Last night we did something that I said I never wanted to do. It is a discussion Eddie and I have had many times but I am trying to maintain my ground on. We took Elbie into our bed when she woke at 2am and co-slept for the rest of the night. It’s not that I am against it or frown upon it as it is something that works for many families but it is just not right for me.
I was brought up in a family where my parents room was theirs and theirs only at night. It wasn’t some scary mysterious place that we were never allowed to enter. I spent lots of time as a child in there playing around with my mum’s make up and trying on her shoes or sat on their bed reading my books. I would sometimes prance around in front of their full length mirror when no one was looking pretending to be Madonna singing into my mum’s hairbrush. At night though it was different. If I had a nightmare or felt ill in the night I knew getting into my parents bed wasn’t an option but sneaking in to wake them up for some comfort definitely was. My mum would then get up with me and take me back to bed and if I really was feeling unwell or scared she would sit with me until I drifted back off, comfortable and snug in my own bed. Not getting into my parents bed was never an issue as it was never introduced to me, I didn’t feel like I was missing it or ever want to get in. I loved my bedroom and my bed and who doesn’t prefer to sleep in their own bed? I believe that it is important to show children that their own bed is a safe and comfortable place even when they are having a scary dream and it also shows them some independence. I don’t want Elbie to be reliant on us to sleep or get into a habit of having broken sleep.
Now that I’m a parent myself I can understand wanting to keep some space sacred too. A small place that we keep as a couple and child free. We live in a small flat so there isn’t much room that is not shared but our bed for me, is for Eddie and I. I want to be able to roll over as much as I want and stretch out if I need to. I want to have the option of pulling the duvet up to my ears if I’m cold and most of all, some privacy for Eddie and I as husband and wife.
When pregnant I dreamt about the days our small little child would burst through the doors and jump on our bed waking us up at the crack of dawn. Lazy Sunday mornings with the three of us tucked up in bed chatting and being silly. This is not a dream now but our reality and these mornings are something that I cherish. Some of my favourite times that I want time to freeze so that I can capture the moment and make sure I never forget. This is all wonderful but only past 5.30am. That is my cut off. I know it probably sounds mean but before 5.30am it’s still sleeping time and sleeping time is for sleeping in our own beds. This is where Eddie and I disagree. Eddie is a firm believer in letting Elbie get into bed with us if she wakes in the night. He says that if she is frightened or simply can’t sleep then we should move over and make some room for her to hop in. We agree with most of our parenting but this is something we are struggling to agree on.
Last night happened by having no other option as Elbie was sharing a room with her big cousin and we didn’t want her to be woken as well. This is the first time she has woken in the night in months so it took us by surprise and we panicked a little about how to settle her again without the whole house waking so we chose the easy option. Elbie fell asleep curled up like a little warm football between us. And just like a football she rolled around all night long and kept me awake. I agree with Eddie in that having her so close and feeling her warmth while you sleep, or at least try to sleep, is amazing. Listening to her little breaths while she dreams is one of the best things ever but not while I am trying to get some shut eye. It of course has brought up the whole debate between us again and I’m sure it won’t be the last time it comes up either but fortunately for me, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Eddie doesn’t often wake up to Elbie in the night if I’m there. This is where I’m hoping I can win this battle but only time will tell if this was a one off or if I will be sleeping on the edge of the bed.
Wow six months! Where has half a year gone? Well they do say time flies when you are having fun and that is exactly what we have been doing over the last six months. I would be lying though if I said it had been plain sailing as it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges. Sleep deprivation being the main bumpy ground of parenthood but every second has been worth it.
Somehow it feels like Elbie only entered our lives yesterday as a tiny 6lbs wrinkly baby while also feeling like it was a lifetime ago and she has always been here. I remember holding her not long after she was born finding it near impossible to imagine what she would be like in six months time. Struggling to picture a relaxed and worry free life where I wouldn’t have to keep checking she was breathing every five minutes or worrying that I would somehow break a tiny bone of hers while getting her dressed. The truth is I don’t think that life exists once you become a parent. Just as you stop panicking that you haven’t tucked their blanket in correctly you find something else to worry yourself sick about. I have discovered that parenting is all about feeling on edge and full of anxiety about something happening to your child. Now we have reached the six month mark of keeping our child alive a whole new world has opened and it feels like everything has all come at once. Whereas before Elbie would seem to master one skill at a time and most of her developments although huge achievements were actually quite subtle now they are bam in your face new baby type of skills. My little squidge that I could put on the floor under her baby gym where she would happily lay bopping her hanging toys for ages has now grown into floor gymnast. I can’t take my eyes off her for a second as she rolls back to front in a second and then back again. Everything is of interest and of course has to go in the mouth for testing. She has mastered the caterpillar move by arching her back while on her front and pushing herself forward, not sure if this is an actual thing but it has become a problem when in her cot, mainly with bashing her head and then getting stuck. Vaguely amusing but highly annoying when having to keep going in to move her back. The little floppy newborn is now strong and sturdy and will sit unaided, albeit surrounded by pillows still and will clang around her toys while peering up to check that you are still there.
