Lightbulb Moment #1 – Epilogue

It worked! The little man sleeps once more.

The wonders of what a little heat can do. Now I keep my fingers crossed that it wasn’t a fluke….

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Lightbulb Moment #1

So as it turns out, 2.30 in the morning is apparently as good a time as any for a lightbulb moment. How do I know this?

I was lucky enough to experience one this morning and I don’t mind telling you it caught me a little off-guard. A sleepy stupor, fighting fatigue all the while trying to serenely rock my son back to sleep is not the scenario that immediately springs to mind when I think,

When would I most likely experience a moment of clarity?

But, hey, I’m not complaining, I’ll take them when I can get them.

We’ve been having ‘fun’ over the last couple of weeks with our beautiful baby boy who had been previously sleeping like an angel all night, suddenly waking up at 1.45am pretty much every morning. To add some extra excitement to a fairly mundane evening, the last couple of nights have been every couple of hours from midnight on. Now I know I really can’t complain that much because we’ve had an exceptionally good run when it comes to getting a decent night’s sleep. However, as my husband so aptly pointed out, once the standard has been set,

A disturbed night is a disturbed night

Anyway, as I’ve previously mentioned, I have a penchant for mulling over the unexpected changes and surprises ad nauseam and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why the little man is so disturbed. He survived a dinner out the other night, not stirring while we got him into the car, not stirring while we took him out of the car, not even stirring when we put him in bed, but at 1.45am sharp, the little whimpers started to resonate from the baby monitor and by about 1.47am they had escalated to a most unimpressed statement of displeasure.

Fortunately and unfortunately, the only way I’ve been able to settle him and recover whatever is left of a good night’s sleep is to bring him back to bed with me. Now I say fortunately because the cuddles are truly lovely and there’s nothing like waking up to a big, beaming smile to erase the fatigue-driven crankiness, but it’s also a tad unfortunate in the sense that a) it would be nice to be able to settle him in his own bed. He’s done it before so I know it can be done and b) for such a little person he can really take up a fair whack of a king size bed.

So, in my usual borderline-obsessive way, I’ve been wondering whether the solids we’ve been introducing are playing up with his system, or whether the new bedtime routine is somehow to blame or even whether there’s some secret sequence of events that will guarantee a good night’s sleep that I’m somehow missing. And yes, I’ve even been trolling through the online baby forums to see whether a spark of inspiration could be found.

Then it dawned on me at 2.30 this morning, while I was sitting in his room, teeth-a-chattering….hmmm….it’s pretty cold in here. I wonder what the temperature in the room is? 13 degrees (thanks to the wonders of modern technology and our digital baby monitor). Well that probably has something to do with it.

Perhaps there’s not some secret conspiracy at play to rob me of my sleep, perhaps he’s just feeling a bit cold?

It would even explain why he’s been so settled nestled in the warmth of our bed.

I tell you, it seems so obvious now, but gee that realisation felt good! An added bonus is that there’s even something I can do about that…winner!

Fingers crossed my lightbulb moment works this evening…..otherwise what currently feels like a flash of brilliance may just be the hazy delusions of a sleep-deprived Mum.

Watch this space.

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net & Microsoft ClipArt

Just When You Think You’ve Got the Hang of It

One of the many wondrous, challenging and surprising parts of having a baby is how adept they (quickly) become at keeping you on your toes. In fact, it feels like I’ve spent so much time on my toes as a new Mum that I could moonlight as a prima ballerina – except of course for the general (and somewhat overwhelming) lack of grace, poise and elegance.

Sometimes it seems like there’s an in-built sensor that monitors just how comfortable you are as a parent and as soon as it looks like you’re getting a bit too confident an alarm sounds that brings with it a subtle (or not so subtle) change to the status quo as if to say

‘Don’t relax too much, we wouldn’t want you snoozing on the job now!’

Or perhaps there’s some sort of internal feedback system that monitors your progress so that when you’ve ‘mastered’ one task it triggers the next? And yes, that is a tongue-in-cheek use of the term mastered!

Either way, whenever it happens it throws me just a little bit and I wonder whether I have what it takes to adapt and meet the new suite of needs. OK, so it actually throws me into a tail spin complete with shallow breathing, wakeful nights and incessant mulling over what’s caused the latest change (and whether there was something that I had done, could have done differently, should be doing now etc, etc, etc), but then again I have always been a little bit drama-prone!

