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A mothers Loneliness

I am lying in bed wondering when the next feed will be.  It is usually around this time so it feels almost pointless to go to sleep before he wakes.  It's in these moments I dare to let my thoughts loose.  The ones I have been too busy all day with my baby to listen to.  It's in these moments I hold back the tears and try to push the welling grief down.  I am led right next to my husband, he is sleeping, and although I could just put my hand out and touch him - he feels further away than ever.I am lying here knowing I am lonelier than ever. My baby is asleep in the adjoining room, he has a cold and I can hear his nose whistling as he sleeps soundly.  In that room is my whole heart, my reason for going on, my reason for living.I have never had many friends, I came from a military family so we moved so many times friendships were fleeting and even in my adult life I have also remained nomadic! Maybe it's a learnt behaviour, not holding onto friendships because I always leave…

Nap time: Am I a failure because I do this?

As I sit here writing this blog, I have my baby monitor next to me.  On the screen is a little baby boy on the edge of sleep.  He is what you would call drowsy but awake.  Yes! Drowsy but awake - the state those sleep gurus tell you is important in teaching your little one to self soothe and sleep on their own.  And the fact that I am sat downstairs watching him drift off is one of my greatest achievements as a mum to date.  In fact today has gifted me with this great achievement twice as I also had a drowsy but awake baby in the pram this morning.  By the time I had got half way around the block with the dog, my drowsy baby had fallen to sleep. Hurrah!

But as I sit here sharing my moment of glory there is actually a growing unease in me; because although this is an achievement it is tainted by one small fact.  You see, I have a confession to make:  I can only get my baby to sleep in a swaddle.  He is 5 months old on Saturday and yet he will not sleep if he is not swaddled. A fact that has left me feeling like a failure.  My own self doubt destroys me when it comes to naptime and bedtime, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.  I have tried and tried to get rid of the swaddle but he just doesn't sleep.  We can persevere and get him to the point of exhaustion so he drifts off but 10 minutes later he is awake again and this just goes on and on and on and its horrific seeing him so distressed.

My health visitor looked at me with a look of horror when I told her I was swaddling him at night at 8 weeks old.  She warned me to be very careful to make sure he didn't over heat and I needed to stop before he can roll.  Well, after weeks of checking he is not to warm he is fast approaching those developmental milestones and I live in constant fear of him learning to roll.  It isn't just at night that we have sleep issues; he also won't nap in the day.  In a moment of weariness, that has developed from weeks of traumatic nap times when we are out and about, I finally tried swaddling him in his pram this morning which gave me that Eureka moment!  Finally I had a baby that was dosing off in his pram just like all those babies I see in town, or in the park that I look at with envy.  But one problem is this is my Achilles heel; my weak spot and it is now a very public one.  One that I am sure is going to draw on the judgement of other new mums, old mums and every other Tom, Dick and Harry who desires to let me know their opinion. 

For weeks I have faced a constant battle of wills because I realised that staying in the house every day just so I can put Charlie in a dark room for a nap was isolating me and slowly driving me crazy.  Now I know deep down I am not a bad mum - Charlie is good at giving you the cues he is sleepy; yawning, rubbing his eyes, shaking his head and I spot them instantly.  But the problem is he is what is described as an active baby, my health visitor has told me this after a behavioral assessment and this is just our challenge as a family.  His arms and legs rarely are still, he is looking everywhere all the time and constantly taking everything in.  Basically he has FOMO (fear of missing out)! But this also means he rarely enters a relaxed quiet state from which he can drop off by himself.  He will flail his arms and legs about and wake himself up.  We have had the battles without the swaddle and it has only resulted in lots of tears, mainly from him but also myself.  It never once has resulted in sleep despite his exhaustion.

Naps in the pram have always followed the same pattern, Charlie gets tired, I give him his dummy, hold his arms still, he cries inconsolably for 10 - 15 minutes while I rock the pram and then he sleeps.  But people can't help but judge me for letting my baby cry like that and it shocked me just how many times I have been made aware of somebodies disapproval.  They glare, tut, and some are even happy to tell me they don't think I should be letting him cry.  And in my moment of distress, I am hot bothered, desperate to soothe my baby as fast as possible, I bite my tongue because I want to scream back at them!  "You don't know my baby!  You don't know better than me!  And hell if you do please God just tell me what to do rather than stare and shake your head!".  I never thought I would face any public criticism; call me naive, but I thought my baby is happy and healthy and I am a good mum so why would anyone criticize me?

But it doesn't matter if you are a good mum or not sometimes other people just can't help but pass judgement; it is human nature.   And when someone does it cuts you to the wick; because we all are just trying to muddle through and do our best and we kick ourselves enough without others helping us! 

But I don't have a choice, if we don't go through that enforced rest period Charlie doesn't sleep and all that drama is purely because he needs to sleep!  He just gets more and more distressed as he gets tireder and screams all the more, nothing can make him happy so we all end up in a state,  I have always felt inadequate because my baby can't relax properly.  We try massage, lullabies, baby yoga, bath time every night before bed, light projectors and all calm him but not enough to allow him to sleep.  What works is the swaddle. And I continue to beat myself up about it!

The sad thing is, I am actually doing the best for my baby.  I am trying to teach him to sleep when he is tired.  I am avoiding him feeling distressed because he is so tired, and I am giving him all the love I possibly can.
Yet in our society which insists on giving us rights and wrongs, it makes us feel if we don't fit into the 'norm' then we are doing something wrong. 
 Actually what is true is that all babies are unique, some are more active than others, some sleep better than others, some are quicker learners than others and as parents we have to do what is right for us and our baby.  But just as I have learnt to brace myself for judgement over his public meltdowns for nap time; I will now learn to brace myself for judgement over using a swaddle.

And while these people judge me; they won't see I am helping my baby sleep well; they won't see the continued dogged perseverance when we try to get rid of the swaddle.  They don't feel my anxiety over using the swaddle, over facing criticism, my own self doubt in my abilities as a mother,  No they see a moment in time in which they think they know better. I just wish we all could be a bit kinder to each other sometimes, 


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