn’t scared of her.  I knew that she was mine; that I couldn’t break her and that most of all, I did deserve to be her mother. That day, Bella, my daughter, became my baby girl and I her mother. I looked in the mirror and realised it was me that knew she liked to be swaddled well after it was customary to swaddle a baby; that she liked her feet free so that she could “twizzle” them all day and best of all, that it was only me that could calm her down by singing “Ten Little Ducks”.

Quite simply, one day (and important to note, months after our meeting), I looked at her and the love that washed over me has never left. She waited patiently for her Mama and our love grew and grew and grew some more. And it keeps growing. And I keep loving her. I love her more than life itself. I am so thankful I was chosen to mother her.

Sometimes life is not what you expect it to be and it teaches you funny things. In a few years my adorable munchkin may be reading this and to her I say that one day, you might have a little girl or boy of your own and you might give birth and be smacked right down with love. Or you might not. You might have to wait. And give. And love anyway. And wait. And hope. And when you aren’t expecting it, you’ll see that the love of a child is the sweetest love that seeps from your pores and never leaves. I hope I’m there for that.

Like all good love stories, that between a mother and her baby is a dance. It’s tears of frustration, it’s hysterical laughter. It’s blissful walks in the park and sad glances at scars left behind. It’s fear and responsibility. It’s teaching life lessons. It’s dancing a dance, knowing I don’t really know the steps yet.

Oh, what the hell…to be honest, most days it’s dishes and washing!