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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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 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 six controlled crying. Oh dear, I spoke too soon.

I had a horrid feeling this would happen. She didn’t nap at all yesterday and barely ate anything, so it wasn’t a surprise to me when she woke at 4.15am. I went in to shush her and give her back a rub for a couple of minutes, hoping she might be settled back to sleep, but when I returned she REALLY started to scream.

I mentioned “the no-cry sleep solution”, yesterday and actually started reading it anyway as I was sure she would start waking again at some point. Unfortunately I hadn’t got to the the bit that gives solutions. What was useful to know however, was that according to sleep experts, sleeping through for babies is defined as 5 hours of sleep. So technically she is actually sleeping through. Also I was challenged to go for a calmer sleep training programme if possible as I really don’t like the idea that she’s freaking out and terrified. In the end I just thought, she’s probably ravenous, I’m going to feed her. Arghhhhhh! I’m breaking the rules, I’ve gone all rogue and spontaneous, but hopefully I made the right decision. She fed for about 20 minutes and went straight back to sleep.

Today, she’s napping at the right time, and I’m going to stuff her full of as much food as possible so at least I’ll know she shouldn’t be hungry. The funny thing was, although I’m completely knackered and pretty grumpy, last night when I was feeding her, I made sure I treasured it. It won’t be long until my last ever baby stops feeding altogether, so each feed should be enjoyed.

Right, on that note of positivity, I’m going to make myself a sandwich.

Day 4, controlled (whatever!) crying.

Last night Isabelle decided to mix it up a bit and woke at 4.30 am, which Ive decided is an improvement. She didn’t scream, just whined loudly, so I foolishly thought she might give up and drift back off to sleep. Fat chance. After an hour I decided to try giving her a shush, which woke her up, completely. Excellent. So as I lay awake, Isabelle screamed, and screamed and screamed. And then, after half an hour of going in after 5, then 6, then 7, then 8 minutes, she whimpered. I saw my chance and shushed her off to sleep, which this time worked, (oh the inconsistencies of sleep training!).

I’m too old for all this. A friend encouraged me to hang in there today, it took just over a week for it to work with her kiddies. A WEEK? I’m not sure I can survive for a whole week. The hardest bit, apart from the crushing exhaustion of course, is the doubt that sets in in the middle of the night, when there seems to be no end in sight. Is it working? How long until it works? Will she ever go to sleep? Etc etc etc. Tonight I’m going to use earplugs, I won’t ignore screaming, which I’ll hear, but I will ignore whimpers as I think she needs to learn to get herself back off to sleep. But then what do I know, I’m making it up as I go along.

If you’re awake in the middle of the night, then think of me and all the other mothers out there awake. We can do it, we really can! *gently whimpers and collapses in the corner.*