A mother’s anguish- a crying baby in the car

How heartbreaking is listening to your baby cry in the car?!?

I find it soul destroying! My little guy is nearly 9 months and although he’s improved a lot lately, for much of his life, he has HATED the car. Thankfully, we live in a small town and most trips are no longer than 10 minutes because up until recently, he would cry inconsolably the whole time. Now it’s a lot more hit and miss, but this morning he was beside himself and it really made me think.

I struggle terribly to continue to focus and drive safely while he cries. I’ve had to mentally have discussions with myself to try and keep my head in the game because the physical anguish that washes over me hearing that baby’s cry is like nothing else. I feel compelled to go to him, to comfort him, to do whatever it takes to stop that crying. My head becomes foggy, my heart races, I become impatient with everything else around me as my physical being screams, ‘pick up that baby!!

On longer drives, if I can, I get my husband to drive. I do this for two reasons, firstly, I don’t think I’d be the safest driver with my baby crying and secondly, so I can sit with him and offer what comfort I can even though he often still cries and usually ends with me demanding we pull over to give the poor baby (and all of us) a break.

It hurts. Physically and mentally it hurts and it aches deep in my soul.

This tells me something and it warrants listening to. We are physiologically designed to go to our baby when they cry and to do what it takes to comfort them. It is built into our core. Nature does not make mistakes. We feel this way because to thrive and become all that they can be, our young have needs that need to be met and how to meet those needs is hardwired into us. Ignoring these instincts goes against the biological norm and begs the question how it could possibly ever be seen as beneficial.

Sleep Training that involves ignoring a baby’s cry goes against all physiological instinct. It has no basis in science and hurts babies and their mothers. Even if you don’t believe there is lasting implications, you have to ask yourself why doing something that feels all sorts of wrong could ever be what was needed for our babies or our families.

Sleep deprivation is a hideous thing but much can be done to assist a family struggling with their baby’s sleeping patterns that does not involve crying. Please, if the sound of your baby’s cry hurts you from the inside out then honour this instinct by seeking gentle sleep solutions! They are available and they are worth it.  

For me, I will continue to honour my baby’s cry as promptly as humanly possible and drive as safely and smoothly as I can so I can wrap that baby in my arms and comfort him as many times as he needs.

A crying baby needs comfort. Every time.

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When giving everything you’ve got is still not enough

My two year old is particularly intense today. He’s demanding more from me even though I have nothing more to give. He’s not himself. He’s acting out and doing things he never does. He’s hurt the baby three times intentionally. He threw the clean clothes out of the basket and all over the floor and then called me in to show me. He kicked the dog and threw his breakfast on the floor. I know this uncharacteristic behaviour is all him desperately trying to tell me he needs me, he needs more from me but I am honestly at a loss as to what it is he needs! I have given every cuddle, every distraction, every ounce of attention, listening, hearing and understanding and STILL he wants more.  

It doesn’t help that the baby refused all attempts to get him down for his sleep. His continued presence has certainly not helped.

As he hurt the baby for the third time, I felt something crack in me. But, as I scooped the baby up, I took a deep breath and calmly walked my toddler to a room and closed the door.

I did not put him in timeout. I did not think he was learning anything being shut away but he was safe.

He was safe from my rising anger and safe from his own loss of control.

I then calmly packed our bag and loaded it and the baby in the car. I went and retrieved him from the room and gave him a big, warm cuddle and I explained and reassured him about what had just happened. He calmed quickly and I loaded him in the car.

We got out.

We escaped from the ever escalating frustration and misunderstanding we had going on at home.

The baby still didn’t sleep but nor did he cry. He happily crawled around and had a few quick feeds to keep calm. My toddler got to dance and sing and enjoy rhyme time while I got to sing and smile and build some positivity back up with my guy.

As we left, I made sure everyone had a full tummy and had extra drinks for hydration. We then loaded back in the car and cranked up some Classic FM for a calm drive home. I took the scenic route to give me a little longer to just chill and amazingly, when I pulled up at home, I had two peacefully sleeping babes who even transferred to bed which in itself is a small miracle.

So here I lay, between my babes. Soaking up the peaceful sleepy vibes and I appreciate how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go on this journey of gentle parenting.

It is so hard to not lose your temper. It is so hard to remain calm. It is so hard not to join the storm. If I find it so hard, I can only imagine how hard it must be being two.

I may not have been able to meet all his needs today and I know he needed more but I also think he knew I was trying as hard as I could and for today, that will be enough.

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How I freed myself from the grip of Mother’s Guilt 

How I freed myself from the grip of Mother’s Guilt 

A friend commented the other day that I sound so confident in my writing about the way I mother and she wished she could figure out how to be more confident too. It really got me thinking. She’s right, I am confident in the way that I mother and so it makes sense that you can pick this up in my writing. 

