The Results of the Sleep Consultant Visit

Well, Tina Southwood from Sleep Baby Sleep visited me last week to talk about Isabelle’s sleep or rather lack of sleep. At this point Izzy had already started sleeping better with only one wake and feed in the night and I really do think this was because her teeth had all come through.

Anyway, after talking to Tina (Who is absolutely lovely btw) it became apparent that Isabelle hasn’t been getting enough daytime sleep, which means that tackling night-time problems with controlled crying was basically just counter-productive. This made perfect sense to me, so we’ve been trying to get her to have 2 naps a day, ideally a short one in the morning and a longer one in the afternoon. In theory this is brilliant, in practise however it’s virtually impossible. Sometimes, Isabelle will have a nap in the afternoon, sometimes she won’t. Add to this the unfortunate fact that life with 2 elder kids means every day and circumstance is different means that she doesn’t always get that 2nd essential sleep.

Ho Hum, I think essentially the sleep consultant felt like a lifeline and getting to the point where I actually admitted that I needed help, meant that I had time to recuperate and recover from being fundamentally sleep deprived. What she said made sense and I would definitely recommend her if you are local and need help with a bad sleeper, or a newborn or twins! At the moment Isabelle’s sleep patterns mean I’m getting enough sleep to be able to function like a normal person again and I think that as soon as she can do without that 2nd sleep during the day, we’ll be fine. Well that’s the theory anyway!

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You may have guessed this isn’t a current picture of Izzy sleeping, it’s actually of a baby Maisie! You get the idea though!

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Stepping away from the edge.

Ha, that’s quite a dramatic title, but seriously, this weekend I was very close to feeling completely overwhelmed. Isabelle’s sleeping has been absolutely awful since the beginning of January. For some reason, all of her big, back teeth decided to come at once, so all our months of hard work with the controlled crying just went straight out the window in a few nights.

She has been waking at random times and screeching in pain, so I just gave in and decided to feed her in the night again to give her some comfort and to give me some rest. Unfortunately for me, the comfort goes on for hours. And hours. And FREAKIN HOURS! In fact she can often feed/suck for 5 hours straight, whilst sleeping next to me in bed and stretching my poor, beleaguered nipples to unnatural lengths.

Now, I’m the sort of person who needs to have time alone. As far as I’m concerned, being crawled over and pinched and pulled and sat on all day, is only bearable when I know I can get an undisturbed evening with Ferg and a decent sleep at the end of an undisturbed evening. Having a toddler who can sometimes start screeching from 9.30pm and then attach herself to my knockers all night does NOT equal a happy, well rested and patient mummy .

I don’t know how other co-sleeping mums do it but I find that it’s just not good for doing any actual sleeping. For one, there is NO room for my arms when Izzy sleeps next to me. Ladies, where do you put your arms?! Izzy hates it if my arm falls across her whilst she’s feeding, so as I’m on my side feeding, my arm can only go up, joining my other arm which has also been forced up, making it look like I’ve been tied to the bed. What with the permanent grimace, the stretched nipples and the arms, I must look like I’m being tortured and not in any sort of, Fifty Shades of Grey way.

On Saturday, my lovely father-in-law came over to see us all and in a moment alone, asked me if I was OK as I didn’t seem myself. Well, that was it, game over. I immediately burst into tears and told him I wasn’t really ok and that I was really struggling with the sleep deprivation. He suggested going to the doctors and maybe even getting a night nanny. Ferg had come in at this point and was quite alarmed to find me crying, but he was lovely and listened and was ready to find us some sort of solution.

It’s so hard to ask for help when things are difficult, but after that conversation I did. I even called a sleep consultant who I’m meeting today. My mum has been amazing and took Izzy for all of Monday afternoon and helped me with dinner for the kids and all other manner of wonderful things. I go to a group called Headspace and this Tuesday the ladies there gave me encouragement and made me laugh. Yesterday, a good friend took the girls for the afternoon so I could have a rest and Ferg decided to give me a break over Easter and booked us a little holiday with child care!  Just being supported and having a few hours alone gave me the strength to start tackling her sleep issues again and since Saturday, things have definitely improved.