Seriously though, ad-libbing is not one of my strengths. I’m the queen of arriving at the perfect response 3 days after the event when I’ve had plenty of time to weigh up all the pros and cons, run the worse-case scenario, talk it to death with anyone in earshot and then changing my mind about 14 times before settling (usually quite comfortably) with the chosen course of action. Complicated and a touch unnecessary for sure but it works for me.

On the up side though:

I’ve survived and lived to tell the tale and what’s even better is that he’s survived too! So far….

In case it wasn’t obvious, this week has been one of those weeks and, just like all the other times before it, things are settling down and the confidence is returning. For at least another day or two anyway 🙂

But it does feel good to get it off my chest!

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Motherhood and the Various Shades of Grey

It’s a constant source of surprise and amusement when I look back on strongly held beliefs I had about being a parent before I had actually become one. Things seemed so straight forward and, in hindsight, so black and white…I’ll never use a dummy, of course I’ll be able to breastfeed and it goes without saying that I’ll be a beacon of patience and inner light. I mean really, how hard could this ‘yummy mummy’ thing be? Ha!

I reminisce on what I now recognise as delusions and chuckle. How naive I was. Now that I’m a Mum I realise how few things about being a parent are straightforward – ‘duh’ you might say but a lesson learnt it’s been. Instead of what used to seem like clear-cut, obvious ‘right or wrong’ choices, there are now about 1,000,001 shades of grey on pretty much any parenting topic you could possibly think of.

I remember how easy being a parent seemed when you didn’t actually have to be one

It was so easy to judge parents with crying babies who were sitting at cafes. Why weren’t they doing whatever it took to keep their baby calm and content? It never dawned on me that perhaps that was exactly what they were doing. Now I know that sometimes the only way I get to eat lunch is to suffer through a few grizzles because, until the human race evolves with mothers who have four arms, I can’t make a sandwich, eat it, drink a cup of coffee and cuddle my baby at the same time.  I also know that a cranky Mummy resulting from food deprivation and caffeine withdrawal is not a good outcome for anyone. Cranky Mummies certainly don’t make an appearance in the ‘yummy mummy’ paradigm!

It was so easy to view dummies as the ‘lazy option’ or the demise of the amazing communication prowess of an infant. Now I think “if it helps and makes life that little bit easier” then why wouldn’t you make use of it? At times the only thing that brings comfort to my son is to suck and that, if given the chance, he would spend the better part of a day permanently attached to my breasts achieving said comfort if it was on offer. Now while, for the most part, his needs do come before mine there are inevitable limits. And for me, a happy and content baby makes for a relaxed mummy. Cranky babies also don’t generally feature in the ‘yummy mummy’ montage.

But then this is just what works for me, and what works for me may not work for any other parent but that doesn’t make it better or worse…just another shade of parenting.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt as a parent is that nothing is ever as it seems

I realise now just how much the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ applies to parenting. I’ve loved exploring the various shades of grey in the big and small decisions so far and look forward with anticipation to all that lies ahead….

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I still don’t have my opinions (and I certainly do) but at least nowadays I feel like they come with some perspective and they generally appear in the context of my own experience…but that’s a topic for another day.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Having Your Cake and Eating It Too…

Among other things, one of the things I love most about finishing a semester of study is being able to get my thoughts back to myself. No longer is my mental capacity maxed out by trying to recall the diagnostic criteria for various personality disorders or distinguishing between mood, anxiety and eating disorders – riveting stuff I know! In all fairness this semester was pretty engaging for me but it does take its toll.

For the next few weeks I get to focus on my family, read for pleasure (for the few minutes of bedtime reading that I get before passing out) and generally just enjoy the lack of pressure and deadlines that come with assignments and exams. Bliss!

On reflecting what it was like for the past 4-5 months juggling study with a newborn I can’t help coming back to the old adage of having one’s cake and eating it too.

For the most part, I really can “have it all”.

I have a wonderful husband and son which make for a very rewarding family life, I’m fortunate to be able to be a stay-at-home-Mum, I’m finishing my psych degree so  that I can open up a range of new work opportunities for my future and I’m starting to think about what sort of work from home I might be able to do later in the year to bring in a few extra dollars. Clearly I have no complaints!