I wasn’t always confident though. In fact, I would have to say I was the polar opposite. Insecure, guilt ridden, anxious and vulnerable pretty much summed me up for at least the first 6 months if not 9 months of my baby’s life. So it warrants reflection to see how I have made the transformation I made because I can tell you now, feeling confident in the way you mother feels good.
So upon reflection, what helped me become the mother I am today?

I have discovered that the source of most of my cases of Mother’s guilt came from situations where I had followed or tried to follow the ‘correct’ path with my baby. The path that mainstream society love to perpetuate. The one where you need to train your baby to do XYZ so you can ‘bounce back’ and return as quickly as possible to a life that closely resembled life before you had your baby. This path was riddled with preconceived ideas, unrealistic expectations, prescriptive ‘fixes’ and scare tactics that had me as a first time mum twisting and turning, worrying and stressing because I had a baby who was nothing like the ‘good’ baby the books and ‘experts’ described.

I was so caught up in my head about all the things we SHOULD have been doing, I honestly couldn’t see the incredibly happy, healthy, thriving baby with an incredibly sensitive soul and very busy brain right in front of me.

 I saw what I was told he should be for all of the lack of sleep – a chronically sleep deprived, cranky, hard to please, clingy little boy who wasn’t doing what he was ‘meant’ to at his age (sleeping more, feeding less).

 My head raged with guilt as I blamed myself, my baby and then myself again for blaming my baby … A truly ugly cycle.

Sleep school itself and the weeks following brought my guilt to new heights. The guilt around this was twofold. The first round was related to our ‘failure’ followed by an even heavier guilt that burdened me for much longer, the guilt that I caused trauma to my child through the sleep training process.

As I’m sure you’ve sensed, at this point in my mothering journey, I needed a bloody horse and cart with extra saddle bags to carry around my Mother’s Guilt. It was ugly. It was depressing.

The shedding of the weight of this guilt started off slowly. Firstly, by finding my surrender (you can read more about that here) but then it quickly gathered a head of steam as I learned a new way to mother that actually felt good.

Felt is the key word.

I believe that our true life path, which naturally includes our mothering journey is honoured only by following what is found deep within our heart and soul. It is written in our heart and soul how to be the mother we need to be for our own unique babies.

The script of our heart and soul is full of gentleness, compassion, intuition and empathy. It binds us to our baby, to their uniqueness, to their beauty, their struggles, their strengths. This script is constantly evolving. It allows for human weakness (our own and others) and allows us to make amends.

So once I started to mother the way that felt right, I lost the uncertainty and worry I had when I was trying to mother with my head.

I changed my filter. If something made me feel uneasy or made me squirm. If I intended to do something because it was the ‘right’ thing but felt all sorts of wrong, I confidently put a stop to it. I listened to my heart.

I also found my new filter helped me make peace with my guilt ridden self and in particular the sleep school/ training experience. I could see how I got there. I could recall the pain of desperation and uncertainty. Above all, I could see that all of the decisions and experiences were made with only my baby’s best interests at heart. I know better now so I do better but I still did my best at that time. I have forgiven myself and actually wonder if I could ever have become the mother I am without having followed this path first.

Life will always throw up situations where guilt will feature, returning to work, change in schooling situations, illness … I know it will appear again, but I hope my filter will always help me process this guilt and help lighten its heavy load. 

I can honestly say, that although the doubt does occasionally creep in, I am the mother I want to be and I will continue to evolve and grow forever more in this magnificent role. I am not perfect but I don’t need to be. My babies know me in all my humanly glory and that includes my flaws. Mothering with heart and soul has truly freed me from the grip of Mother’s Guilt.

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The utter crap spun by Baby Sleep Whisperers: episode 3- Babies thrive with routine

If you missed the first two articles, you can find episode 1 here and episode 2 here 💙 

In this third instalment, I call out the common myth in sleep training manuals that your baby will flourish if you impose a routine on them. Apparently all cookie cutter babies LOVE routine.

I call horseshit to this one for a number of reasons.

1. Breastfeeding is the biological norm and breastfeeding on demand not schedule is well known as being the best way to ensure your baby’s needs are met and you have bountiful supply. If our human infants were indeed designed to flourish with routine then surely their natural source of nutrition should reflect that AND it doesn’t.

2. Maybe cookie cutter kids love routine but the real life babies I know are unique individuals and just like the unique individuals getting around as grown ups, not everyone likes routine. Some people prefer spontaneity and novelty or on a more even level, many of us just prefer a calm, flexible rhythm and flow rather than rigid timetabled life.

