Published on Kidspot 4th April 2018
"I called her my ‘bonus baby’. My third child. My chance to jump in with my eyes wide open. My chance to flout the ‘rules’, and enjoy the baby days my way."
With my first child, I was flooded with rules. They came from everywhere. The list of things to do, or not do (in order to have the perfect baby - like it even exists) was endless! There were rules for sleeping, and rules for feeding (breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, mixed feeding and solids. OH MY!) And, don’t even get me started on the labels! I didn’t know whether I was coming or going – and here I was thinking that you just pop out a baby, and go on your merry way.
I know, I know, the more experienced mothers out there are probably all thinking the same thing – of course, you can do it your way! I guess when you’ve been thrown into the trenches, with no means of support; Google becomes a shining beacon of hope. You find article after article on every subject imaginable - you can have your three-week-old sleeping through the night! All you have to do is follow these 35 steps, donate a kidney and sacrifice a lamb to the sleep gods for it to happen. No biggie!
So, it might have taken me a while (longer than I’d care to admit) to figure out that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and once I did, everything changed. I still didn’t sleep (and still don’t most of the time), but I thought about the process in an entirely different way.
Two kids = survival modeBy the time baby number two came along, my approach had to be different. Two kids meant twice the potential night wakings. Two kids meant ‘survival mode’. When your time, energy and attention is suddenly divided, it doesn’t matter what the rule books say, you just need to figure out how to get through the days. Juggling everyone becomes your number one priority. You’re hit with the knowledge (if you hadn’t realised already) that no two are alike – even a little bit.
It’s not far-fetched to imagine yourself breastfeeding the baby, while she’s strapped to your body, while making a sandwich for the toddler, and pushing the vacuum around with your little toe (because lets face it, there’s only so long that you can stand to look at the accumulated crumbs, dog hair and anonymous fluff clumped on the floor).
The archaic notion of ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ is long gone. Sure, you can still sleep when the baby sleeps, but that leaves the toddler open to a plethora of life-threatening, and house-destroying adventures.
Third time's a charmSo when baby number three came along, she became my chance to do things my way. She will most likely be my last baby (unless I can convince hubby of baby number four – but I don’t like my chances), my last chance to do things the way I feel is right for me, and right for us. I know for some, this might seem like an extreme length to go to for some kind of closure, but it’s not like that. We had always planned on having three kids, and I’m so glad we did!
It’s not like we ‘got lucky’ either (although in so many ways we did) – she still had the usual afflictions. I’ve had people imply that my new found enjoyment of the baby days is because we must’ve been blessed with some kind of ‘unicorn’ baby. Reflux reared its ugly head (30-minute sleep intervals and blood-curdling screams at 2am are never ideal), and right now, we’re in the depths of one sleep regression or another.
The difference is, I’ve learned to accept the things I cannot change. I don’t have the time or the energy to focus on the number of night wakings or lengths of each nap. I have no idea what time she woke up, or what time she had her last feed. It’s liberating, freeing, and such a relief!
She leads the way – and I’m so glad to have finally realised that I do actually have someone to guide me through.
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