By modern, Western society standards, she’s not sleeping well at the moment. On a good night, she’s waking 4 times. On an normal night, it’s 6. A bad night- 8.
Written between 2 and 4am on a particularly difficult night….
By modern, Western society standards, she’s not sleeping well at the moment. On a good night, she’s waking 4 times. On an normal night, it’s 6. A bad night- 8.
Written between 2 and 4am on a particularly difficult night….
My little Rainbow Princess! I am so sorry I haven’t written for you in so long! It’s been a huge 4 months for us with my and daddy’s separation, and the blog has been proper neglected.
The last time I wrote for you you were 13 months old and so much has changed, I hardly know where to start!
At 17 months you are in full blown Hurricane Toddler mode. You are a right little handful! You’ve been an adventurous climber for a long time now and nothing is safe! The chairs all have to be left well away from the table so you don’t climb up, the flip side of this however is that you can drag the chairs and get up anyway. You are a little princess of destruction, every toy box, every shelf, every draw, are tipped out, pulled out and strewn across the house, every day. Picking up after you is a full time job in itself!
The kitchen bin hasn’t been safe for a long time and has taken permanent residency on the bench, much to my dismay. You don’t stop moving, and the ensuring that every inch of the floor is covered in toys, clothes and stuffed teddies is your daily personal vendetta against me. It’s ok though, I’m sure one day I’ll be able to walk through the house without it seeming like a minefield.
You are a busy little bee my sweet girl, you’re always playing with something or trotting about the house, a look of in-depth thought on your face. You are quite happy to play independently for good long amounts of time, and that really does make life easier for mummy.
You are an excellent conversationist, and although I can’t understand a word you are saying, I love our little chats. Your favourite words are mum, dad, bear, Leo (the lion your companion teddy) and no. You babble all day long, but the intense conversations you have with your daddy on the phone are by far the cutest to witness.
Your verbal comprehension is excellent, you understand so much of what is being said to you, and respond appropriately and it amazes me. You are quite good at non verbally communicating what you want or need as well. You will walk to the sink holding your cup to ask for a drink of water, or lay down on your nappy for a nappy change. You like to do things for yourself, as always, especially washing yourself, with a face-washer after meals, or rubbing the soap bubbles on in the bath.
You love to play in the backyard on the deck, and in the splash pool. Pouring water over the grass keeps you entertained for fabulous amounts of time, so I often find myself sending you outside when I need to get something done at home. You have loved the trampoline for a long time now, and can easily get yourself on and off using the slide we have against it. You have excellent gross motor coordination, and the gymnast in me was superbly impressed with your 2 foot bouncing at 14 months. (Don’t tell the very athletic Sunshine Princess, but even she couldn’t do that at that age, so well done baby girl!)
You are loving playing with dolls at the moment, cuddling them, giving them bottles and food, and changing their nappies. Stacking, building blocks and any kind or sorting sorting also keep you busy, you are really into categorising things at the moment, like bringing me all the thongs from the shoe box, or putting allof the pairs together.
Action songs are a big hit at the moment, and it is super cute watching you copy and act out the songs, especially your favourite “The Old Grey Cat”, although sometimes I feel like I’m on repeat all day.
For the better part of the last 6 weeks or so you have been sleeping through 11-12 hours straight most nights, without waking, which has been a more than welcome change to your usual night wakings. Your day nap is usually 2 hours, but if you wake too late in the day, or if you sleep too long you have trouble falling asleep at bedtime. You definitely don’t fall asleep as easily as The Sunshine Princess, but you often put yourself to sleep at nighttime now too. The rest of the time we bounce, although it’s getting hard as you get bigger, 9kgs doesn’t sound like much, until you’ve tried holding it on one arm for half an hour on a fit ball!
You are still breastfeeding, just once a day before bed, although you happily go to bed without it when you’re with your daddy. I’ve spent 4 whole nights away from you now, the first two times I put you to bed and then left, and daddy slept over with you, the next two, a few weeks later, daddy had you the whole time. It was incredibly difficult to be away from you, I miss you so much, and it’s difficult to let go, but I know you are in excellent hands, and coming home to you after some time on my own feels spectacularly rewarding.
You have learnt to throw some outstanding tantrums. Which is age appropriate and normal, but yours can be fairly extreme, and difficult to contain. You have gotten into the terrifying habit of slamming your head on the ground when you are angry or frustrated, and then you end up screaming because you’ve hurt yourself. We had about 2 weeks where it was particularly bad, but I’ll admit I wasn’t very available to your emotional needs at that time, and since things have gotten better for me, the frequency and intensity of the tantrums have significantly decreased. It’s been a startling reminder of exactly how much my mood and emotional well being affects yours. I’m relieved to say that things are definitely improving though, for all of us.