Today, after my afternoon of rest, I almost felt normal again so the girls and I made some (admittedly awful) fairy cakes. They got completely filthy and ruined the icing by adding lots of flour, but we all had a lovely time because I wasn’t on the verge of a total meltdown. I feel very blessed right now to be surrounded by people who actually helped me. So, thank you Stu for asking the question, thank you Mum for taking Izzy, thank you Ferg  for giving me time alone,  thankyou Headspace ladies for listening and thank you Leila for looking after the girls. With all your help I’ve stepped away from the edge and rejoined the land of the living.

The girls spreading some floury love around the kitchen.
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Izzy icing the hob.
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So…

…it’s 7.52pm and everything should be quite peaceful and quiet. HOWEVER, Izzy is screaming and Im trying to ignore the fact that she’s SCREAMING.

We are staying with our best friends in the midlands. Their house is in an idyllic farm house overlooking beautiful countryside. We have good company, good food and good booze. However, all I can think about is the fact that my baby girl is screaming. Not whimpering, not grizzling, just SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HER TINY LUNGS!

I have to be honest, I’m very fed up. I want to relax with my bezzies. I do not want to be doing controlled crying before she’s even gone to sleep! Izzy, as fabulous as she is, just needs to get a grip, because I am actually on the verge of losing my mind. Go to sleep kid!! Right, time to shush, I’ll be back…

So, obv, she’s still screaming. My hub and I have been very consistent and persistent with the controlled crying over the past 2 Months and I know that we’ve done well, as she’s at last sleeping until 5.15am (God give me strength).

I find this whole thing thoroughly depressing if I’m honest. It’s not as if I don’t have anything else to do, I have 2 other children to look after, a husband to cook for and a house to clean. My God, did I ever dream of such heights?! I’m a modern woman for God’s sake!

Ok, deep breath. You know what? At this moment, when I’m here, struggling to cope with my baby screaming and crying, I want to say a big, well done, to all the mums out there who are holding on to their sanity by a thin thread. You are not alone! I’m standing on the precipice of sanity with you and we CAN get through this moment. This moment WILL pass and they WILL stop crying. We CAN cope. We LOVE our kids and life IS really good. Big deep breath lovely mums and dads out there, be calm and carry on. This time will pass, these years will pass and then they’ll be gone, without a backward glance. Blimey, I’m even more depressed than I was before.

Crying. Generally.

So, almost 3 weeks ago, my Mum had her bladder, womb, ovaries, lymph nodes and anything else spare, removed. She also had a new bladder created inside her for good measure. When she came out of her operation she was delirious but delirious for too long and not in a “normal” way. I was told she may have had a stroke, or that the anaesthetic may have triggered dementia. Neither was actually the case, she was suffering from severe post-operative delirium, but for a couple of days I wondered if I’d ever talk to my real Mum ever again. The reason she had the operation was because doctors found a “little” tumor in her bladder that was removed and then returned shortly afterwards. It’s all been thoroughly awful and it’s still not over, it’s still awful.

After her op, Mum came to recover and rest with us, which is ridiculous because our house is about as restful as happy hour in Vegas. Obviously Isabelle is still not sleeping through and one night when Mum could really have done with a good kip, Izzy decided to scream. And scream. And scream. During controlled crying we heard Mum go into Izzy’s room to try and comfort her. I went in to see Mum shortly afterwards and found her weeping on the edge of her bed because she couldn’t bear hearing little Izzy cry. Oh the hell of it!

Since then, she’s been rushed to A&E with a sudden infection and told her new bladder leaks. On the bright side however, she’s now cancer free! The road to recovery though isn’t easy and honestly, right now everything feels hard and complicated and rubbish and exhausting.

I’m really looking forward to boasting about how fantastic Mum’s new bladder is. I’m really looking forward to when everything inside her body works again and she’s comfortable and she doesn’t feel sad anymore. But for now I suppose I just have to have hope for both of us, because life with Mum is good and really worth being hopeful for.

Thoughts on yodelling, a healthy alternative to screaming.

