It’s hard to believe how much my life has changed in just one year. There’s no question that becoming a mother changes you, your priorities, your life. It’s a heady mix of sleepless nights, frustration, anxiety and unequivocal joy. For the first time in a long time, the stars are perfectly aligned. The trajectory of my life has changed. I know good things are coming.
There’s a saying that children keep you young. I’ve always wondered how that can be, surely having children ages you?! That may be the case but when you have a baby, but certainly, you see the world through different eyes (albeit with bags under them).
Everything is new to a baby, everything interests them. They have no fears, which is why they often do themselves a mischief – on a side note, Sonny is a little headbanger – he should really wear a helmet. Yes, there’s much you can learn from little people. They see the world with wide-eyed innocence – free from any constraints, social or otherwise. I think you have to see the world through a child’s eyes – to truly appreciate life. Yes, we all have our war wounds from heartache and disappointments but it’s so exhilarating to look at the world with fresh eyes, excited for the future.
Over the past twelve months, I’ve seen my son (it still feels so strange and so lovely to say that still) transform from a tiny baby to a gregarious, fun loving little boy. Every day is a big adventure for him. There is something so joyous about seeing your beautiful baby smile, eyes clear, wide and bright. You look forward to the future, seeing your child grow up and become a strong, confident woman or man. It’s been 373 days since I became a mum and I have a million reasons to be happy, to be the best mum I can be and to achieve everything I want in life. By far, Sonny is the best thing to happen to me and I want to make sure he gets everything he wants in life too.
I really hope you are enjoying my journey into motherhood and parenthood. It’s been lovely having you to share my thoughts with. I hope you will stick with me while I navigate the early years, the terrible twos (and threes and fours). I’m learning each day, just as my baby is. And I know the best is yet to come, for both of us. It really is a wonderful life.
I’d love to hear your feedback, or anything you’d like me to write about. Just let me know.Davina xx
One of the most challenging obstacles of parenthood is getting your baby into a bedtime routine. For the most part, it’s trial and error, but establishing good sleep hygiene early on will make you and your little one’s life a lot easier (and happier). It really is a lottery as to whether you get a ‘good sleeper’. Some babies can sleep for 12-hour stretches, while others can wake up every hour. Speaking as a first-time mum, my little boy Sonny took about eight months to get into a routine. As a newborn, Sonny was a very noisy sleeper. He was also a colicky baby and used to writhe around his cot, body popping. He fed every two-three hours. As someone who loves their sleep, and would regularly be in bed for 10.30pm before having a baby, this was a major shock to my system. Still, I coped with coffee, napping during the day when Sonny slept and just knowing this phase would pass, although it didn’t feel like that at the time. However, if you already have a toddler or older children in the house, I know naps will be nigh impossible. But, you cope. We’re superhuman like that.
Like any new mum, I hovered over my little bundle, listening for his gentle breathing, placing my quivering hand on his chest, watching it rise and fall. You imagine every worst case type scenario there is. I was hyper-sensitive, worrying about SIDS, questioning every sound. “Is he too warm? Too cold? Is that a rash?” Still, babies survived before guidelines even existed so you do your very best and if you’re not sure, always ask for help. Although those days with my eyes on stalks are a blurry memory, I got through it and could maybe even do it again.
Recently, I brought Sonny to a Settled Petals sleep workshop. It was somewhat fitting, that he dragged his bedtime bunny. Now, a plucky one-year-old, he is sleeping 12 hours at night. Yes, I’m very lucky (for now) but his daytime naps are irregular and some days he doesn’t nap at all. While he goes down anytime between 6pm and 8pm, I would like his bedtime to about 7pm. In our house, Sonny’s bedtime routine begins with drawing the blinds, a warm bottle, a bath (not every night), a book, and then popping Sonny in his sleeping bag and putting on Ewan the Dream Sheep, which we’ve used since the first night he came home. It also has a red light, which is supposed to remind baby of being inside the womb. Sonny also can’t sleep without his beloved Jellycat grey bunny. It’s recommended you don’t put any toys in your baby’s cot before they are six-months-old though.