You are becoming more bossy, possessive and headstrong, much like your big sister (and your mummy, if we’re being really honest) so there can sometimes be a lot of tension in the house. This is where I tell you that you, my little friend, have taken to pushing, biting and hitting to get what you want, and I am not impressed. It has also seems to have lessened over the last week or so, but I cannot wait until this phase is over, or when my reprimands have a little more effect. Bullying is not on little lady. Not on at all.
You are starting to really trust in the adults around you, and willingly accept, and even seek, comfort from people other than me. Your godmother babysat you a few weeks ago and had you in bed with no problems. You played up a little more for my cousin the following week, but overall, you are pretty accepting of the people who are caring for you more regularly now.
You are growing so fast baby girl, I’ve missed documenting your changes month to month and will hopefully be a little more on my game in the New Year. I love you so so SO very much Rainbow Princess.
It takes a lot to make me feel insecure about my parenting these days, but usually when it happens its because of a comment made by either someone who doesn’t have any kids, someone who doesn’t know much about my situation, or someone who had their children a long time ago.
Often it’s when a subject I already feel vulnerable about is brought up. For example asking my about The Rainbow’s sleep pattern (or lack therefor as is the current case) or The Sunshine’s not so delightful attitude that has appeared with the Threes.
These people ask questions like “is that normal? Do other people’s babies/kids do that?” And, probably, if it’s someone who doesn’t have kids, it’s a genuine question. But, to me, on very little sleep, and at the end of my rope after being told for the 437th time that day, “I DONT WANT TO!”, it feels accusatory. What I hear is “why are YOUR children doing that? What are YOU doing WRONG?” And I feel like bursting into tears and yelling back “I don’t know!!” I don’t know why my baby doesn’t sleep or why my 3 year old is acting like a 13 year old pubescent nightmare. I give them my all and I’m trying my hardest and they are still doing it. So chances are, yes, it’s normal. Chances are it’s actually nothing I am doing or not doing. But on rough days, I don’t want to talk about whether or not it’s normal. I just want to go pee alone. But that can’t happen because The Rainbow has hit a major separation anxiety phase and becomes hysterical if I leave the room without her.
Another thing I’ve found other people love to do is to compare all the mothers they know. It’s human nature, we’re analytical and like to look for patterns, but it’s when I’m already worn down and frustrated that comments about other people’s kids bother me. Someone might say, “oh she’s STILL not sleeping through? *insert random person’s name here* has a baby much younger than yours, and he sleeps through”. That’s great. I’m glad that other mumma is getting some sleep. Maybe she is a better parent than I am. Good for her. Leave me alone. It makes me feel bitter and inferior. Let me repeat. I am doing my best.
I am also doing what I believe in. The Rainbow is 10 months old and breastfed. She’s never had a bottle. Or a dummy. She needs me to fall asleep. Either by feeding her or cuddling her. I have to wait until she is completely zonked to put her into bed. And this is all what I am told is the cause of her night waking. She looks for me for comfort. Which I know is completely biologically normal. I will not be fooled into sleep training my baby out of something she needs, because of a promise of her sleeping better. My job is to put her needs first. Even when I’m tired. I would rather be tired than do something I don’t believe in, like leaving her to cry until she learns to fall asleep alone. But sometimes, I am so tired, that I just don’t want to talk about it. And I really don’t want to be compared to other mums who are getting more sleep than me. Especially if they used a method I don’t believe in.
I’ve been asked, “Do you think if you cuddled her less when she was a baby she wouldn’t be so clingy?” Two things bother me about this. First of all, cuddle my baby less? Yes, I could have missed out on those precious, and short lived newborn cuddles, by putting her down more often, but I didn’t want to. Secondly, what if I had of cuddled her less, and then she still became clingy? Then I’d be in the exact same place, but wouldn’t have the lovely memories and bonding experience of bed sharing and baby wearing in the early days. So despite how much The Rainbow needs me now, I don’t regret anything.
I don’t understand why mothers are put under so much scrutiny for things that just don’t really matter. I don’t think how much sleep The Rainbow Princess does or doesn’t get is relevant to the kind of adult she will become. I don’t think that The Sunshine Princess will turn into a serial killer because she talks back to me. I think what matters most about this part of their life, is that they are learning that I am there for them, that I will love them unconditionally and always. So please don’t decide whether or not I’m a good mother based on what I tell you about my daughter’s sleep, or on the 20 minutes you spend at my house during which my older daughter happens to have a meltdown. Because they are my kids. I love them. And I will always be proud of them. And for the most part, I’m proud of myself as a mother.
