‘Don’t tell me not to think I’m tired! I AM tired!’

‘Don’t tell me not to think I’m tired! I AM tired!’

I know you are tired, mama. Nobody denies you are sleep deprived.  
I have been criticised before for always including the tip to stop focusing on how tired you are, and have been told it is like telling a depressed person not be sad or a cancer patient that they aren’t sick.

But you see, the mind is a very powerful thing and you DO have the power to control your mind.

For me, if you are going to stand any chance of making it through the weary first years of life with our babies with any kind of happiness and fond memories, you are going to have to take your thoughts and mental well being in hand, particularly if you are blessed with a wakeful little person. Being able to shift your focus off your weariness is not to deny that you are tired, but to simply to tell your body and mind that it’s okay to be tired and that while you will do all you can to get yourself rest, it’s okay to think about other things.

Feel free to brush this off. If you think this is bullshit, go ahead and keep on telling yourself, ‘I’m so tired! I’m so exhausted! I can barely function, I’m so tired!’ And you just watch your body and mind fall into line. You will feel every ounce of weariness and tiredness and exhaustion that you focus your thoughts on and they will be amplified as you give those thoughts your full, undivided attention.

That’s how our mind and body work.

Just as you may have learned techniques to help refocus your energy and thoughts during labour and delivery to try and shift your mind away from the pain of contractions, you too, can employ similar tactics to help you combat your tiredness.

Just as a person with depression or anxiety may be taught mindfulness or techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that assist that person to manage their thoughts and feelings and take the unhealthy feelings in hand and recast them in a healthier light.

Just as a person who has cancer can acknowledge their illness and the challenges and trauma of the journey ahead while still focussing their energies on positivity and potential, you can CHOOSE to shift and control your focus.

***As a side note- being sleep deprived is not in anyway comparable to the experience of cancer. I am merely alluding to the effect the mind can have on challenging experiences in life and not trying to diminish the all encompassing experience that is cancer. ***

In my experience as a mother of a wakeful child, I lived the first 6 months as an anxious, depressed, wallower.

I wallowed in my weariness. I lamented my lost sleep. I bemoaned my child’s waking. I stressed and worried about my broken, disrupted night’s sleep.

I calculated how many minutes or hours until he may next wake, I calculated how long I’d been awake. I calculated how long it was taking me to get to sleep. I calculated how much sleep I’d not had.

My calculations always equalled exactly the same amount = I AM SO F#%^ing exhausted, I feel like death warmed up! This child is going to kill me!!!

Now if you go about your day with this awful algorithm dominating your every thought and you live in this never ending Pity Party mode, I can tell you firsthand, you are going to be the most miserable, depressed, shell of a person and mother.

But this algorithm is lying to you! This set of calculations tells you that you cannot enjoy motherhood or life as you know it as long as you have a wakeful child and as long as you remain sleep deprived! The good news is, THIS IS NOT TRUE!

These sad and sorry calculations only take in one part, albeit an important part, of your life that is sleep. There is more to life and your beautiful, wakeful baby than how much sleep you are or are not getting!

Accepting that you are going to have disrupted sleep and that you will need to work out how to get the best quality sleep and rest you can to handle these very normal night time behaviours of your baby can take a huge weight off your shoulders and allow you the breathing and mind space to think of something other than sleep.

Some days it will still get you. I had one such day last week. No amount of mind shifting and refocusing could deny it.

I was exhausted.

This is not only normal but also I think an excellent protective factor your body is demonstrating. Your body will tell you when enough is enough. The mindfulness and distractions only work when your body is able to cope and then when it really does warrant your attention, it let’s you know in no uncertain terms that your weariness DOES require your full attention.

On that day for me last week, I slept during the day for the first time in months. My body ordered me to take the opportunity as a matter of urgency. I felt about 3 billion times better even though it was only a 20 minute kip. I found that the moment I woke, the weight had lifted again. I could do it all again. I could think of other things and get on with my day. Sleep deprivation in tow but not as an anchor holding me back.

The mind is a powerful thing, mamas. Where is your focus right now?

Acknowledge that weariness, honour your opportunities for rest and focus on all that is good in your world.

You will have endless years to catch up on lost sleep in the future. Right now, your baby needs you intensely both day and night. Focus on meeting them at their point of need. You are doing marvellous things for that child of yours.

Chin up tired mama xxx

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The special things I did to help me connect with my second baby

The special things I did to help me connect with my second baby

Every child and every pregnancy is a blessing, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying, it can be hard to find the same wonder, awe and excitement second time around. It’s just not the same, no matter how much that second baby was wanted, wished for, dreamed of and worked for.  
For me, I was not in anyway ready to be pregnant again and was actively trying to not get pregnant when I found out I was expecting. Instead of the tears of joy and relief I felt seeing those two lines first time around, this time a cried heavy, hot terrified tears of ‘what the hell am I going to do with another one?!?’ Then I cried some more thinking about my first born having to share me. Then I cried some more because I knew my husband also wasn’t ready. Then I cried some more because I was still nursing my first at least 2 hourly around the clock and I was ever so tired and I had no idea how I would be able to do it all. Then I cried even harder, full of guilt for this unborn, undreamed of, unplanned, tiny wee soul in my belly, who I knew I would love with every inch of my being and I knew I would have to make this work for in the end.

It was not the happiest time in my life.

But that’s okay.

I was in shock. I wasn’t ready, but I honestly believe this is partially why we are pregnant for as long as we are. It gives us time to be and feel ready. It gives us time to get our head around things and gives us time to find our feet.

