Sleep. I feel like all I ever talk about is sleep. Or rather lack of sleep. Or issues with sleep. It’s tiring (see what I did, yup, we’re cracking sleep jokes).But when it takes up, or is supposed to at least, take up a big part of my little dudes 24 hours, it’s easy to see why it’s so easy to talk about. And equally as easy to start to obsess over. And then we’re heading into dangerous territory.
We have been in a good place with Ziggys sleeping recently. We accept that he will wake up multiple times a night, and I’ve stopped looking at the clock every time he does. I just offer him the boob, and within a few minutes we’re both fast asleep. If I need to pee, then AJ wakes up and holds him until I get back in bed. Letting go felt amazing, and as a result, bedtimes are again a time of love, a time to relax and slowly wind down, as a family, until our little dude falls asleep. Yeah there is the occasional rough night, when his teeth hurt and he cries and cries, but AJ and I now look at those differently. We don’t see them as an inconvenience for us, but rather as an opportunity to provide our baby with love and cuddles and be there for him as long as he needs. Yeah we’re tired, but we don’t have sharp teeth cutting through our gums, so we can suck it up and focus on Ziggy.
But, as always, just as I feel like life is wonderful and we’ve got everything under control, something else crops up. And, of course, it’s bloody sleep related isn’t it. You see, Ziggy’s going through a new phase at the moment with his day naps. He’s decided he doesn’t really need them, the little ratbag. He would much rather stay up all day and play with his mama and his cats. If he does nap, it has to be in my arms, in the car or in the carrier. Nowhere else will do. On top of that, he’s gone from two, three or four naps a day, to one. One. Sometimes as short as 20 minutes. Although there was that one magical day he slept in the Beco on my back for three hours, bloody hell, I didn’t know what to do with myself. But days like that are rare, in fact, days like that can be counted on one thumb. More common are days where he cat naps, dozes on the boob or decides actually he doesn’t want to nap at all.
At first, this change to his non-existent routine stressed me out. Instead of applying the same path of thought to this as I do to his overnight sleeps (which would have been the sensible thing to do), I started travelling down that ‘why won’t my baby sleep road’ again. Bloody horrible one lane, pot hole filled road that it is. I fought it. I fought him. I’d try and put him down, try and make him have more naps than he wanted to have. Sometimes he would fall asleep on the boob and I’d go ‘ah ha! This is it!’ and attempt to place him somewhere other than my arms, like the bassinet. Seriously, you’d think after nearly 10 months I’d know better by now but apparently I’m a slow learner. All that would happen, no matter how deeply asleep he gave the impression of being, is that his eyes would fly open and he would start to cry. So I’d put him back on the boob. He’d fall asleep again, and I’d try to put him down again. And he’d wake up and cry, again. And I could feel the panic rising, I could feel that squeeze in my chest, that horrible feeling of anger and frustration because he wasn’t doing what he was ‘meant to’, what it seemed like other babies at his age were doing.
It’s horrible. It’s such a terrible feeling, this panic and this worry. It is consuming. It’s easy to get weighed down by it. I had days where I was at my wits end and I felt myself getting angry at him, because he wasn’t doing what he ‘should’ be doing. Like there are rules my baby is meant to follow. You know, from that rule book nearly 10 months old babies are given to read. Bloody hell. I made the mistake of comparing him to other babies, of comparing myself to other mums. And feeling like I was a failure. I would leave gatherings of mothers feeling deflated. Feeling like all the choices I was making regarding Ziggy’s upbringing were wrong. I felt like everyone else was doing a much better job than I was. It was demoralising and it made me feel low.
I mentioned some of these worries to AJ one night. I had been internalising, but he can tell when I’m not myself, when I go quiet and answer him in short quiet sentences. And when he asks ‘what’s wrong’ and I say ‘nothing’, he’d give me the look. And then he stays quiet until I feel the need to fill the space and I start talking. So, I talked, and I told him how I was feeling and the doubts I had. I may have even cried a bit. He told me to stop it. Just stop. Babe, he said, you’re a bloody amazing mum, stop comparing, stop worrying, just keep doing what you’ve been doing so well all these months and be the best mum to Ziggy that you can be. Okay so maybe I paraphrased his words a bit, but essentially that is what he said to me.
This is why I love him. Well, I also love him cause he’s rather sexy, he’s put up with me for almost nine years and he still give me goosebumps on those rare occasions we get to get it on. But I also love him because he helps me strip past the bullshit and see clearly again. So after that talk, I gave myself a mental slap around the ears, and said – what the fuck Em, why get all worked up about this? What are you achieving? Nothing that’s what. Nothing but high blood pressure and more bloody wrinkles, and you really don’t need any more wrinkles. What you need, is to pluck your eyebrows and wax your vagina. Like yesterday. But in the meantime, let’s cut the bullshit stress about sleep. If this precious child of yours will only sleep in your arms, in the car or in the carrier, if he only wants to nap once a day, well, that’s exactly what is going to happen. Starting now.
So instead of fighting it, I’ve embraced this too, and we just take every day as it comes. If he falls asleep in my arms, then I turn on the TV and binge. If we go for a drive and he falls asleep in the car, choice. And if it’s somewhere inconvenient (somewhere I can’t really leave him in the car unattended) like the supermarket, well then I biff him in the carrier. And if he falls asleep in the carrier and we’ve finished shopping, he gets put back in the car. If he doesn’t want to sleep, then we go outside and feed the chooks, or we read a book (well I try to read a book while he tries to eat the pages), or we play with his blocks. Because this is how we roll. It’s just not worth the angst or the stress fighting it.
Some days it’s hard. Today for example he was grizzly and tired, but man did he resist going to sleep. If I put him on the ground to play he cried. If I held him he grizzled. But you know what’s worse than a baby that won’t have a nap, a mama that gets all upset about it. So I didn’t. I gave him boob then up he went, into the carrier. And I started baking. I made chocolate chip bikkies, and he was still awake, so I made apricot bikkies too. He was still awake so I did the dishes. Still awake, no worries, let’s start getting dinner ready. Two hours passed, and he was quiet, but he was also still awake. I took him down, gave him another boob and biffed him back on my back. Then I cranked up some Duffy and danced around the lounge like an idiot. He burst out laughing, it was the sweetest sound and it made my spirits lift. It took a full set of repeaters to Mercy (thank you Kangatraining) before he finally nodded off, but hey, I got a workout out of it, and he was finally asleep in his happy place, up on my back.
I’m happy again too. I’m happy, Ziggys happy, AJ will be happy when he gets home and there is a huge plate of biscuits waiting for him. My back and thighs are not as happy but they can fuck off, they get no say in this at all. And they are benefiting greatly from all this carrying and crazy dancing. So they should just be happy too.
I’m learning with this parenting business that there is no point fighting. Everything is a phase and everything eventually will pass, and until it passes, you ride it out as best you can. It is easy to forget this, and sometimes I need to have a good cry at 3am, eat too much chocolate, and vent to my partner. But then I pick myself up and carry on. You have to do what works for you – bugger what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ don’t worry about ‘creating bad habit’s’ or any of that shit. If anyone tells you you’re creating a rod for your back with your methods, you tell them to take that fucking rod and sit on it. It’s support and love that’s needed at a time like this, not questioning and second guessing.
Screw the books, screw the experts, I’m doing what I need to do, what my baby needs me to do. Even if that means wearing him everywhere and dancing around the lounge like a uncoordinated idiot with him cracking up on your back.
They say that a happy mum means a happy baby. I reckon they’ve got it the wrong way round.
Happy baby = happy everyone.