Certified Sleep Consultant Susan Wallace is incredibly knowledgeable and the workshop was full of mums, a dad, beautiful babies, and curious crawlers – Sonny being the worst offender. Tea, coffee, and buns are offered at the start, the latter was snatched from my hand by Sonny and promptly disintegrated into a thousand crumbs on the yoga mat we were sat on. He spent the rest of the class, being a little nuisance, wrestling me for my notepad and pen. I still picked up on some of Susan’s many excellent points. Susan set up her business just six months ago and has since worked with 231 families who have booked into the service for either sleep, baby yoga or massage.
Susan began the class explaining how are our modern sleeping patterns mirror how our ancestors slept. When we slept in groups, individuals would wake up at 1.5 hourly intervals to check for danger and tend to the fire. Susan says we enter light sleep frequently throughout the night and do a full body ‘scan’, this is to check if we are too hot, too cold or if we need the toilet. If all is well, we’ll just drift back to sleep. Little babes, of course, will scream the house down until their needs are met.
Susan says that we, as adults, use ‘sleep props’, the most obvious being our duvet. It would seem very strange to us to lie down in bed without pulling something over us. Babies need props too. Strategies that we employ include feeding and rocking to sleep. It can be very difficult for a baby to self-settle if they are used to either of these, nonetheless effective strategies. Self-settling is the holy grail. It’s worth pointing out that babies don’t make melatonin for six to eight weeks. And when they do, breastfeeding mums will want to avoid feeding their baby milk containing cortisol at night and milk containing melatonin during the day. Another thing to be aware of is ‘sleep pressure’. And I’m not talking about the pressure we feel to get our babies to sleep! Sleep pressure is an unconscious biological process that makes us want to sleep. without enough sleep pressure built up, we (and babies) won’t be able to settle or sleep for long. This is were nap time comes in. The first nap of the day is the easiest as there is enough sleep pressure built up from the night before. However, if a baby has a really long morning nap, there won’t be enough sleep pressure for an afternoon nap, resulting in your baby getting overtired, making them even more awake come bedtime. It really is a quandary. With that in mind, a shorter morning nap is to be encouraged so baby has enough sleep pressure for an afternoon nap. Susan says the last nap of the day predicts when a baby will wake up.
As well as understanding the science, there are practical things you can do to help boost your baby’s melatonin. Susan says that night lights aren’t the best idea, especially the ones that emit a white or blue glow. A red glow, she says, is “less detrimental” to sleep so choose lights and light up toys with care. Buy blackout blinds for the nursery and your own bedroom if necessary, play continuous white noise and remove stimulating toys. If you breastfeed, you can buy a Meemoobaby Meelight that attaches to you for night feeds.
If you have a colicky baby, add the bedtime bottle to the start of the routine and keep baby upright for at least half an hour. If you use formula, stir the milk, don’t shake it. This might sound obvious but I always shook the bottle, thinking I needed to do that to mix the formula. You don’t. Susan says to hold your baby over your right shoulder to get gas up.
For the first three to four weeks, Susan says to hold and touch your baby as much as possible – and keep it up. She says that slings are brilliant for keeping small babies close to you. Swaddling is also beneficial for the newborn days – although getting the technique right is very important. A fascinating article by Green Child Magazine highlights a 2017 study published in Development and Psychopathology. It found that infant touch “can affect babies at a molecular level, and the positive results can last for years.” The article also states that babies who do not receive adequate human interaction and especially the loving touch, can become depressed or anxious and are prone to anti-social behaviour in later life.
Creating an environment that is similar to being in the womb is key – which for an adult is like being in a hammock (nice). For the first six months, nothing should in the crib or Moses basket other than a sheet over the mattress, to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you choose to co-sleep, ensure there are no pets in the bedroom and do not drink or smoke. Also, never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. After six months, you can place a comforter, toy or just a t-shirt you have worn for a few days and tie it up in a knot. Your baby will be immensely comforted by your scent.
You can also look out for sleeping cues like rubbing eyes and looking away, which babies tend to do when they are feeling overwhelmed. Also, Susan says, batting your baby’s bum is a good way to comfort them as it reminds them of bobbing about in the womb.
From nine to 12 months, your baby may experience separation anxiety. You can help combat this with sleep training using ‘The Chair in the Room’ and ‘The Kissing Game’. There is also the ‘Wake to Sleep’ method, which encourages infants to self-settle if they are early morning larks – of which 10% of babies are.
