I have a habit of setting unreasonable goals for myself and becoming
distressed disappointed when I fail to live up to my unbelievably high standards. It’s like I have created these gigantic shoes to fill, which seems insane. I have complete control over the “size” of the shoes I expect myself to get into and I am quite aware of how ridiculously small my feet are. I guess this is something to do with being human and everything to do with the cultural expectations that we grow up believing a mother is. I know many mothers who set unfair standards for themselves, setting themselves up for failure, knowing that there is no way that they could possibly live up to these standards and they would never in a million years expect another woman to do all of those things at once. Yet we do it. Time and time again.
It was a few nights ago that I realised just what I had done. I found myself in tears, sitting on the floor of my kitchen, scaring the crap out of the rats that live there. It was 3am and somewhere beneath the tears and the sweat and the spew covered pajamas I realised I had no idea why I was really crying. Why was I crying? I don’t know. Hormones, maybe. Sleep deprivation, definitely. Self deprecation, most likely.
Bo and I have been having a bit of a battle of the wills, a battle that has ended in her sleeping (much to her distaste and making her already awful catnapping, worse) in her porta-cot 75% of the time. We have always been a co-sleeping family, it was a cultural decision we made right from the very beginning. She slept with me in the little single hospital bed on our very first night together. But in the past week her already terrible sleeping has become worse, if that’s possible. And for the very first time in her four and half months of life did I find myself getting cross in the middle of the night. Cross at both of us for not being sound asleep. Cross with myself mostly, for feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. With her ability to roll from back to front, and just this week having mastered the ability to also roll from front to back, she is unstoppable. So in the middle of the night I had a baby who was rolling all over the place, headbutting me, grabbing me, moaning and groaning and turning herself upside down… all in a semi-sleeping state. I sleep extraordinarily lightly these days, so I’ve never worried about not hearing her or rolling on her or any such thing. I’ve always had one ear on her but this was becoming a bit much. So instead of going completely mental I picked her up, put her in her travel cot, walked away and had a mini breakdown on the tiles of our kitchen floor. What am I doing? I kept saying to myself. I have no idea how to handle this… And then the guilt comes, because I want her in the bed, I know she likes to be close to me, I know she wants it… I want it too. We are still technically co-sleeping, with her at the foot of the bed, but currently not bed-sharing and I honestly don’t know quite how I feel about it right now. But for now, I sleep better with her in the cot, and that’s better for both of us right now. Where we will go from here, I don’t know yet.
There are those gigantic shoes again, my little feet just keep getting lost in. And I know the advice I would give to other mama’s… take it easy, relax, you’re both just learning, you’re doing the right thing, trust yourself… don’t worry that you are doing it differently to other mama’s, have a little faith… but it’s always harder to listen to your own advice. I’m just happy that we don’t have a bookshop for me to go and stick my head in some parenting book and come up for air even more lost and self-deprecating than when I started! I am currently self-banned from Google as we work through this little bump our way. I want so badly to trust myself, to trust my ability to parent my child, to trust that together we will find the right way for her and for us. And most of the time I do, today as I write this post I do… but there are moments…
But I can’t help coming back to many interactions I’ve had with other women, mothers, grandmothers, mothers-to-be all with their own advice and “lessons” I must learn. The many who seem surprised my four and a half month child is not sleeping through the night, all regaling stories of their children, grandchildren, brothers neighbours darling one who was certainly without-a-doubt sleeping through the night by now.
Motherhood for me invokes an incredible combination of love, self awareness and a new trust in myself that sometimes (mainly at 3am in the morning) wanes. It is my social conditioning that draws me back to books, to lessons, to the “right” way, to my cultural expectations… to doubting myself. To putting new pressures on myself to become the super mama, the one who can do it all… to creating those super big shoes that my tiny feet struggle to fill.
At times like this I can’t do much more than hold this precious little person and breathe… knowing that even though I miss the person I was before, I wouldn’t go back and the only way from here on in is forward – sleep or no sleep. In the wise words of a good friend of mine, it’s these 3am moments that I have to remind myself, this too will pass.
One a lighter note, the winner of the awesome bra give-away is…Kirsty Phillipson-Lowe. Congratulations Kristy!!! We will send you an email to link you up with Emma-Jane Maternity so that you can pass on your details and get that package shipped right out to you!
As always you can vote for us here – should you be so inclined