Babybear’s been having trouble sleeping. I lie, he sleeps, just not in a row. He also catnaps, little cute daytime energy boosters for him. For me, not so much!
The weird thing is, 3rd time round – I know it’ll pass. But I’m also aware it can take a really long time for that to happen – like, 5 years with Millie! Ziggy’s always been a super sleeper and napper. Maybe because we spent so much time trying to sort out Millie’s midnight wanderings, inexplicable 3am thirst and 5.49am urge for cereal. He had no other choice than to batten down the hatches, bless him.
However, we’ve never actually had a baby that slept through the night early on. And so, like other parents in our similar tired and sluggish boat, we believed that babies sleeping through the night was a myth – like unicorns and anti cellulite scrubs! I also loved when people agreed with me on this – they were my favourite. In a sleep hazed paranoia, we believed the myth was put out there to mock our lack of parenting and non existent baby whispering abilities.
I tend to get this belief from my Mam. She’s had a bajillion babies and not one slept through the night, so she says. I think, based on the sheer volume of babies, we can all agree – she knows what she’s talking about. However, I think, to be fair, all of the (ten) children were probably waking each other up, but I tend not to mention this.
My Mam would wake up under a sea of pillows and children – only recognisable from our toes and elbows. She insists she didn’t mind at all, she didn’t have to clock watch – she just went with what felt right for her, the child and the family. Sounds free range, carefree and rather peaceful. Except I was there, and yes – the reality had delicious slabs of this, but a whole tiered cake of chaos too!
Recently, my wondrous Mam told me a story about one Christmas morning in the late 70’s/early 80’s. We all sprung up, delighted that Santy came – the gaggle of us went outside on our bikes/scooters and she made us a full Irish breakfast, while it was still dark outside. It was only later during the washing up, she decided to turn on the radio. She realised it was 3.30am. She promptly called us in, sent us to bed with full bellies, only to wake up 3 hours later to do the whole thing again – starting with breakfast part 2! The next day she spent a bit of time apologising to the largely understanding neighbours – good on the Shangan Garden residents.
But I’m guessing, every Christmas after this, she clock watched – although she doesn’t let on. Knowing my Mam, she just wanted us to enjoy Christmas and be happy. She was relaxed and fun in that way, that is, once we were all washed and in good voice for the Virgin Mary kids mass at 10.30am.
On Millie and Ziggy, the lack of sleep was at times, all consuming, submersible torture-like pain. What made it worst was when Ziggy was born, we’d already had 2 years of broken sleep, so we didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We figured we would survive being in the baby trenches, until we weren’t. We rationalised that people couldn’t die of lack of sleep, could they?
I suppose we tried everything; the drop and crawl out of the room tactic, the outside of the room stand off, the show no eye contact during night time shenanigans.
Oh and we may have prayed to St Anthony to help us find us the sleep we’d lost. Amen.
With Babybear, I’m breastfeeding. I formula fed my other two babies. Both have their pros and cons. For example, I actually didn’t realise that formula sustains the baby’s appetite for longer, and breast milk goes through their tiny systems, sometimes in as short a time as 1.5 hours. The bond is breathtaking beautiful, but the exhaustion from always being the source of food and comfort can be brain numbingly debilitating too.
In my baby massage class in Finglas recently, all the formula fed babies were night snoozing champions, the breastfeeders – all night drinkers! It’s always nice to sit with some other bedraggled parents without speaking, because that’d take up too much energy. Good times!
I also don’t remember major feeding clusters on Millie and Ziggy, but on Babybear there have been times when, delirious from 12 hour straight cluster feeds, I felt like the guy in the pot noodle ad – when he pretends he’s shrunken into the couch.
In one of my particularly tough early days, I actuallŷ shouted ‘I’M A NOOOOODLE’, out loud, to my partner in crime. Luckily, he understood the 90’s ad reference. I had clearly lost my mind, but he brought me tea and toast and hugged me tight until I felt less like food, more human again. He’s great at that – hugging until all i can feel is slow breath leaving my body. Like a warm, drunk rainbow. It’s a gift really.
But I suppose the biggest thing breastfeeding offers is the opportunity to embrace the new way of life, at a much slower pace. You can’t get someone else to feed the baby unless you express milk, but to be honest, that’s almost like double the work. So, I’ve only expressed a handful of times. There have been times I would have leaped out of the window at the chance to go out in the evening, but at the moment, it’s still not an option. So, It’s easier to sit down, have a cup of tea and eat Aldi’s shortcake biscuits and just go with the flow. This habit is not helping my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans goal but sure, what you gonna do?
Also, with breastfeeding – no late night kitchen trips, just into the bed, and we’re off! Whereas, pre Babybear, I was anti co sleeping – now I’m a-loving it. It works for us, for now. But, nothing ever stays the same – especially with babies.
And the truth is, tiredness didn’t kill us – we survived. So this time round it’s all about perspective and expectations. With Babybear, I don’t actually expect him to sleep through the night up to the first year, because breastfeeding babies, by and large, don’t sleep through as quickly. It’s biology. There’s a simplicity to it. And when you look at it a certain way, a Brucie bonus for me. I have the luxury of nocturnal snuggles for a little while longer.
Now, get back to me when I’ve returned to work and am trying to balance it all with a non sleeping infant – I may very well sing a different tune, with more of a Metallica vibe.
But for now, I’m going to relish in the snuggles. And after a particularly sleepless night; I’m going to stay in my pj’s past 9 am, without an ounce of guilt and hope for a visit back to bed with Babybear while the older kids are in school. Because do you know what, it goes too fast and I’m going to press the pause button wherever I can and savour the experience – even the challenging times. There’s no rainbow without rain, right? I think Dolly Parton said that, and she was all about finding balance was Ms. Parton – working nine to five, managing Dollyland and denying her dalliances with Burt Reynolds must have been quite the juggling act!
Plus, I know, just as I glow from ear to heart thinking of Millie and Ziggy as babies, there’ll be times in years to come I’ll wish, just for one last time, to hibernate with the softest, most snuggable Babybear I ever had the pleasure to have grown.
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