I hope this blog is helpful to new mums or mums who are experiencing sleep issues with their little ones. Susan offers a wealth of information in her workshops and I’d highly recommend them. Susan works closely with families who need a little extra help too. She also offers baby massage, baby yoga, and children’s yoga classes, all of which are known to increase sleep quality in children.
I learned an awful lot from the workshop, it was absolutely fascinating. Yes, all babies are different and unpredictable but having knowledge is very empowering and it’s also comforting to know that you aren’t the only mum or dad going through a rough time.
Or is that the other way around? I blame the broken sleep and general drained feeling. January is in full throttle, and so is my son. He’s galloping through milestones and becoming louder and louder by the day. It’s amazing… and bloody exhausting. He’s past the six month mark now and he’s sitting up like a pro and showing the very early stages of crawling. Each new stage brings fresh challenges. The early days were just about surviving while now, it’s about keeping up with his endless demands. He has boundless energy, and now that he’s eating, it’s more work… and washing. It’s still amazing to me that he can go through such an extreme range of emotions in about 10 seconds – from squealing in delight to inconsolable crying. I used to be the emotional one around here…
While he’s overall a really good and fun baby, he’s still a tiny person who can only express himself through crying. That sound, is still like a dagger through my heart. Especially the kind where he wails like you’ve taken away his favourite teddy, or rabbit in Sonny’s case. He’s also waking up in the wee hours to do body pops and throw his dummy out of his cot. He’s still in our bedroom. I’m nervous of putting such a little person into a big room, all by himself. I know modern technology caters for such situations but I like him to be close to me. To hear his shallow breathing, his little grunts, even his snores. To my right, I have my sound asleep husband, who could snooze through an earthquake and to my right, our baby, not sleeping like one. Oh, sidenote – that saying is rubbish.
While I’m getting more sleep, it’s still very broken, I usually see every hour, getting up to use the loo and peek in at Sonny. I’ve been having crazy dreams too, from the bizarre to the disturbed. I dreamt I was Meghan Markle’s bridesmaid and that the dress (a pink satin number – eugh) didn’t fit, it was quite a fun dream – though maybe I need stop to stop snacking on the Quality Street and the sweet remains of Christmas. Then, just last night, I was in some kind of horror movie, although that could have something to do with me watching Bird Box and Les Miserables. Watching anything scary or sad really stays with me and can shift my mood for days sometimes. But we all do stuff we shouldn’t, right?
Having a baby is like a landslide, you don’t recognise the new landscape it creates and you forget about what it looked like before. Every step is one into the unknown, you’ve only got your wits to rely on and no amount of equipment is going to do the job for you. And once you get your footing, another natural event occurs, thrusting you back into uneven terrain. But, as with every ascent, there is a reward at the end, in a rock climber’s case, a stunning panoramic view and in a parent’s case, a different human being. I love that I have the privilege of helping shape the life of a person. I know it’s the most important job I’ll ever do, it doesn’t pay but it’s the most rewarding.
Oh, almost forgot to mention, a tiny tooth is starting to cut through on the bottom. Where’s my helmet?
I was in the shower earlier (ah the luxury!) and my hand lingered over my soft, still slightly protruding tummy as the suds dripped over it. I absentmindedly stroked it and then realised that I missed my bump. “Seriously?” I thought.
My pregnancy was straightforward, thankfully. I did find it tough towards the end. It was a hot summer and as much as I love the sun, it became a source of extreme discomfort. I went nine days overdue. Two sweeps and nature taking its course and I was in labour. It was hard. The pain was in my back the entire time. I was sobbing as my contractions began. That was nothing. I’ll not labour the point… heh, but it was bloody tough. I was completely unprepared for the pain, despite reading hypnobirthing books in the sun, when I could stand it. I thought I had a difficult labour. My midwife thought it was easy. I was affronted. After being in labour all night, I was told at 8am that I had about two hours of pushing to go. “Never again,” I thought. When my beautiful Sonny was born, I issued my husband with a stark warning. In the first few weeks, getting no sleep, I swore to myself, “never again”. Don’t get me wrong, I adore being a mum and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But, could I seriously be getting broody for another one?! I think it’s the hormones. There’s no way we consider it at the moment. Plus, I’m nearing my forties. But, it’s crazy how you can do a complete 180°.
