I told myself I wouldn't neglect the blog again - but I most definitely have. And it's mainly because my day at the moment looks a little like this:
- Up at 5am after being up all night
- Daddy takes small child for breakfast and play while I sleep until 7:20am (yes, 7:20am. I have worked out the EXACT time I need to get up)
- Back on duty at 7:30am
- Breakfast while the boobie monster feeds from me. I do my best not to drop cereal and yoghurt on her head but I make no promises
- The day progresses in a normal fashion of snack times, nap times, play times, adventures, babychinos, various mundane chores that keep everyone clothed, fed and organised, sitting down is criminal
- Daddy gets home at 5pm
- Dinner. Or, more-so, cooking dinner that we eat cold and the small child does not eat. We offer various alternatives which usually end up being avocado and raspberries (there could be worse things I suppose)
- Shower with daddy
- Settling for bed with mummy (which involves about 50 thousand breastfeeds, going to the toilet 17 times and a Riff Raff Sleep Toy called Bandit)
- I want to have a cup of tea, I want a snack, I want to read a book - but I'm too damn tired. I scroll Instagram while I brush my teeth and hop into bed ready for round 2 - the hardest round.
So, as I near towards 2 years of sleep deprivation, feeding through the night and settling a wakeful toddler, I've been thinking about my journey with this so far. Part of me thinks I'm an amazing human being who has endured so much and surely there's only one more year or so of this to go. I've done the hardest work and feel at peace. I love that I can meet all of Cadence's needs and that she has never been left to feel insecure - our bond is so strong and our family has my hard work to thank for that. Another (perhaps equal) part of me feels extremely tired and burnt out.
When I speak with other mums, too, the theme is consistent - we definitely thought our little ones would be sleeping through the night by now. But we can't even imagine what that must feel like. This is so normal now that it's almost laughable and inconceivable that we will ever sleep.
I am a firm believer that sleep is a developmental milestone that babies and toddlers will reach when they are ready. I do not want to push Cadence by removing comfort or contact in the night (although we may begin a night weaning journey very soon - stay tuned for that!) But it took me a long time to reach this conclusion. Here's what I thought and felt along the way. You may be able to relate:
6 Weeks In - Quiet Confidence.
You have a newborn. It's all very exciting. You've somewhat recovered from the birth. Getting up in the night feels like an adventure. You and your partner fight over whose turn it is to change her nappy - because she's so damn cute. You check the time, it's 4am and you've had two hours sleep. But it doesn't matter - because this won't last for much longer (haha). All the baby books say babies start to sleep through the night between 8 weeks and six months (haha).
3 Months In - Confidence Wavering.
Okay, so you're getting tired. But again, it's okay because your baby is obviously going to sleep through the night at six months old (haha) so you're half way there.
6 Months In - A Sense of Accomplishment.
Anyyyyyyy night now.
12 Months In - Despair.
This is NOT cool. Babies of a similar age are sleeping through, they are being weaned, their mums are somehow coping back at work while you struggle to get out of your pyjamas by 11am. The night waking has actually INCREASED and everyone keeps doing that thing where they ask whether she's a "good baby" - which, in turn, means "does she sleep all night?" By that definition, she is a very bad baby and that means that you are a very bad mother.
15 Months In - Try All The Things.
You visit a chiropractor, you buy herbal remedies, you slather the small child in magnesium oil, you put lavender in the bath, you research melatonin, you are convinced something is wrong. A sense of disappointment ensues when you see little benefit to the time and money you've invested.
18 Months In - Anger.
By now, you're very tired - and somewhat confused. Being woken to breastfeed every 2-3 hours is getting a bit old. You try to night wean but it feels impossible. You listen to other mums complain that their baby woke once one time last week and they are still recovering from it. You were never normally an angry person, but this particular comment makes the anger and resentment that's been brewing want to spill over. You watch mums skip with their children to the park while you walk slowly with a coffee in hand. You lift your baby into the swing and notice how sore and tired you are. You think that a good nights sleep would fix this. More anger surfaces. Why me? How come I can't be a bundle of energetic joy who skips to the park? You feel overwhelmed and enter into a negative thinking pattern. You wonder whether you are depressed. But you solider on - because that's what mums do.
20 Months In - Relief.
You've found a mum who understands. You suddenly find millions of mums all over the world who haven't suggested that you read Save Our Sleep. You feel a sense of solidarity. You text aforementioned mum at 3am and she responds almost instantly - and tells you you're doing a brilliant job. When you look in the right places, you find resources on safe co-sleeping, the benefits of breastfeeding on demand, affirming research on secure attachments and normal infant sleep. You laugh to yourself about your naivety. You implement strategies to support yourself and your family whilst remaining true to your parenting values.
22 Months In - It's A Rollercoaster.
You have a few nights here and there (definitely just a few!) where your toddler sleeps until 5am - straight. You decide that the worst is over and you're definitely going to sleep all night very soon. But when it doesn't last, and when things start to feel overwhelming and the resentment builds, it's time to take a step back and remember that this will pass. You start to feel negative towards your lifestyle and your current situation. But remembering that the days and nights are long but the years are short, definitely helps to keep a calm perspective and to feel at peace. You also remember that this little being of light chose you to be their mumma - and you wouldn't want it any other way. Loving your child unconditionally, through every sleepless night and misadventure, is what motherhood is all about. It might not be what you signed up for in the beginning, but it's where you are now - and it's time to ride that wave together - as a unit. Seeing your child as someone who is separate to you is the first step to the resentment building again.
2 Years In - Who Knows.
Cadence is nearly 2 years old. Who knows what the future holds. I'm doing my best to release any expectations I have on how she sleeps in the future - which is something that flows. For example, we have a night of 4 hours blocks, and I'm ecstatic, full of hope and energy. And then the following night, we have a night of 45 minutes blocks, and I'm disappointed, drained and want to throw the towel in. And then to complicate things even further, I have a decent sleep and still feel tired and drained and at the end of my fuse. Sometimes I wonder whether sleep is everything.
If you're in the depths of sleep deprivation, please do your best to practice self-care. Please ask for help. This isn't silly or a failure on your part - this is a necessary aspect of motherhood that is almost always overlooked. We are not meant to do this alone. It takes a village. Call that village. Ask them to come and feed your little one breakfast while you catch another 60 minutes of shut eye. Order takeaway. And smile at the beautiful journey you are on - as this is what it is - a journey. It will change and flow with time and sooner rather than later, you'll wonder where the time went and miss those snuggly nights of cuddling and hushing in the dark. Breathe, mumma. You got this.