This is the face of sleep deprivation.
This is the face of anxiety and depression, intensified by sleep deprivation.
This is the face of a mother, constantly made to feel like a failure by societal expectations, desperate to understand how to “fix” her baby who could only sleep for 45 minutes at a time.
I might look like a happy new mother but there was so much going on under that smile that I would never let in on.
I’ve nailed it
The first few weeks I was actually quite well prepared. I knew about the demands of a newborn baby, I was tired but I knew this was normal. Babies don’t even know that they have been born, they yearn for the comfort and closeness of their mother, they wake frequently for feeds as they build up their strength, they don’t know the difference between day and night. I had heard that at around 6-8 weeks things would improve, and like magic they did.
The day/night confusion typically clears at 6-8 weeks and we had established a bedtime routine very early on. I thought I had nailed it and I was doing my victory dance every time Luca slept a decent stretch at night. He was having just two predictable night feeds, regular naps (albeit short) and I was starting to feel like I could see glimmers of my old life coming back. I started exercising again, I socialised with friends, I even went to an Ed Sheeran concert whilst leaving him with a stash of pumped milk to get him through the evening.
This is starting to get easier, I thought.
The 4 month sleep regression
But then we hit the 4 month sleep regression (early) and everything I thought I understood about my child’s sleep went out of the window. I desperately searched for information on the internet, I asked other parents for advice and constantly second guessed my decisions.
My confidence as a parent was quickly depleting and I was completely and utterly drained. My husband had recently taken on a new job which meant that some days I barely saw him. Many of my closest friends seemed to have forgotten about me and even my own parents only managed to drop in once a week. There was no village. Instead there were visitors and an abundance of questions and judgement…
“Is he a good baby?”
“Have you tried formula?”
“Maybe your milk isn’t filling him up”
“Just leave him to cry”
These are all the things that were offered to me as “solutions” when I was in my most desperate state.
I didn’t get it right the first time. I used methods to change Luca’s sleep that I wouldn’t recommend to you now. I shouted at my innocent child in the middle of the night because he just wouldn’t go to sleep. I left him to cry alone sometimes when I couldn’t take it anymore.
What I needed in those moments was not more questions or judgement. I needed someone to hold the baby while I napped or exercised. I needed someone to tell me it was okay to contact nap and co-sleep safely. I needed someone to tell me to trust my instincts. I needed someone to tell me that this isn’t going to last forever.
I even questioned whether I should have had a baby in the first place. Was I fit to be a mother? I desperately missed my old life. I watched others on social media as they seemingly nailed motherhood and even looked like they enjoyed it. Why couldn’t I be more like them?
You might read this and think, what an awful woman. But I know that there are many of you out there who will read this and relate to it. You will see yourself in parts of my story.
So if you’ve ever wondered why I decided to become a sleep coach, then this is it. I want to help you find ways of improving your child’s sleep that don’t mean using the cry it out method. I want to help you understand what is normal, so that your expectations are right from the start. I want you to navigate your child’s sleep with confidence.
I want to be part of your village, because we all sure as hell need one.