Becoming a mum changes you so drastically as a person. But it has made me a better one, at least I hope. I’m no longer preoccupied with my own internal dialogue. Sonny comes first. Always. I’ve found my purpose. I don’t know if I’ll have another baby. Time will tell. I thank my lucky stars I have Sonny. He’s enough, more than enough, he’s everything. Always.
“Of all the things that can happen to a person, there are a few things that could be worse, can you think of any? There are none. And the whole world, they want to look at someone that it’s happened to. Everyone wants to judge, look for clues so maybe it won’t happen to them.” Joanna.
I watched The Cry on catch up after my husband recommended it. Yes, you read right. My husband, who’s usually scathing of TV dramas said “it was quite good. I want to see what happens next.” Hell, me too. I’m completely breathless after the first episode. The Cry is a four-part psychological drama about a young mother Joanna (Jenna Coleman) who slowly unravels after the birth of her first child to a man who cheated on his wife to be with her. She receives little support from her now fiance Alistair (Ewen Leslie), who nudges her in the middle of the night to attend to their screaming infant, and sleeps through a long haul flight from Glasgow to Melbourne while an exhausted Joanna paces the aisle, while dispassionate passengers throw her ugly comments, “maybe you should feed your baby”, one man growls. Even a prissy flight attendant tells her to keep her tiny baby quiet. Once they land, Alistair bemoans over being jet lagged, while a bristling Joanna goes to get him a coffee.
As tired and wretched as she feels, the worst is yet to come. As they make their way to their beautiful beach-view apartment, they stop at a shop for supplies. Alistair goes in, only to be joined in a few minutes by Joanna, who inexplicably has left their baby in its car seat. My hackles rise. “The baby!” I cry inwardly. Surely she will have locked the car though? No. The pair return to the car, Joanna grimly observing a few tins in the carrier bags. Then, Alistair makes the horrifying discovery that their little baby is gone. He runs shrieking down the empty road, while a dazed Joanna searches the car, the magnitude of the situation not really hitting. Then, she feebly shouts “help!”, her cries slowly reaching reaching a painful crescendo, “help!”. It’s utterly gut-wrenching. My hand reaches for my three-month old son’s chubby leg (the same age as Noah) and I feel a cold shiver. It’s horrible luck. There’s no doubt many a devoted mother has released her grip of a buggy to run after an errant older child in a store, or nipped into the house for something with the baby strapped in the car seat in an unlocked car. But, there’s more to it. We see Joanna in the opening scenes preparing for a court appearance. Her sanity is being questioned. There are witnesses lambasting her for losing it on the red eye flight to Melbourne. Surely she wouldn’t have harmed her baby son? There’s also Alistair’s aggrieved ex, the reason he’s taking his family to Australia – to get custody of their young daughter. Could she have something to do with it? And even more odd, at what appears to be a TV appearance to make a plea for their missing son, Alistair whispers matter-of- factly in Joanna’s ear, “do you think you’ll cry?”
Aside from the unimaginable pain of a child going missing, we see Joanna coming apart at the seams before Noah goes missing, with his incessant crying. Although I’ve just been a mum for over three months myself, I judge her, when she falls asleep with her baby on her chest on the sofa. I judge her for keeping her baby in another room with a monitor on. And what do I know? I’m hardly an expert. It’s not just me though, she bumps into a pristine mum on the street who comments that her baby is probably too warm. Even my hubby remarked, “oh, I wouldn’t do that, and did you see when she fell asleep on the bed leaving her baby in the other room?” It’s awful that we’re so quick to judge, as Joanna tells her psychologist in the opening scenes.
It’s a harrowing watch whether or not you’re a parent. I’ll watch the next episode with my husband, as we hold our baby close.
Today I brought Sonny to a mums and tots group at a local church. It’s a rite of passage for a new mum. For me, it was a bit like the first day of school. I joined the procession of buggies into the church hall and, not knowing anyone, sat alone like the new girl. I busied myself with my baby, lifting up toys, (he was taken with a green and yellow tractor), and was soon approached by a friendly woman, who welcomed me to the group. Conversation flowed as I bounced my baby on my lap. When her toddler commanded her attention, another smiling woman introduced herself and we were soon exchanging stories on our respective career paths. Ninety minutes flew by.