Let’s talk about sleep, baby, let’s talk about you and me….
For The Rainbow Princess,
Well my sweet little Rainbow Princess of 9 months…. You are such a delight. You are crawling, and pulling yourself up on anything and everything you can, you can walk a dozen steps or so by pushing your walker, unless I try to film it, and then you promptly drop to your bum and smile coyly at me.
You don’t have many words yet, you were saying mum mum and dada regularly but they seem to have disappeared. Your favourite word is boof, I guess I’ve called you a boof head a few too many times, because now whenever you bump your head you announce yourself a “boooooofffffff”.
For the most part you are a pretty quiet bubba, and pretty chilled out. It seems that you are much younger than your 9 months, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying your extended babyhood. You have though decided you no longer like purées, or being fed from a spoon and that suits me just fine. You feed yourself by readily shoving food at your face and eat anything I place in front of you. You’re yet to turn your nose up at any food, although mummy has figured out a few that don’t agree with your little tummy.
You are obsessed with shoes and drink bottles. The dirtier the shoes I have accidentally left at the front door the better, you will suck on them with a cheeky smile on your face, until I take them and you shriek in protest. The Sunshine’s drink bottles give you a thrill, something about the metal barrel and hard spout gives you joy, and make them a prized possession.
The past few weeks have been delightful with you, easily entertained, lots of giggles and hundreds of heart melting moments now that you can crawl and follow me, that you can lay your head in my lap, or climb up on me and plant a big sloppy kiss on my cheek. You’ve even been happier with strangers, allowing other people to hold you and cuddle you, and spending lots of time with daddy, without me also being present. You impressed me by being comfortable crawling away at music class to sit in with the big kids, and crawling off at the playground to chase after your big sister who happily included you in a game of shopkeeper.
And in true babyhood form, just as I was marvelling at your new found social abilities, the last few days have brought another change. A combination of your first tooth taking a seeming eternity to appear, despite the broken hole in your gum ready for it to pop through, visitors in our normally quiet house and the 9 month separation anxiety development have made you a little more fragile, needing my understanding and patience more as you worry and loudly fret if I walk too far away from you, or goodness forbid, leave the room without you.
I am your favourite person in the entire world, except maybe your biggest sister. You light up when she looks your way, and squeal with excitement when we pick her up after her days at preschool. When she’s out of the house you look around sadly wondering where she is. You’re also very smitten with daddy, which melts my heart, because he is also so very smitten with you. You and daddy have your own language and games, all your own and different from what I do with you. Daddy is home from work at the moment and for the past 1.5 weeks it’s him you’ve been wanting to put you to bed, and even him you want in the nights. He gets up with you in the mornings so mummy can sleep in, and spends time with you in the afternoons so mummy can nap. See mummy needs to nap, because you, my gorgeous one, do not sleep in particularly long blocks at night.
Actually, my darling, your sleep is pretty disrupted at the moment. You fall asleep by nursing, or by bouncing on your ball, and wake frequently, especially in the first few hours of your night. It’s not often hard to get you back to sleep, a quick feed, or a quick bounce, and you drift back off, until the next wake. After the first few wakes you generally settle off for a few hours, and wake in the early hours of the morning for another feed, and then usually one more before it’s time to start the day. 4am is a funny time for you, a wake at 4am can mean we are up for an hour coaxing you back to sleep, after which you will happily sleep to 7 or 8am. The trouble is The Sunshine Princess is up between 6 and 7am, so often when daddy is away I start my day at 4am and don’t end it until 10 or 11pm when you settle down for the night. It makes the days long, and mummy is tired. There’s not much reprieve because you don’t regularly take long naps in the day, and even when you do, The Sunshine Princess is around to keep me busy. So for the past few months mummy has been operating on very, very little sleep.