My youngest daughter Isabelle, (the one who won’t sleep or be broken by controlled crying), has the mother and father of all screams. To look at her you’d expect perhaps a gentle gurgle or a cutesy little giggle, but NO, she’s a total yob. When we’re out in public and she starts screaming, I NEVER get a sympathetic shrug or tolerant smile from passers by, I get curled lips or grotesque snarls. On really bad days people have been known to simply run away from us, shrieking because their ears are bleeding.

At the moment she seems to be a bit poorly. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, it may be teething, a virus, permanent emotional scarring from the failed controlled crying, no idea, but she’s very cross, very clingy and very hard work. So, anyway, today she decided that the only place she wanted to be was my hip. At this point, I feel it’s important to say that I’m excellent at doing most things with one hand whilst holding or even breast-feeding the baby. Opening tins, buttering toast, going to the toilet, all easy, but I draw the line at chopping onions. Needless to say, at dinnertime, Isabelle was furious when I dared to put her down to chop said onions and screamed as though I’d just thrown her in the bin, which I have to admit was incredibly tempting.

By the time bed-time finally arrived, I was a match short of fireworks. I don’t know about you, but I find changing a screaming child’s, nappy absolutely hideous. They squirm, they flail and when possible fling poop at areas of the body that have managed to avoid tomato sauce or beige mush. Tonight though, the final straw came in the form of baby-grow poppers. Poppers are IMPOSSIBLE to pop when a baby is kicking and screaming and tonight when none were popping I felt the need to scream. So I did. I wish I could say that Isabelle’s surprise at my vocal outburst stopped her own screams but as you’ve probably guessed it made her scream even louder but with a new element of terror mixed in for good measure. Poor little thing, there’s nothing worse than frightening a baby, so, in desperation, I started to yodel. Yes, yodel. Now that did surprise her and also brought the screams down to a confused whimper.

Now I’m no scientist, (although a double B in combined science is nothing to sniff at) but I do feel as though I’ve stumbled onto some sort of important discovery here. Who knew that yodelling could calm the nerves so dramatically? I’m not talking about the baby of course, yodelling won’t work on her twice in a row, but I found it rather wonderful. I’d even go as far as saying that for a moment it made my spirit soar.

So, if you ever find yourself on the edge of a popper-induced meltdown, just try a quick yodel. You never know, it might work for you too.

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Day 13 Controlled Crying, an improvement? Pah.

Well, she woke up at 5.30am which is good. According to my husband, she did a bit of whining in the night but I didn’t hear it and she must have got herself back to sleep, which is good. However, I refuse to think it’s good because tonight may well be terrible and I want to be prepared.

On a more positive note, little, naughty, sleepless, gorgeous Izzy has started walking this week! Wey hey! She looked sooooo pleased with herself and although she’s not walking constantly yet she’s doing it more and more each day. The day she did her best walk(about 12 steps), my Mum was with me and I thought how lovely it was that we shared that brilliant little moment. So often our kids do cool stuff and no one else sees it (or is interested), but this was precious and I got to share it with someone who really loves Izzy too. Yum.

Also, she’s 1 tomorrow! I can’t believe it, my little baby will no longer be 0. We won’t ever be able to do one of our favourite jokes about putting the baby on the naughty step for zero minutes cos she’s zero, because we won’t ever have another baby. That almost makes me sad but then I get over it pretty quickly and cheer heartily. Hooray!

So Isabelle is asleep, the kids are at school/pre-school and I’m going to have a cup of Tetleys blended tread, a mixture of builders and green tea, which is actually very tasty and also makes me feel like I’m being healthy. I shall also read my book. Heaven.

Day 12 controlled crying. Ho Hum.

Last night during Isabelle’s one and a half hour crying session, Ferg and I had a great chat about our favourite American TV shows. I should probably point out that Ferg is my husband, not my bit of fluff. Ha ha ha ha ha, Sh. We are massive fans of shows like, The Sopranos, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Breaking Bad and of course Homeland. We love telly. Some couples love adventure, theatre, chess(?), but we love a ruddy good sit down and some serious tellyvision. We obviously do other things too… but mainly we watch telly.