3. Leading on from point 2, life is unpredictable. Teaching children who sit on the Autistic Spectrum who absolutely DO have an intense need for routine and predictability has shown me just how unpredictable life can be even when you do try to adhere to routines.These children and others who love routine by nature or have only ever known routine, often struggle with their rigidity once they are out in the world. So knowing this, it puzzles me then to know why we are told by these ‘experts’ that out littlest people will benefit from their strict schedules.

Some predictability and above all reliability in their day, that’s what helps a baby. 

A calm, flowing rhythm, flexible and evolving to meet your unique growing baby’s needs.

Surely that would be a better aim for parents but that wouldn’t sell books and also wouldn’t provide the Sleep Whisperer with an ‘out’ when it doesn’t work for you (most love having caveats of ‘I guarantee this WILL work but only IF you follow my plan to a tee’).

So if you have a non routine, non cookie cutter kid on your hands wondering why they don’t seem to agree with this routine shit of feeding at X time, followed by a 10 mins play, before winding down to sleep at 10am and not to wake until 12pm, fear not. Your kid is normal. Watch your child and follow THEIR rhythm no matter how offbeat it is and you’ll soon find your own unique flow.

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‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

Actually I can. 
Time passes by too darn quickly watching my babies grow to ever want to live just ‘waiting’ for the future. 

I’d rather live in the here and now. 
Right now I live in the land of twilight cuddles, nursing, sweet milk breath, tiny hands, kicky legs, sleepy sounds, toddler nightmares, teething pain, cries in the night that I can calm just with my touch, my presence. 

My bed is incredibly full right now, although the new addition of a single mattress next to our King has created the space we all needed to feel comfortable. 
I didn’t choose bedsharing first time around. My baby chose it and I will be forever grateful to him for forcing my hand. 

Second time around, we chose it from the start. Why?

  • Because it feels so right for us. 
  • I get more rest. 
  • My babies have me promptly when they need me. 
  • I can be the parent I want to be through the night. 
  • It’s easy when we travel. 

My husband and I will have years of our bed to ourselves. 

I can wait for that. 

Right now, our family bed is for our family. Always present. Always comforting. Ever loving. 

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Labels that just might stick …

Labels that just might stick …

The hyperactive, careless troublemaker versus the energetic, experimental, hands on enthusiast?

Which of these two people described, sound like they will go on to live a happy, valuable, secure and successful life?

Both may, but the path is bound to be easier for the second person who has all of these strong, positive personal traits in their armour to help go out and enjoy this world while the first person would need to battle against their negative labels and push past these expectations placed on them by others.

Now you are probably wondering where I’m headed with this.

Last week, I attended Pinky McKay’s wonderful Toddler Tactics seminar and during her presentation, she made the point that children will see themselves the way we tell them to see themselves. A self fulfilling prophecy. If you tell your child they are naughty or bad often enough then they will internalise this and see themselves as ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’. This wasn’t news to me as a primary school teacher. I’ve heard it all before but while I was sitting there listening to Pinky skilfully point out the flip side to common traits that may be considered ‘bad’ I realised that I had honed my own skills through years of writing report cards but never really considered the full impact of my words.

I must admit, as a teacher, before having my own babies, it did actually grate on me that I wasn’t able to simply ‘tell it like it is’ when writing reports and begrudgingly ‘sugarcoated’ what I thought parents really needed to hear. In short, I was a bit of an arsehole.

You see, if I couldn’t come up with at least three positive words to describe a child I worked with 5 days a week, then really that was my problem. I obviously hadn’t been able to connect with that unique little human and they weren’t able to connect to me. I’m the educated adult in the pairing and so the onus really is on me to sort this out.

Being a teacher is incredibly hard work. The workload is massive. The behaviours that enter with some of the children in your room can make it an extremely draining, deflating and thankless job. With the curriculum as pumped up and intense as it is, along with huge pressures on teachers to jump through hoops to prove that their class can do XYZ in some stupid standardised test that will be used to pummel said teacher when she fails to get her children over the arbitrary line, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees.

No teacher worth their salt will see value in all this testing and yet they will work their ring out to try and buffer their kids the best they can from the pressure. Unfortunately, the skills that are really needing to be worked on and would truly benefit the kids in our classrooms are sadly rushed or absent in the curriculum altogether. Finding time in an overstuffed day to simply ‘connect’ with the unique people in front of her, is a luxury that many teachers simply cannot do justice to.

And so, the behaviours are ‘managed’ the best that teacher can as she soldiers on, trying to ensure her charges get the most they can from what is put in front of them. Just ‘managing’ is exhausting. It wears you down. It’s hard when you’ve worked your butt off to try and make your classroom and lessons as accessible and engaging as you physically can to have children still so disengaged and often times disruptive. You look at the faces of your hard working little ones and the resentment starts to seep in. The ‘ungrateful little shit’ thoughts come to mind. The ‘why won’t her parents sort this out’ thoughts rear their ugly head. The reward charts, the bribes, the communication books, the buddy classrooms, the warnings, the threats, the calls to admin … All add to an ugly cycle in that child’s life. 