I know there’s plenty of mums out there wondering why on earth I let you “get away” with this. But here’s the thing my little girl, mummy doesn’t mind. See I know you can sleep, for the first 4 months of your life it was all you did. You slept so much I worried about whether or not you would develop properly. You slept for long periods over night, so long that I would wake panicking, praying to not find you still and cold. Your sleep was a shock to me after a The Sunshine Princess, I often joked that you were sleeping better at 3 weeks than she was at a year. Even still now, you sometimes go to bed, happily stay there and sleep 6,7,8hrs. Sometimes even longer. Sometimes you wake several times, but then sleep from 10pm til morning. There’s no apparent reason for the sleepy nights, and no pattern to the restless nights. So little bubba, I have complete faith in you to tell me what you need, and if you wake at night for a cuddle, then I am happy to give it to you. I also have complete trust in you that when you are ready to sleep through the night consistently then you will. I know you could do with some more sleep, especially during the days, but part of being the little sister, and having a big sister that has dancing, and swimming, and music and play dates and who wants to go to the park, and has preschool drop offs, and all the other things that make up our busy scheduled, means that your naps are sometimes disrupted. And you cope very well bubba, you really do.
As a newborn you would fall asleep wherever you were, without me. Now unless in the car you need to be in my, or daddy’s arms to fall asleep. You don’t fall asleep in your pram, or on the floor, or if there is too much noise and stimulation around. As much as I know that the idea is that self settling promotes better sleep habits, I am in no rush for you to be able to fall asleep independently, I don’t feel like I am spoiling you or being manipulated by you if you cry when I put you down awake.
I don’t gage my success as a mumma based on your sleeping. Your sleep(lessness) doesn’t cause me anxiety, it doesn’t make me feel like a failure, or that I am doing the wrong thing by you. I don’t feel pressure to have you sleeping through the night, not like I did with your biggest sister. You see my little wakeful baby, I’ve been that mumma. I was that mumma with The Sunshine Princess. My worry about her sleep, or lack thereof, consumed a great deal of my mummy energy, and left me feeling inadequate and nervous. Everything that I read in regards to baby sleep just told me how wrong my baby was doing it, and the ways of suggesting to fix it didn’t work. I was referred to the family care cottage 3 times, and on all occasions her and I both failed, they couldn’t believe how difficult it was to get her to sleep. Through it all, the silent reflux that was making her scream was dismissed as over tiredness, and the only advice anyone had for me was that if she slept better she’d be a happier baby. Basically, it was my fault she was miserable, because I had neglected to teach her how to sleep. I told myself it was normal to feel worried about her sleep, because she was always so miserable. How could I not worry, when all she did was cry? Finally at 6 months, I went to Tresillian, for a 4 day stay. It was there, surrounded by lovely, caring nurses that we started to work out a way to help her better sleep. It turned out that self settling DID work for The Sunshine, but she (and I) needed a gentler approach to achieve it. Leaving her to cry alone left us both hysterical, so instead I sat in the room and patted her to sleep in her cot, gradually patting less and less, and leaving her earlier to fall asleep alone. We worked out a routine to give predictability to our days, which greatly eased my anxiety, and I learnt that my efforts of rocking and ssshing and feeding and pacing to help The Sunshine fall asleep, were not helping her at all. An alert and excitable baby, minimal interaction with mumma was best for sleep time. In the same week a doctor finally gave me a prescription for reflux medication, and it was like I had a new baby. The change in her was so dramatic, and our lives so much happier, that I decided right then, that all my babies would be self settlers from as early as possible, that that same routine I learnt for The Sunshine would apply to all my children, and that obviously, all babies would respond in the same way as she did. I would never again worry about baby sleep, because I would know EXACTLY how to MAKE babies sleep. At the same time, I had a friend with a baby the same age as The Sunshine Princess, who didn’t self settle, and didn’t sleep well, and I could just not understand how his mother had the patience to rock him to sleep every nap time. I told her all the wonderful things I had learnt, and was baffled at why she wasn’t jumping at the chance to implement the same changes with her baby. I mean, who doesn’t want more sleep right? It’s a strange feeling to admit that I get it now, with you here asleep in my arms little rainbow, I understand that patience. I understand enjoying the cuddles.
In between the births of The Sunshine Princess and The Angel Princess, in my search to find more information about natural births, I also came across a lot of information about normal baby sleep patterns. For the first time I learnt it was normal for babies to wake frequently through the night for extended periods of time, and for longer than the expected babyhood. I learnt the reasons, I learnt about building trust, security and responsiveness in babies, and how providing to their needs actually made them more comfortable in their independence and more confident as they grew. And I started to think that when my next baby came, maybe it would be ok if I rocked them to sleep, or co slept. Or just simply enjoyed them and didn’t worry about how or when they slept, or for how long. I realised that there’s no such things as “good babies” and “bad babies”, there are only babies and they are all different. Some babies need the space and quiet that self settling offers, and others need the comfort of their mothers, and can’t be trained out of it. I hoped I would get a cuddly baby, but in the back of my mind I knew that if I was struggling at 6 months then I could fall back on the Tresillian routine.