Credit where credit’s due, I’m lucky enough to have amazing family support which is the only reason I’ve survived this semester of study. Without it there’s certainly no way I would be sitting in my lounge room on the evening after an exam feeling cool, calm and collected. It’s because of their generosity of time and energy that I’ve managed to avoid turning into a bug-eyed monster propped up by caffeine running off of vapours (not a pretty picture let me tell you).

As I start to mull over potential work ventures, it dawns on me that for every new thing I take on, there’s at least one guaranteed consequence – I keep getting spread thinner and thinner. Unfortunately, these grand undertakings don’t come inbuilt with an extra store of attentional capacity so it stands to reason that the more I take on, the more I split my focus. Sure, that’s the juggling act we all manage on a day-to-day basis, but for the first time I have an extra variable that I haven’t had to deal with before: What impact does all this have on my son?

Don’t get me wrong he’s not being neglected or suffering in any way. Quite the opposite in fact. His grandparents have been more than happy to spend as much time as they can get with their grandson and there are plenty of arguments to be made about the long-term benefits of all this for my son but the question remains: Where do I draw the line?

Sure I can have my cake and eat it too but should I?

I don’t have all the answers yet but it’s certainly given me pause for thought.

Image courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt

The Baby ‘Experts’: Sage, Saboteur or Something In-Between?

6 SLEEP MISTAKES PARENTS MAKE AND HOW TO AVOID THEM!

This was the subject line that jumped out at me from my inbox last week and it got me thinking….how much stock do I put into the so-called baby experts out there?  I’m all for seeking out as much information as I can find, but is it always helpful, especially when it’s at the expense of intuition and personal experience?

As a newly pregnant woman I feverishly signed up to all sorts of baby forums and newsletters. After all this was entirely new territory and, at the time, aside from knowing where babies come from and how they come out, I felt hugely lacking when it came to understanding babies, parenting and motherhood. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to get as much help as I could get. As it turned out, I knew far less about the ‘how they come out’ part than I’d originally thought, but that’s another story.

I happily read the books, websites and emails when I’m caught unawares and have no idea where I am or what I’m doing. Where’s the wisdom in ignoring the experiences of people who have already gone through this and are willing to share?  But when I reflect on emails like the one above and, more importantly, my reaction to said emails, I realise that they also need to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes.

I’m not so naive, I understand that the emotionally charged titles are aimed at getting the readers in (and I’ve probably done something very similar with the title of this post) and topics like sleep and babies are at the forefront of many-a-parents mind.  Understandably, sleep and babies is a hot topic when it comes to parenting.

Well-rested babies are happy babies, happy babies make for happy Mummies and I’d much prefer to be a happy Mummy than a woman all-too-closely resembling a swamp creature.

Plus that precious sleep time provides some much-needed and coveted ‘free time’ which allows for endeavours such as this!

So, I can’t help but get sucked in by the lure of sleep advice from the numerous experts out there.  There hasn’t been a single book that I’ve picked up that doesn’t talk about sleep in one way or another and of course there are entire books devoted to teaching the art of getting these gorgeous babies to sleep and keeping them that way.

Even though our son has beautiful sleeping habits (and he is treating us exceptionally well), I can’t help but feel it’s a little like a deck of cards that might come crashing down at the slightest change to the bedtime routine (or at least that’s my fear).  So, in spite of myself, I read emails like the one above and I read through all the books just to make sure I’m not inadvertently doing something that might all of sudden transform our sleeping angel into a waking wonder who will never again know the pleasures of deep, uninterrupted sleep. I do know that this is slightly over-top but I’m not taking anything for granted!

In line with all the advice I’d read, I decided it was time to start teaching my son to ‘self’-settle’. No longer would I rock or sing my baby to sleep (because that sets up bad habits), it was time to start putting him down, tired but awake, and letting him learn how to put himself to sleep.

For this is what a parent with a baby of a certain age should be doing, or so I’d read.

Morning after morning for about a week, I listened just outside his door as he grizzled and tossed and turned before he would eventually fall asleep, probably out of sheer exhaustion.  Then, some 10 minutes later, he would awake either looking for food or just some company. But I thought to myself “that’s ok”, because he’s learning a valuable skill here and it doesn’t really matter if he’s not getting as much shut-eye as before because I was doing the ‘right thing’.