I knew it but not as I know it now. 

Now I’m a mum. 

Those troubled kids are someone’s baby. Now I’m a mum, I can fully grasp the sheer magnitude of this. Their uniqueness. Their struggle. Their need for love, understanding, connection and security. I get that all ‘negative’ behaviour is communication of an unmet need.

I can finally see why we were expected to write our report comments in this positive way and it has bugger all to do with political correctness and politeness and EVERYTHING to do with giving that child something of worth. A recognition of THEIR worth. Of their unique and perfectly imperfect traits that whilst troublesome in the flawed educational setting, are not necessarily troublesome for the real world and real life.

I now see it as a huge responsibility and honour to raise my boys to see that every weakness has a corresponding strength and that their light will always shine brightest when they are able to be truest to themselves.

One day when I re enter the teaching world, no longer will connection be pushed to the backseat. It will be at the forefront of every interaction with my children. I WILL as the adult with my knowledge, skills and powerful role work to help each child see their true colours, no matter how challenging they may be right at that time. When I feel the disconnect arise, I will pause, reflect and try to remedy this. 

I know at times I will fail as I am mere human after all, but I will do my best to find my focus and regroup as many times as it takes.

The hyperactive child will be the someone who works best when physically engaged.

The quiet, serious child will be the deep thinker.

The daydreamer will be the imaginative soul.

The class clown will be the one who works best when connected to others. Vivacious and friendly . A born entertainer.

The talkative child will be a gifted sharer of ideas.

The one who disagrees with everything will be the one who isn’t afraid to challenge authority in the quest for understanding. A true seeker of justice

The easily upset child will be the sensitive soul and the peacemaker.

The child who is afraid to take risks will be the cautious thinker.

The child who struggles academically but excels with social interactions will be the people person who makes others feel special and valued.

I could go on and on. I cannot imagine all that I will see as each unique person who will present in front of me will challenge me to find them, their true self. 

I will never again allow myself to do another child the disservice of not ‘seeing’ them. Seeing through the behaviour. Seeing the soul beneath. And doing my level best to make sure it’s not only at report card time that they hear what I can see in them. Connection. Value. Affirmation. We owe it to our children.

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‘Why on earth do people have more babies?!?’

‘Why on earth do people have more babies?!?’

This is the question a dear new mummy friend of mine posed to me last week as she stared at my toddler racing around on his trike while I constantly swooped in to rescue the baby as he chased the wheels like an over excited puppy. Why indeed.  

I remember my husband and I, in the depths of sleep deprived exhaustion, looking at each other and saying the same thing. Why the f#%^ would you have more kids once you know the ‘joy’ of having one?!?

Well, I think I can answer this at least from my perspective anyway.

Firstly, if you are the mama of one dear baby looking on at mums with 2 or more babies wondering how they do it because you are finding one more than enough to handle, ease up on yourself. First time around is every bit as hard as you are finding it. Those mamas would’ve felt it just as keenly as you do. It’s normal.

First time around, the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion is like nothing else. It’s all new. The baby and all its little intricacies, the baby care, the sleep deprivation, the feeding, the new identities of mum and dad, the lack of control, the uncertainty, the naivety, the body changes, the hormone changes, the responsibility, the expectations for the future as well as the expectations already crushed and rethought … It IS an enormous amount to take on and process.

And then there’s teeth, milestones, sickness, separation anxiety, possibly a return to work and many more bumps to navigate. Why oh why would you want to throw another baby or two or three in for good measure? Why?

Because it’s completely different second time around.

I think this is even more true if you’ve not had the easiest route first time. You have been broken in. The surprise factor isn’t there. You know what’s coming and you know it will pass. You can see past the drowning moments to the very quickly approaching time where you’ll be swimming along just fine.

Sure, it’s seriously freaking tough and there has been MANY more occasions of ‘What the f#%^ have we done and how about you go and get the snip directly honey because I sure as shit won’t be doing this again cause it’s f#%^ed!’ But in all honesty, it just happens. The same way the days just tick by with one and before you know it your baby is a toddler.

I never got to the ‘I’m ready for another baby’ stage … I fell pregnant while still in the ‘I don’t understand how this world is still populated’ stage. And even I can say, there are more babies because for everything that is harder with two or more, there is even more that’s easier! The logistics can be a killer but the emotions are way more in the realm of manageable.

That first baby, well it’s doing its bit to keep this world growing. It’s training its mum and dad in the ways of the baby world. Listen to that baby’s lessons and before you know it, you may just find joy in doing it all again with another tiny soul who is just the right fit for your family and get to learn even more lessons on this crazy journey that is parenthood.

Chin up new mama, you are doing just fine x

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