Women’s Health and Wellbeing Services is a not for profit organisation that works with women and families in the community to reduce the impact of mental health problems on families and to help foster growth, for strong women and strong families. Your small change will make a big change!

My Shared Story- The Baby That Didn’t Sleep

puppy in bed grumpy

When I had my first child, he was put on my chest and I felt like it was all ok. He was crying but I had this really strong feeling of knowing he was ok. 

He slept pretty well. That was because of me though. I read books, I knew what I was doing. He slept because I’d read those books. (I should add here, I am also extremely sarcastic. But to be fair, I thought it was because of the books. I had no other comparison point at that stage.)

He and I plodded along for a while quite nicely. We had our challenges, but overall it was all feeling pretty nice. I definitely had that feeling in the back of my mind though, “Who am I now? I don’t have my fancy job title and salary. I don’t have friends close by, they are all working in the city” but life went on and we decided to try for baby number 2.

We had a much easier time trying to fall pregnant this time. Good start right? Definitely. Feeling very blessed. Time goes on and we find out I am expecting a girl! The first baby girl of my family. Number 6 grandchild and the first girl, how exciting! Things are looking good.

Pregnancy is different when you have a toddler though isn’t it? I thought I was tired the first time around… 

Fast forward to her birth and it was very different to my first. Quick. Too Quick. Scary really. I felt like I had no control of what was happening. In reality, it was actually a safer delivery for me than the first time around, but for me, it didn’t feel that way. I wish now that I had spoken to my doctor or midwife about this more at the time. It would have helped. 

I remember having her on my chest, shaking, being handed a Panadol for my after birth pains, there hadn’t been time for pain relief during the delivery and just thinking “What the f just happened” I don’t remember holding her and feeling that same sense of “she will be ok” It was more an influx of shock and fear, walking to the shower and standing in there thinking, “I’m not doing that again” 

We head home, not a lot of sleep, but that is to be expected with a newborn, she will settle.

Fast forward a few months, me furiously checking the Wonder Weeks app, hoping like mad that once she passes this growth spurt things will settle down.

I’d read the books for my son. He slept. That was because of me. I could do it again. (Spoiler alert, it wasn’t because of me at all, or the books) 

We keep trying different things, she still decides not to sleep. She also has reflux so I am constantly covered in spew, trying 4 million different formulas and crying a lot because I just can’t figure out what she needs. That thought of “who am I now, where did the old me go?” is becoming more frequent.

I’ll spare you all the no sleep details, but fast forward a few years (YES YEARS. DON’T BE ME, DON’T WAIT FOR YEARS) I find myself at the Doctor’s. Convinced I’m having a heart attack. The Doctor kindly asks, “how much sleep are you getting?” I cry. The Doctor listens and then helps. Turns out that heart attack was actually a panic attack and I had been having more of them that I should have let myself go through. 

There is help out there. You know what? Some babies don’t sleep as well as others.  

The tricky part with having a baby who doesn’t sleep well is knowing who to ask for help. Everyone has a thought. Everyone knows something that worked for them, or their third cousin’s, best friend’s Aunty who tried a magical potion and their baby started sleeping for 12 hours straight.

It is done with good intention, but it’s overwhelming, I get it. Oh, and while I’m on that, please don’t let online parenting forums/Instagram get to you. It’s great to have people to chat with, but if they are making you feel worse when you are on there looking through topics, step away from the internet. Notice how you feel when you have been looking there and if it’s not better, then give them a rest for a while. You’ll thank me. 

So I have no advice on the sleeping. But I will say, YOU are important TOO.  If someone offers to come and sit with the baby so you can sleep. Say YES. Don’t worry if your house is a mess, it will just make them feel ok if next time you go to their house it’s not spotless. Let’s all stop with that pressure anyway.  Ask your Doctor for help. If you don’t feel like that Doctor gets it. ASK SOMEONE ELSE. There are amazing GP’s out there. Ask on your community page, don’t put specifics on what you’re looking for, because… opinions. I’ll write it for you now, you’re probably exhausted and it’s one less thing to think about, so copy and paste this “Hi Everyone, just looking for recommendations for a GP that is good with babies and kids. Thankyou” 

For my particular situation, I ended up with a mattress on my daughter’s bedroom floor. Did it look nice? No? Did it go against everything I thought I’d do as a mother? Yes. Did it mean I got some sleep? YESS!!! Did I become a happier person with more sleep? YESSS. She still doesn’t value sleep as much as I do.  Look up early riser and you will see her cute little face staring back at you. Covered in glitter most likely. But as she gets older, it gets easier. Read that again. IT DOES GET EASIER. 

Sometimes we just have to throw the ideas that we have OUT OF THE WINDOW. Start again with the information you have in front of you now. Not some dodgy hypothesis that you came up with when you were getting full nights of sleep and not looking after actual human babies. 😊

No 2 adults are the same. We can’t expect our babies and children to be too. 

If you are struggling right now. Please don’t think you are on your own. You aren’t. There are people that can help and who are also really excellent at it.

If you need to chat there is:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Go and see your GP and just be honest with how you are feeling. They won’t be shocked. They deal with things like this every day. They can put you in touch with places and people who can offer help. 

We offer counselling support as well as a whole bunch of different groups and social activities. Getting out of the house can be a big help too. Especially when you are coming to see an organisation filled with people who get it. I’ve worn my jumper inside out to work TWICE and I still have a job there. When I say we get it, we really do 😊 Check out our groups here https://whws.org.au/whats-on/

We would really love to start a “Shared Stories” page on our website. We know that hearing other people’s stories makes us feel less alone. Which is an amazing thing. If you have a story you would like to write about, or film you chatting about on your phone, please send them through your details to info@whwhs.org.au and I will get in touch with you to chat.

That’s all from me. I’m off to have a nap…

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