Admittedly, the group did more for me than my 14-week-old son who bobbed his head, taking in the bright colours of the toys and the squeals, laughter and chatter of the young children. While every moment is precious, I’m looking forward to when he can interact with other babies and play on the toys. I did, however, plop his bottom on a tractor and placed his tiny fingers around the steering wheel. We were approached by a gorgeous toddler who reached out to signal that he wanted a go. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with playground politics so I quickly lifted Sonny off as the child commandeered it. I didn’t think much of it until the same youngster approached a second time to take the above mentioned green and yellow tractor. This time, I didn’t give up the toy. My son’s fingers were tightly clasped to the plastic toy and I too added my grip. The child gave me a steely stare but I held on, softly saying “no”. The little one gave up, running into the arms of his carer. I looked up, wondering if anyone had witnessed the stand off. Nobody had. I felt a little bad for a second, only to be overwhelmed with feelings of protectiveness towards my baby. What will he do if a kid does this to him when he goes to nursery? Will he allow the toy to be taken from him or will he hold his own? I hope the latter.
Before leaving, I brought Sonny to the baby changing room next to a row of toilets. As I bent over to get things from the bottom of the buggy, I felt small hands on my bottom. I stood up in surprise and saw it was a little boy. I giggled and quickly text my husband about the comedic incident. The last time that happened was many, many years ago in a crowded bar – and it wasn’t by a kid. It was entirely innocent of course but it certainly made me muse about my own little one and the kind of thing’s he’ll get up to when he’s on his feet.
I’m glad I went. It was good to meet other mums and it’s good to immerse yourself in the world of little people. Oh, you also get tea and cake, which is always good in my book.
I’m no adrenaline junkie. I’m the annoying one with a nervous disposition that is advised against going on high speed, boisterous rides at theme parks. I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac too, being anxious is part of my DNA. I guess you could say that it terrifies me to not be in control of my surroundings. That’s not to say I haven’t surprised myself. Giving birth is definitely my greatest physical achievement. Other than that, I’ve clung desperately to my much braver husband on a jet ski while he cruelly delighted in chasing wakes in San Diego. Against my better judgement, I’ve also paraglided, water-skied and floated in the salty sea in Spain (as a non-swimmer) and even went on a rollercoaster at Euro Disney. I had my eyes closed the entire time but at least I did it.
Like many other children, I loved ‘the amusements’ as they were so called in those halcyon days of childhood. I’d giddily jump from ride to ride with flushed cheeks, weak knees and a churning tummy. I threw up, of course, but that didn’t stop me. There were times I’d stagger of the ‘big’ rides and need to sit down, the colour drained from my face, and I’d have to wait until my heart stopped pounding and the world stopped spinning. This was all incredibly uncool, so I made a decision back then that fun fairs were probably not for me, not if I wanted to have any street cred at any rate.
However, at the weekend, I headed to Planet Fun with my husband, son and my brother, his wife and their little ones, one five months, one three and a half. I watched in awe as the older girl gleefully went from one ride to another with her dad. “Again!” she cried when she hopped off a ridiculously fast one, while her poor father was ashen-faced. As for me, I went on the Dodgems. For those three minutes, I felt like a child again and enjoyed the rush of simply just having fun. My adrenaline-junkie husband, who has jumped out of planes and bungee jumped decided to go on what could only be described as an instrument of torture. This monstrosity not only went upside down, but the car revolved manically whilst completing revolutions. Watching it was enough to make my insides churn. When he finally got off, my poor, green husband whispered, “that was not fun”. Will it stop him from getting on another terrifying ride in the future? Probably not.
In some ways, as you grow older, you feel less burdened by things that might have got to you a decade or two earlier. But in other ways, at least for me, you become more anxious about certain things. It’s good to know your limits, but like my little niece, it’s also brilliant to throw yourself at scary rides, and come out the other side, exhilarated and ready for more. In life, it’s OK to stick within your comfort zone, but it’s better to push yourself, go on the big scary ride. It might not be for you, but it will do your confidence the world of good. Adopt a child-like approach to life, feel the fear and do it anyway. I want my son to take chances, even if they don’t work out. It’s the things you don’t do in life that you regret the most.