Who knew that the woman I was anxious to meet four years ago would become someone that I would love so dearly and come to rely on. I still remember that moment well - we walked from Brad's car across the lush lawn to meet his mum, Deb. I was so nervous. Brad and I had only just started dating and he had spent a lot of time at my house and with my family - but I'd spent next to none at his.
Over the years, Deb and I started to really enjoy each others' company - but I didn't really go out of my way to spend time with her. When Cadence was born, I really resisted her help and visits. I wanted to be the perfect mother to her first granddaughter. I wanted her to be proud of me. And most of all, I wanted her to feel like her son had found someone worthy of sharing a daughter and a life with. I didn't want her to see my pain or my struggles.
I couldn't resist any longer - I was fragile. I needed more support. I let the piece of myself that I'd been hiding for months shine through - a raw, authentic, vulnerable piece. At first I felt shame - and then relief. Little by little, the connection between Deb and I shifted. I now consider her one of my best friends, I look forward to her visits and miss her when she's gone.
I had to fall apart - hit rock bottom - before I accepted regular, consistent help. Don't let this happen to you. Reach out early.
Cadence now stays at Deb's overnight once a week and whenever I have appointments or need to catch up on sleep or housework (although I really should omit the latter and just sleep!)
Overnight stays at Deb's used to make me nervous. Cadence isn't the best sleeper so I would keep my phone close and demand regular updates as to how the night was going - mostly for Deb's sake. If I was struggling and needing a break, how would Deb cope?! And then I remembered that I've been doing this for a year now. I am depleted in a way that Deb can recover quickly from. I, however, have a massive sleep debt and exhaustion the weight of the world.
If you're anything like me and relish in being organised, or would like to be, I've come up with a bit of a guide on how to plan for such an event.
FOR YOUR BABY
I've always packed this way: I mentally run through my day in my head - picturing what I use/wear/eat/do and pack accordingly. It may help for you to do the same for your routine and write it all down. If you give this to the carer, it may also give you extra piece of mind that the finer details will be remembered. It's always important to write down any specific dosages and timing for medication and/or how many scoops of formula etc so that these important details are followed.
The following list is extensive. I don't personally use everything on this list and you may not either - so don't feel obliged to pack everything listed!
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
Cutlery and bowl/plate if needed
Sippy cup/water bottle
Comforter if used
White noise machine if used
Dummy if used (pack 2 or 3 - they tend to have legs!)
Sleeping bag/blankets and sheets
Blackout blind if used
Pram or light stroller if needed
Portacot if needed
Any toiletries such a nappy rash cream, massage oil, bubble bath, toothbrush etc
Before you leave the house to drop your precious one off to be cared for, consider creating a sanctuary for you to enter into upon your return. For me, I set up the breast pump next to the bed in case I wake engorged in the night, make the bed and lay out my pyjamas. I also organise something easy for dinner - be it takeaway, leftovers or something simple. I set up the lounge with a blanket, my favourite TV show, a jug of water, some thick socks and some cheeky chocolate biscuits.
By nature, I find it difficult to switch off - and as a new mother, this is amplified.
"What if she wakes and doesn't know where she is?"
"What if I fall asleep and she needs the breast to settle?"
"What if Deb isn't able to settle her?"
"What if...? What if...? What if...?!"
To combat this, I practice some mindfulness and have written some affirmations that you may find useful if you feel the same.
"It is safe to ask for help"
"My baby is loved and cared for - this does not change when she is upset or in pain"
"My baby will not feel alone"
"My baby will enjoy the nurturing of nana"
"I am only a phone call away"
"I trust in others"
"I deserve rest"
"It takes a village to raise a child"
"I am a wonderful mother"
"I look forward to seeing my baby tomorrow when we've all had a rest"
"I will enjoy my break without guilt or fear"
Now, after a few months of regular sleepovers, I feel very different about them. I am excited - not anxious. It's simply part of our routine now and I'm extremely grateful for this. However, it does help that when I pick Cadence up and thank Deb for having her, Deb thanks me(!) and she is sincere when she says that she is delighted to help. This makes all the difference. I definitely wouldn't have been able to be as sane and grounded as I am today without Deb's support.
How do you prepare for a night off?