The Sunshine Princess has no qualms about going to bed, she’s not afraid, after cuddles and kisses she falls asleep alone, quickly and easily with no protests or tears. I know that the sleep training I did with her has had no negative effects, she still goes through periods of waking through the night and needing comfort, which is still age appropriate, and bad dreams are not uncommon in these years, but yet it’s hard for me to shake feelings of guilt about needing to sleep train her as a baby. It’s hard not to compare her to you little Rainbow girl, and how easily you fall asleep with me, when she never could. 6 months come and went with you, and no desire to sleep train came. So I told myself 7 months, we did cot settling for a week, and then stopped. I am happy to rock, and you are happy to be rocked. So I remind myself that even though how I meet your sleep needs is so different to how I responded with The Sunshine Princess, ultimately I am parenting you both in the same way in the sense of figuring out what you each needed for sleep and providing it. For her, help in identifying a safe sleep space to be alone in, and for you, the comfort of my arms.
Grief has made my parenting different as well. After The Angel died, with the ache she left behind, and the deepest of longing for a baby to hold, I knew that I would be so grateful for that baby, that I would have the capacity to be more patient and the courage to be more intuitive, instead of needing to prove to everyone how good I was at parenting, based on how my baby slept. And then you came along, my delicious little bundle, who loves to be cuddled. Thank you. Thank you for being everything I need.
I completely understand the worry and anxiety and concern that comes from having a baby who doesn’t sleep well, and how I know how awful it is to always be asked about how your baby is sleeping, and feel like a terrible mother because they’re not. I know what it’s like to have every conversation about your baby inevitably come back to sleep, and whether or not they self settle, or if they’ve been sleep trained. I feel complete empathy for mothers who can’t seem to figure out what to do for their bub, when the books are not working and the professionals have a one sized fits all approach that your baby doesn’t match. But I am so glad it’s not me this time.
Even though sometimes the tiredness gets the better of me, and makes me grumpy, and sometimes when you wake in the night I wish briefly I could have a few more hours sleep, once I am with you and your head is on mine, snoring so sweetly, I know this is right. So Rainbow Princess, the thing is, while other mummas are judging me for not sleep training my wakeful little bubba, or bitching about how I’m harming your development by not ensuring you get enough sleep, I’m feeling a little sad for them that they are missing the magic of having their baby fall asleep on their chest. I am just so very very glad that you and I are with each other. That those days of stress and pressure are over for me, and you and I can sit here, content, as I rock you off to sleep. I am choosing to love you how you like best and I am not just comfortable, but proud of that decision.
For The Rainbow Princess
Sometime in your early days we discovered the ball. The big silver gym ball. The ball that if we sit on and hold you close and bounce you drift off to sleep, easily and peacefully. The ball is magic. The bouncing movement is hypnotic to you and almost never fails. In your early days we would wrap you, pop you in your basket and bounce the basket on the ball. We would put you in the sling or the ergo and bounce. I would ask friends if they had one and use it at their houses. It is easy. No pacing the halls for hours. No jiggling and swaying and rocking and patting and hushing and sssshiing. Just bouncing.
It’s 530am. You’ve not slept well tonight. You fed only half an hour ago and will not take the breast, but you need to go back to sleep. So we bounce. I am tired. My back aches and my arms feel lame. But we bounce. Your eye lids flutter and are quickly closed. Your face relaxes. You body softens. You sleep. You are so peaceful and warm. I kiss your forehead. When I slow the bouncing you stir and I pick my pace up again. I want to put you in your cot and collapse back into my bed. I stroke your cheek. It grounds me. I remind myself that this is not hard. This is not hard, and this is not permanent. We are bouncing tonight, but tomorrow you might not need to. Last night you slept through the night. Maybe you will again tomorrow night. But this night you need me, you need me to be with you because you cannot sleep alone. This is not hard. I would walk across the earth barefoot on hot coals for you, so to sit here, on this ball, bouncing you gently while you sleep in my arms, is not hard. This time is fleeting. You will grow up and no longer need me or the ball to sleep and I will miss this. I know that in 10 minutes you will be asleep enough that I will put you back in your bed and you won’t notice as I slip quietly out the door. If you wake again we will do this again. Because this. Is. Not. Hard. Leaving you to cry would be hard. Pointless and cruel. You need me. And I don’t mind. I am tired, yes, but I don’t mind. This is my job, on this ball, tired and frustrated, to put you first. And I always will. Every time you need me, I will be there. I will give you one hundred million bounces if it is what you need.