Six months as a parent is seen as such a huge milestone and it is. The advice around sleep training and weaning all recommend six months and these in my eyes are two massive turning points in parenthood. Sleep training has without a shadow of a doubt been the biggest game changer for me although we did ignore the advice and crumble before six months on this one. We did wait to start weaning though as I didn’t feel that Elbie was ready until she could sit up. The steriliser has now been replaced with a baby cooker (bought by Eddie’s parents and really is the best present any parent could be given when starting to wean). The fear of blankets over heads has been replaced by the terror of choking. Bottles are starting to be taken over by cups and now food preparation is part of my daily routine. As if getting out of the house wasn’t hard enough!
It feels like all of a sudden our baby is growing up. She is so aware of who we are now and has even started reaching for me when she is hungry which I of course find totally adorable. She will blow bubbles if she doesn’t want to do something, this is new in the last few days and I think this is one of my favourite things she has mastered. It makes me laugh watching her blow rasberries in protest, there is literally nothing cuter. Wouldn’t life be so much better if everyone when they were pissed off started blowing bubbles?!
I have officially enetered the next chapter of motherhood and I can’t wait to see what more fun is to be had. I’m learning to embrace the anxiety and fear that comes along too.
The way you decide to feed your baby is such a personal choice and all parents I’m sure make their choices for the best reasons. Some on the other hand are forced into formula feeding for reasons out of their control. I have recently been in contact with a new mum who has had a rough start to motherhood and due to having such a traumatic time is having difficulties breastfeeding. She had planned on breastfeeding and as a mother is finding it hard to come to terms with the possibility that this is now something she may not be able to do. This of course has left her riddled with mum guilt. I don’t think she should feel guilty, she is a fantastic mum with a thriving little baby who is surrounded by love but I do totally understand the way she is feeling and if it was the other way round I’m sure I would be feeling exactly the same.
I have realised just how lucky and easy I have had it dealt to me as a first time mum. I have so much respect and appreciation for those strong women who have encountered obstacles at beginnings of their motherhood journeys. Feeling guilty about the way you feed your baby is the last thing you need as a new mummy but as I have already discussed I think it is something we all encounter whatever the reason. After talking about my mum guilt before though I now feel gratitude that I was given a choice at all.
Eddie and I have always been social butterflies and it wasn’t until I fell pregnant and couldn’t drink anymore that I realised how much I enjoyed a glass of red wine. I missed it so much! Don’t get me wrong we weren’t raving alcoholics but we did enjoy a glass after a stressful day or liked to share a nice bottle of Rioja over dinner at the weekend with friends. And I missed that more than anything. Although I missed wine while pregnant I wasn’t fussed about missing the party or having to go home early, as let’s be honest I was knackered and would much prefer to be in bed. The first few months of being a mum was the same story. Despite wanting a glass of the red stuff just the thought of having one and then having to be up all night gave me a headache. I still didn’t mind missing out on social events either as my preference was to be sat at home on the sofa with my snuggly new baby instead of a noisy pub. This was lovely for the first three months but as we found our feet as parents I started to crave a fraction of my old life back. I also started to resent Eddie. I resented that he could still play football, that he could still drink and that he could pretty much do everything he could before we had Elbie. Now this was where my battle was. I had chosen to breastfeed and that wasn’t about to change but I was starting to feel like nothing but a milk machine. I felt like I was losing a bit of me and all at the same time wanted to breastfeed, which means having a baby stuck to you every 2 hours or so. I was starting to look forward to going to sainsbury’s for half an hour so that I could be free to wonder up and down the aisles thinking about anything but babies. I didn’t want a big night out or go and get drunk. I wanted to go to the cinema and yes you guessed it, a large glass of wine with my friends. I hated that I resented Eddie as it’s not his fault, I’m sure if he could he would breastfeed. And this is of course where mum guilt comes in. I felt guilty for even feeling like this let alone saying it out loud and admitting it. I felt awful that I would volunteer to pick up the pizzas just for 10 minutes alone time. Or enjoy taking the bins out. But I did say it out loud and it was the best thing I could have done.
I know I wanted to exclusively breast feed and you are probably wondering why I didn’t express so that Eddie could give bottles. I did begin with expressing and I still do but I don’t get much out each time and to be honest that was also contributing to me feeling like a milk machine. If I wasn’t feeding then I was expressing. We now give Elbie bottles of either full formula or half breast milk and half formula whenever I need a night off. It is working well for all of us. Elbie gets her much needed nutrition, Eddie gets some daddy/daughter time and mummy gets a bit of her old self back and everyone is happy.