I always knew I wanted to have kids and I thought being a mother would come naturally.
Surely, once your baby is born your instincts kick in, right?!
Boy, was I wrong!
When our first was born back in 2016, it was a HUGE reality check. After a relatively cruisy pregnancy I had this false sense of security.
I skimmed through a few parenting books, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING prepares you for the reality of bringing your first child home.
Our daughter came out screaming, the obstetrician and midwives all commented on how loud her cry was. "Great", I thought, strong healthy lungs. But, the crying didn’t stop for three months!!!
This was the beginning of a long learning curve.
I very quickly realised I had no idea what I was doing. My confidence dropped to near non-existence.
I desperately struggled with breastfeeding and fought through months of severe pain.
I remember sitting in bed, so tired, barely able to sit up-right or keep my eyes open. Our daughter would just scream, not crying, but screaming as she did for hours every night.
My husband was amazing and would try everything to settle her. But the only thing that calmed her was to put her on the breast.
I was in so much pain and just cried with her. She would latch and stop crying and I would have to just keep her there because as soon as she came off the crying would start again.
I felt like such a failure.
After three long months things very slowly started to get better. Gradually the crying lessened.
But, whenever she cried it became a guessing game. There was no routine. I had no idea if she was hungry, bored, tired or in pain.
She was healthy, thriving and hitting her all her milestones. Maybe it was normal. Maybe I wasn't doing anything wrong and she was just a 'high needs" baby.
Sleep wasn’t great. She would only nap for 30 minutes at a time and it was a battle to get her to sleep each time.
Overnight she was waking every 2-3 hours. We had a week or two where she slept longer, but from about 4 months old the nights started to fall apart again and by the time she was 8 months old she was waking every hour overnight.
The only way I could settle her was with a bottle. If you do the math, that’s about 10 feeds overnight. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that she didn’t need that many feeds, so I would try rocking and cuddling instead which eventually worked but it would take hours.
It was a viscous cycle.
I eventually decided to bite the bullet and ask for help from a sleep consultant.
It changed my life.
I absolutely regret that I didn’t ask for help sooner.
In just one day I saw a HUGE change.
The consultant educated me and explained to me why we were struggling so much with sleep.
She gave me a routine and helped me move away from feeding and rocking to sleep.
I had heard of babies self-settling to sleep. But I could not imagine my daughter being able to do that. It was such a struggle getting her to sleep in my arms, how on earth was she supposed to do that herself?!
Turns out, all I had to do was put her down at the right time and give her the chance.
She started putting herself to sleep a lot quicker than I was able to settle her in my arms and with a lot less crying. Who would have thought?!
My confidence started to grow.
My daughter was now sleeping so well. Longer naps (like 2 hours!) and she started sleeping solidly through the night.
She was so much happier. She cried less. I was able to put her down during the day. She was just so content.
Turns out she wasn't a 'high needs' baby. She was just chronically over tired.
The fog had lifted for me as well. I was sleeping. My whole perspective changed. I woke up each morning excited to be a mother.
But it wasn’t just about the sleep.
We created a great routine. If my daughter started to become fussy or upset, I knew pretty quick if it was because she was hungry, bored, tired or in pain.
I started to understand her cries. We were communicating successfully.
I felt confident leaving the house. I felt confident leaving my daughter in the care of others.
We now have three beautiful children.
In a way, I am glad I experienced those difficulties with my daughter. When the boys came along, I was able to really enjoy them as newborns.