I haven’t said much about my hubby, but he’s super. Of course I love him but I also really like him. He also doesn’t expect me to do adventures or theatre or chess.

On the controlled crying front, we did the classic, 5 mins, 6 mins, 7 mins etc etc up to 14 mins with only a very brief shh in between. It was better than the night before by an hour, but who knows what tonight will bring?

So, that’s it really, see you tomorrow.

Day 9, 10 and 11 of totally, out of control crying.

Over the weekend, after my ridiculous declaration that we’d cracked it, my smallest daughter has decided she doesn’t do sleeping. Especially at night. Especially when I’m trying to get her to sleep at night. So I’m considering drastic measures. Here are the options; soundproofing, (expensive and inconvenient but probably worth it) hiring a wet nurse, (old school but creepy) or running away,(cheaper than soundproofing with no inconvenience to me and not creepy. Downside, no home, although that also means no housework. Mmmm sounds good.)

But REALLY what do I do? Last night she kept at it for 2 and a half hours after starting at 12pm, that’s a big chunk of deep sleep time. Even then she only stopped crying because I fed her. I’m making her sound like the enemy here, a very small, gorgeous enemy, but that’s not how I feel. I just feel… Over it.

I know this time will eventually pass but it’s hard, my Mum’s about to have a serious operation to treat bladder cancer and I want to be able to give her my all, to be peppy and positive, but at the moment I’m constantly half asleep and she must feel like she has a zombie for a daughter. Add to that 2 other children who need a loving, attentive mummy rather than a screeching harpy with wild eyes and you’ve got a recipe for tumultuous chaos.

What’s the solution, assuming she’s not going to start sleeping through consistently? I guess we just plug away at it and pray for strength, I think we’re going to need a miracle!

Day 8 controlled crying *whispers* “I think we’ve cracked it…”

It’s almost as if I’m a real human being again, 3 good nights sleep in the past week have made me feel like super-woman! My kids even ate real home cooked food for the past few days instead of something frozen. Yeh I know, pretty awesome. It just made me realise how hard it is to be a functioning and pleasant mum/person, when you’re completely knackered.

I remember when I got pregnant in February 2011, in the midst of morning sickness, constipation, indigestion and poor sleep, I thought to myself, “in a year and a half, the hardest bit will be over and I’ll see light at the end of the tunnel.” In the end, it’s taken longer than that, but at last I feel able to really enjoy my family instead of just about being able to cope with them. For me, having three kids has definately been harder than having two kids, and I don’t mind admitting that I found the newborn months extremely rough. I’ve never taken Izzy for granted or wished time away, but I did look forward to when things would be easier and at last they are. Hooray!

I’m sure Isabelle is far from sleeping through consistently but really going for the sleep training over the past 8 nights has clearly shown me that there are 2 things she really needs in order for her to get a good nights sleep. Firstly she needs to have at leat two hours of sleep during the day and secondly she needs to eat enough. For her the sleep training bit was about learning not to need a feed in the middle of the night. Sounds a bit obvious but that’s it!

If you’re in the middle of or embarking on your sleep training journey then hang on in there and listen to your instincts. No one else’s opinion really matters. It’ll mostly be you putting in the hard work, so you get to make up the rules. Good luck and God speed!

Day Seven controlled crying – earplugs rock!

Ok, so last night Izzy woke at about 2.15 and was whining but not crying, so as I knew she couldn’t be hungry, I popped in my trusty silicon earplugs and merrily ignored her. My husband had the pillow over his head but as he’s a light sleeper, I knew he’d wake up if she actually started crying. Next thing we know it’s 7am and she’s awake. I call that a result and feel pretty encouraged.

In the lead up to that, I gave her as much food as she could possibly handle and she goggbled it up heartily, which makes me wonder if Shes finally got her appitite back after being poorly. She also had a great 2 hour nap after lunch which seems to be what she needs to get through the night.

So I guess everything’s going to plan, next I’ll have to start thinking about getting my three year old out of night time nappies. Oh the joys of motherhood.