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.