This is for all the parents that think no-one understands
4 and a half years ago I had my first baby, Sofia. SHE DIDN’T SLEEP.
Most of you who follow me know that things were extremely bad. Sofia was the reason I changed careers and started studying sleep.
The thing is, what I have realised over the last 6 months, is that not a single person I spoke to about Sofia’s sleep, or lack of it, COULD have understood.
Not through not caring, but because it was IMPOSSIBLE for them to understand.
I only know this since I had Alyssia.
She is apparently what a normal sleeping baby looks like in that she sleeps.
She has slept from the beginning and still sleeps – normally.
Alyssia doesn’t just fall asleep wherever she is, she relies on me, her mum, to learn her cues and put her down when she is tired.
I am still needed in the night to feed her as she gets hungry. She isn’t ‘sleeping through’ which is fine. 2-3 wakes from going to bed until morning. This is normal and manageable.
I work hard at making sure she doesn’t get too overtired as that’s when the tears start, and I don’t like tears. What parent does?
The point of this though, is that you are not crazy for feeling the way you do if your baby isn’t sleeping and you aren’t coping.
Most people around you probably have the ‘normal’ sleeping baby. Up 2-3 times a night, gives off tired cues, goes back to sleep after a feed and a winding in the night etc. You may even have THAT friend who has a baby that has slept 7-7 from 6 weeks.
How could they possibly understand been up every hour of the night, for hours at a time, having a baby that cry’s and screams because they are so tired.
During the day she always seemed so happy. She never seemed tired. Smiled, laughed, into everything, but as soon as it was time to put her down for a nap, the screaming started.
I walked miles every day to get her to sleep, all for a car, motorbike or siren to wake her. I even used to walk in the rain at 6am to try and get her to go to sleep.
The thing is, the stress I felt for her not sleeping wouldn’t have helped either of us anyway.
It goes like this:
You’re stressed, baby is stressed, baby finally falls asleep in your arms after feeding, rocking and singing, you need the toilet…nooooo…. you pray while putting baby down that she won’t wake, she does wake, you run to the toilet, baby is crying again, you rush, your heart is racing, you just don’t know what to do and then tears start for everyone.
This is life on repeat.
You’re told to co-sleep, accept it, it’s normal, just find a way, get a village, cry it out, don’t cry it out. The worst comment ‘you chose to be a mum so just deal with it’. All great if any of these things work for you or are even possible, or don’t make you feel so bad that they send you further down the rabbit hole.
Hours of rocking and attempting to feed to sleep in the night and it still not work. We even rang 111 in the early hours once after 2 hours of constant screaming unable to console her. She was just exhausted.
You tell your friends and family how bad it is as you naturally need to vent, and are secretly praying for someone to give you the magic sleep cure, but you think they think your exaggerating. Probably because they do. How can they understand?
The health visitor tells you you’re an anxious mum.
How else are you supposed to be when realise 10 minutes into a drive that you haven’t strapped your baby into the seat because you were so tired you thought you had done it. I kid you not, this happened, and it haunts me now, and always will.
I know, to the parents out there that are reading this that have an Alyssia, you have no idea what I am talking about. If you do think you get if, I promise, you don’t. I have had a fair few nights with Alyssia where she wakes every hour to 2 hours from midnight, but they haven’t lasted. That feeling of exhaustion I get from these few nights is a reminder of the constant zombie like state I lived in on a daily basis. It was worse then, as back then it was a constant debt of sleep that was never getting paid back.
If you have a Sofia, I know you understand, and I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
You are not crazy.
You are not anxious – you are sleep deprived.
You’re not exaggerating, it is real.
It is more than hard.
It was so hard for us, that as a person who wanted 4 children close together, there is a 4 year age gap between our 2 girls, and she is our last.
The fear of getting what we got the first time was overwhelming.
I am beyond shocked that what we have is normal after what we experienced.
The difference feels like living in either heaven or hell. The 2 scenarios couldn’t be more different.
One lead us to marriage counselling and near divorce, the other brought us closer together.
Babies are so so different.
Please don’t compare your situation with your friends situation. They may have an Alyssia and still struggle, so how can they understand the Sofia?
This isn’t to say that someone with an Alyssia should be able to cope. It is still hard, and they may need some help and support. This is just me telling you that there is nothing wrong with how you feel about your situation, and that there is nothing wrong with your baby. You just might need a bit more help to understand them and their needs, as they are different to your friend’s baby’s needs.
We all have different levels of tolerance to sleep deprivation.
Everyone has different coping mechanisms.
We all make choices that suit our different lifestyles and family situations.
This is not just about how we feel about sleep.
This could be weaning on purees rather than baby led weaning, or visa versa.
It could be feeling judged for your feeding choice, whether it be breastfeed or formula.
It could be that you lost your choice to breastfeed and are constantly comparing your situation to someone else’s.
Natural birth vs C section.
We don’t know what other parents have been through and the choices they make and the reasons behind them. In a lot of cases, the choice may be taken away and the parent is again left thinking that no-one else understands.
They do and you are not alone. You just may need to dig a little to find someone open enough to share their story.
We hide behind walls pretending everything’s perfect so we don’t seem like we’re failing, but guess what, WE ARE NOT FAILING. We do our absolute best every single day to raise our baby’s and give them everything and anything they need.
We forget about ourselves and our needs and we think we have to do it all alone.
If you are struggling, please speak out. There is always someone who has been through similar who can relate.
If your struggle is sleep, you know where I am. The online support option is available to anyone who wants to learn about normal baby sleep and support their baby to sleep better with my virtual support, and you will see from the Facebook group YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you feel you need more than online support, get in touch or have a look at the personalised support options. firstname.lastname@example.org