And then, all of a sudden, I stopped and laughed at myself. What was I doing? I had taken an approach that was working perfectly well for both of us, thrown it out the window and replaced it with one that was actually resulting in less sleep for him and more anxiety for me…and for what? So that I could proudly profess that my son self-settles? Never mind the irony that this whole approach was supposed to result in less stress for me and a more peaceful baby. It took me a little while to realise that, in fact, the opposite was happening!

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some merit behind the approach. I understand completely the desire and need to teach good sleeping habits and this approach may well suit some babies perfectly, but I’ve finally realised that this just isn’t the case for us. And that’s ok. To my mind, reducing the amount of comfort in the hope of producing better sleeping outcomes seems a bit counterintuitive, which is probably why it didn’t work for me.

So much of the advice that I’ve read recently warns about the dangers of techniques such as rocking and singing because you could wind up with a baby who will find it impossible to sleep without an intricate bedtime song and dance routine. Now don’t get me wrong,

I don’t particularly want an 18-year-old who needs his Mum to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ before he can get to sleep,

but the more I think about it, the more I realise that the chances of that happening are probably slim to none. What I do know though, is that my baby has never slept more soundly during the day (or for longer) than when his Grandpa rocks him gently, singing in French with patience and persistence to get through the early tired grizzles.  From what I can see, it’s wisdom born from experience and why on earth would I want to mess with that?

So, I’ve decided to trust my instincts, return to the approach that not only has been working well but also provides some beautiful bonding time and of course continue to keep my finger on the pulse of the expert advice.  But from now on, it will have to fit in with what works for us, not the other way around.

So far so good!

Image courtesy of Microsoft Office ClipArt & FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Putting the Mamma into Dee: Creating a Career out of Motherhood

I’ve had jobs I’ve enjoyed, I’ve had jobs that I’ve been good at and I’ve had jobs where I’ve met some wonderful people but I’ve never really considered myself as having a career. The jobs that I’ve done have all played an important part in my journey but they have felt like a means to an end, until now.  For the first time, I feel like I’ve found my career, it’s just come in the unexpected package of motherhood.  What’s slightly ironic for me in this realisation is that, before now, I’d never really considered motherhood as being a career.  I don’t know whether that’s because I associate careers with something that you ‘go out’ and do or whether motherhood doesn’t follow the trajectory of other careers but all I can say is I’ve finally found something that fits, something that challenges me every day and something that provides fulfilment and meaning.

I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it ~ Rose Kennedy

Now while this new career comes with some significantly different and relentless working conditions and there’s no such thing as sick leave, weekends or promotional opportunities there’s some undeniably appealing rewards that no other job has been able to provide.

Every day I get the opportunity to watch a human being develop and grow. Whether it’s watching the fascination of my son learning the feel of new textures, the furrowed brow that appears when that board book didn’t taste quite as good as he thought it would or the wide-eyed amazement that appears whenever a new sound is heard, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about watching someone experience the world for the very first time.  And while the responsibility of holding someone’s well-being in the palm of your hand is incredibly overwhelming, the ability to spend my day nurturing and caring for another person is both enriching and fulfilling. Plus, I get to do something that I love every day.

On the lighthearted side of things, I never get that Sunday Sinking Feeling – you know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach come Sunday evening when there’s no hiding from the fact that in a few short hours the weekend will be over and the Monday morning alarm is going to sound. Now while I attribute that to the fact that I don’t dread my current working situation in any way, shape or form it could also be that this role is 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Admittedly not all of those days are poised with the same level of patience, good humour or grace as others but the job satisfaction far outweighs the demanding hours. Plus, the wardrobe requirements are definitely more comfortable and economical, although I do miss the pretty shoes….

Don’t get me wrong, not every day is full of sunshine and roses. We have our down days too but without fail at the end of each day the slate is wiped clean and every morning my team, or is it boss (I’m not so sure some days), gives me a big, beautiful smile that lets me know that the work that I do is valued.

I don’t know where this quote comes from but it makes me smile and reminds me that motherhood, just like anything else in life, is best accompanied by a sense of humour:

It’s so hard to get anything done when you have a baby hanging off your boob at least 8 hours a day. Breastfeeding is a full-time job where you are on call 24 hours a day, you have to come in even when you’re tired or sick, you never get a day off, you don’t get paid, and the boss constantly gives you shit ~ Unknown

As I start out on this exciting and challenging new career I can’t help but wonder what will be waiting for me down the track and I can’t wait to find out.