This motherhood thing is not for the faint-hearted.
My happy, gorgeous wee girl is just about to hit five months old, and although she has previously managed to pretty much sleep through the night from three months, has this week reverted back to newborn-style sleeping. I never took this for granted, knowing all too well it could change any day!
I’m typically an over-organised multitasker; juggling baby, working two jobs, the cooking, the cleaning, neverending laundry, ‘me’ time at the gym, two family birthdays within one week and all the social occasions and prep that goes into Christmas – everything was going well until this week. This sleep regression/teething/growth spurt/whatever it is has left me ridiculously overtired, frustrated and within a matter of days I’ve morphed into a zombie milk factory with legs.
Such times of desperation where there is little you can actually do about the situation other than to ride it out call for a moment of reflection. This is where my yoga training on mindfulness is helping get me through.
Here are some key things that have helped me retain my sanity over the past week:
Bad phases won’t last forever
If you’re having a growth spurt/teething/bad day/bad week/sickness (yours or bubs) experience, yes it sucks, but this is a phase that will one day pass – you will not be sleep-deprived forever. Remind yourself that it will get better.
Find the time to move your body
And I don’t mean rocking the baby or carrying the baby around with you. Whether it’s packing bubs into the pram and going for a brisk walk around the block, taking yourself through a short stretching or yoga session on your lounge floor while the baby is doing some tummy time, or even just cranking the stereo and having a 30-second one-person dance party, get your body moving. You will feel so much better for it.
We have a tendency to take short breaths using only the upper half of our lungs; this kind of breathing makes our body feel stressed out. A simple exercise of taking five deep slow breaths in and out – right into your belly so that it expands and rises on the inhalation – is calming, will help you to focus and provides a mini reset for your body. Good times to do this are when you’re sitting in the car, when you’re in bed at the beginning or end of the day, when you’re in the shower, or when you’re super frustrated!
Don’t take on everything
I’m a control freak. I can admit it. But even I’ve had to leave dishes in the sink and the carpet unvacuumed this week. Give yourself a break and allow yourself to be imperfect.
Avoid internet diagnosis
Google is not always your friend. It will always offer worst-case scenarios and make you worry more. My daughter’s sleeplessness could be four-month sleep regression (which the internet says may or may not be permanent), teething (which may just last a few days or be on and off for months), or a growth spurt (which could last a few days or a few weeks). It could just be that all of them have hit at once. Or it could be something else entirely.
Yes, there are actions I can take about all three of these things, but when it comes down to it they are all growth phases I can’t do that much about and it’s likely that eventually they all will pass. Rather than fight them and ‘fix’ them, I am choosing to do what I know works so that I can retain some semblance of sanity. Am I causing bad habits I may have to undo later? Perhaps. But I will cross that bridge if – not when – I come to it.
Be open to help
Get support from someone, anyone. Family, friends, let that stranger open the door for you, or the shop assistant help you load the large boxes of nappies into your car, or take baby to go and visit your neighbour if things are going rough and you need a change of scenery or someone else to hold bubs for just one minute.
We women are awfully good at just pushing through and not asking for help (or even just not accepting help when it is offered, no matter how small a gesture) – doing so isn’t a sign of weakness. There’s a reason why there is the old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. You will be much happier, stronger and healthier if you are willing to let others help you.
Trust your gut instinct
Other people’s advice is usually well meaning but take it with a grain of salt. Everyone has something to say on the topic of your baby – whether it’s cradle cap, teething, sleeping or breastfeeding – some of the advice may be useful and some of it not so much. You know your baby better than anyone else and gut instinct, professional advice and a little specific research can go a long way.
If someone tries to push to you unhelpful or unwarranted advice, try to fight the sleep deprivation sensitivity and resist the urge to engage! Just smile, nod, thank them for the advice, and move on. They will feel good for helping you, you don’t have to get progressively more defensive, everyone wins. Pick your battles.
Do you have a baby? How do you retain your sanity?
Image / NZ Real Health