I think it was our 12 week scan that finally saw me truly happy to be pregnant again. I had found my protective mama bear streak was well and truly in force again right from the time 2 lines came up and with an early scare or two and the complete feeling of dread and heartache that immediately came, I knew I already loved and wanted this little soul with all my heart, but the happiness did take time.

Even once the happiness arrived, there was still so very little time for me to focus on being pregnant with this new little baby, I swear weeks would go by and I’d almost entirely forget that I was in fact pregnant.

A toddler with almost constant needs both day and night and the daily grind, simply did not leave me much time to ponder.

It was after my 12 week scan, which our toddler had attended, that I realised that it might help and benefit both my baby and I, for me to consciously make some time for ‘us’.

If I didn’t want to look back on my time being pregnant as a blur of toddler and very little recollection of this baby in my tummy, especially if this were to be my last, then I needed to work out how to take stock every now and then.

So here’s what I did-

  1. I organised someone to have my toddler for at least some of my antenatal appointments– Having my toddler in my antenatal appointments was 100% necessary some times but can I tell you, those appointments were less than ideal. Between entertaining him and feeding him endless snacks while we waited, trying to stop him touching everything in sight while I tried to wee in a cup in a hospital toilet, to trying to actually mention more that a cursory, ‘yeah, I think I’m okay, just very tired.’ When my obstetrician asked how I was travelling and then strapping the toddler into pram so I could lay on the bed for a two second ultrasound through which the toddler howled and I tried to soothe from a distance, then balancing him on one knee, holding both hands while I had a blood test so he couldn’t assist with the needle and then getting in the car to realise I hadn’t asked any of the questions I had and hadn’t even glanced at the screen to see my baby. It sucked.  Organising either a play date with a friend or my husband to come and sit in the waiting room with the toddler became a god send.  I actually started to look forward to my appointments. Not only did I get to focus on my baby for a little while and savour seeing his wriggly little body on the screen and hearing how he was growing and progressing and asking questions about things, I also got to have that time to enjoy and think about me and my pregnant self. I got to sit and chill out in the waiting room. I got to talk with other pregnant mamas, who were tracking along with me and admire our growing bellies. I could pee in a cup without commentary. I could just breathe and be in this moment.  I never thought I’d come to love or look forward to antenatal appointments as much as I did, but they are something I actually look back on fondly. This is probably helped by me having the most beautiful obstetrician on earth who I actually enjoy seeing.  
  2.  Once babe was kicking, I’d try to respond to his kicks and tumbles by either stroking the spot or talking back to babe- I would sometimes go all day without really noticing any of his kicks, but every night when I’d lay down to sleep, he’d get his little groove thing on … that was our time. Our time for gentle rubs and quiet words. My little life in my tummy.  
  3. I packed an emergency labour bag for my toddler, wrote instructions and teed up several back ups for just in case– I found I was becoming increasingly worried and nervous about my toddler as I entered my third trimester. My first labour was so ridiculously fast, I had very valid worries about how quick this labour would be and what I would do if I went early before my mum arrived to stay at 38 weeks. It started to become a preoccupation and my sole focus. A lovely midwife I spoke to about my fears made the excellent suggestion that I go home and pack up a special bag for my toddler with everything he’d need in case of emergency, write out a list of instructions and attach a house key to it and then tee up my emergency contacts (preferably more than one) who I could call and meet us at the hospital if things kicked off quickly.  I did this, and the calming effect it had on me was enormous. My focus was able to shift back to my baby and my thoughts and energy became all about birthing him safely, knowing his big brother would be okay.  
  4. I organised care so my husband and I could stay with our new baby in hospital for a couple of nights – We had never even had a single night away from our big guy before the birth of his brother but I knew what a strong bond he had with my mum, his Nana, and she had settled and resettled him off to sleep many times. I decided that as long as he was coping well with Nana and Pa, then my husband and I would take the opportunity to stay in hospital (thankfully we had a private room and the option for him to board), as our dedicated time to our new baby. To bond, to have unlimited skin to skin, to try and work out feeding and to sleep and rest as much as we could, knowing our toddler was happy and well cared for. We knew once we got home, we would never have the same opportunity for such unrivalled time with this baby.  In hindsight, it is one of the sweetest times in our lives. Our toddler visited morning and night and he had the most amazingly special time with his Nana and Pa and we lived and breathed our perfect new baby with no stress and no pressure. I honestly could not have asked for more.   
  5. I organised family support for the first 4 weeks after the birth– I knew that I’d eventually need to work out how to meet my baby’s needs on my own but I also knew that I’d be in the best place to do that if I granted myself some time to recover physically, allow my hormones to settle and allow myself time to work out the intricacies of my new baby and establish my milk supply all while my toddler had other hands on deck to ease both he and I into our new world.  We live far from family and so when they come, they stay with us. I know for some families this would not be ideal, but for us … it was the best thing ever. For the first 4 weeks, I did not cook, clean, change a toddler nappy, hang out a load of washing AT ALL!!! My amazing husband, parents and parents in law, took this and largely my toddler on and you know what? We ALL benefited from the experience! They have the most sensational memories of their time here and a treasured bond with their darling grandbabies that can only be forged through genuine loving, trust, time and affection. They also have my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their time, dedication and love to our little family while we needed them so.  

So that’s it. This was my way to way to find special second time around.

I may have started my pregnancy in a less than ideal frame of mind, but oh my goodness, taking my thoughts and feelings in hand by accepting them and then working to find more positivity not only for myself but also for this baby who deserves nothing less than to be cherished and adored, was by far the best decision I ever made.

These simple steps made the world of difference and allowed me to take stock and be mindful of the wonder of pregnancy, birth and my new baby, and for that I will always be grateful.

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