I knew long ago I wanted to be a Mum.
Something deep down in my heart longed for a family. And although it took too long, and getting pregnant was difficult, I am truly blessed to have two wonderful, adorable, healthy and generally happy children.
However, no one tells you how hard it will be. SO AMAZINGLY HARD!! Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. I love them with every inch of my being. The love you feel for your own children is beyond imaginable. I will protect my children, help and nurture them and fiercely defend them from the world and all that life throws at them. But, it is bloody hard!
The first 24 months of my new life as a mother were the hardest. I have never been tested in the way that this new role has tested me. Most of it I could cope with; the pooing and spewing everywhere, the washing, the days without showers and living on snacks as meal. It was the sleep that nearly killed me. The baby’s sleep and my sleep!! Both were severely lacking. I have never experienced anything like the feelings that come with sleep deprivation.
Before our first child arrived, my husband and I had only discussed a few ideas of how we would parent our children. We knew we wanted to breastfeed (epic fail) and we knew we wanted our children to fit into our life more than our lives fit in around the new baby. I look back now and realise that that was pretty silly. I hoped to be able to have a baby that would sleep when needed and wherever we were. I was delusional! We were prepared for disturbed sleep and night feeds but nothing like what we experienced.
Our beautiful first born was a horrendous sleeper! She didn’t sleep during the day and nights were long and so much hard work.
We tried everything we possibly could. We co-slept with her, we feed her solids early, we went to day sleep school programs, we discussed ideas with everyone and anyone that would listen and we let her cry it out some nights when we didn’t know what else to do and just couldn’t calm her.
I was so tired I was delusional. I was so desperate but at such a loss and didn’t know what to do. I read every sleep book in the library. I cried to my maternal child health nurse at nearly every appointment. I remember my mum telling me on multiple occasions (as she was someone I constantly went to for advice and to complain) “It’s normal. Babies don’t sleep”. I went home and cried and cried and cried. I was devastated that my mum couldn’t see how I wasn’t coping and didn’t see that I was in a world of pain. This WASN’T normal.
I can’t even tell you how it became better. I can’t tell you what strategy actually ended up working for us. But just before our second was born she finally started to sleep. Thank God because I couldn’t imagine coping with two babies waking multiple times each night for hours. We figured that we couldn’t possibly have two babies that were bad sleepers.
WRONG! Our son turned out to be a terrible sleeper too and because we were so paranoid that he would wake his sister, we ran to him every time he cried. The bad part was, we knew after all our work with his sister that this was something we definitely shouldn’t do.
So, after sitting on a waiting list for about 4 months we attended a week long sleep school. It was the sure fix to all our problems. The nurses were amazingly helpful and actually reassured me that everything we had done with our daughter had been correct! Finally we knew we weren’t failing as parents and felt empowered to continue to work bloody hard until we were all finally getting a decent amount of sleep.
Unfortunately all this stress and sleep loss has come at a cost. I have lost days, months and years of my memories. I am devastated that I don’t remember most of my daughter’s first year of life. I have trouble remember the first 6 months of my son’s life! I am devastated that neither of my children have baby books. I have no real records of when they first spoke or crawled or walked. I am devastated that there are hardly any photos of me and my beautiful baby girl. I was too busy surviving to be able to ask anyone to record all the important moments.
The crazy part is that I almost didn’t realise how badly sleep deprivation was affecting me until I actually started to get a decent amount of sleep again. It was like I had been stuck in a cold, dark tunnel for two years and I was finally feeling the sun on my face again. I could think clearly, I could follow adult conversations and I started to be able to function normally. I was able to actually start enjoying being a mum.
As I said... I love my children. I love them with every inch of my being. The love you feel for your own children is beyond imaginable. I will protect my children, help and nurture them and fiercely defend them from the world and all that life throws at them.
BUT, it is bloody hard!