Sleep, Motherhood & a Sprinkle of Anxiety
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
I'm currently sitting in my daughter's room as she innocently brushes my hair and pulls out all of her clothes to dress me like a human Barbie. Most days the mess around us would give me anxiety but at this moment I am surrendering to the chaos and allowing my little girl to be a kid. It is about 15 minutes past her bedtime and I am exhausted myself so I give her a 5 minute warning--treading the toddler protest game lightly. It's truly amazing how at bedtime it suddenly takes her 5 minutes to have to go potty. She's almost 3 and though we have been doing a bedtime routine since she was 4 weeks old, it has evolved into alone time with Mom + Dad. Every night it is a little different depending on what Ella wants to do...some nights she plays with her dollhouse, some nights read books, and some nights, like tonight, we brush (gentle yank) mom's hair and play dress up.
Once both kids are in bed for the night, it's like a switch turns off in my brain for the night. A rush of relief that we survived the day with minimal fighting and injuries and now it's ME time, but then I feel an emptiness without them at my feet. When Ella was born, I needed an episiotomy (if you don't know what that is, keep it that way). My world had been rocked by this tiny human who I loved so much, and yet I was in a kind of pain I had never experienced before. Everyone told me to sleep when she was sleeping, so I tried to do that. Guess what doesn't sleep when the baby is sleeping? Laundry, dishes, the dog...
I remember standing in our laundry room doing laundry while my husband laid on the couch with 5 day old Ella on his chest, and I just stood there crying. It wasn't fair that I just pushed a bowling ball out of my hoo-ha, 4th degree stitches in my lady bits, bleeding, boobs engorged, sleep deprived, and my husband was laying on the couch with our newborn. He offered to do the laundry which just made me cry even more because, at that moment, I needed to do the laundry. Did the laundry really need to be done? No. My anxiety was crippling and the only way I felt in control was by keeping order.
When I did sleep, I would have dreams about something happening to Ella, waking in a panic to check on her. At least once a night I woke up in a panic thinking I forgot to put her back in her bassinet, still feeling the weight of her on my chest, pulling off all the covers and yelling at my husband to look for the baby. I was hallucinating. I would carry her around like she was going to break at any second, and had this fear of falling down the stairs while holding her. Anytime I wasn't with or couldn't see Ella, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that something bad would happen. I wanted to do it all-to get my life back into control-but I was quickly spiraling. I knew that if I didn't start to get some decent sleep and accept help, I was going to go into a dark place.
I had done all the research about infant sleep before Ella was born, but in those early days, it was like all that information escaped my brain the day she was born. I went back through all my books, bookmarked blogs, and saved Instagram posts during the long hours of nursing. When my husband returned to work after 2 weeks, I remember sitting in Ella's room crying as she screamed and fought sleep. I sat in the rocker staring at this beautiful, tiny, little girl who needed me to be her everything and the weight of the world sat on my shoulders. The only thing that came to my mind was to “shush” and “swing.” I couldn't remember the other S's and the kid would fight the swaddle like it was torturing her. So, I held her snug up to my chest, shushed in her ear, and swung back and forth. She instantly calmed and fell asleep. We sat together in her room for what felt like forever while she took a nap. When my husband came home from work that day, I had a game plan and we were beginning that night.
I was slowly losing my mind, but I was confident I knew how to scale back the anxiety and regain control of my life: sleep.
Not sleeping was making my anxiety worse and the fear for the safety of my child was my only concern. From that moment on, everything else could wait. Ella’s and my health came first.
I worked on getting Ella onto a good schedule using wake windows, started a bedtime routine, including my husband giving her a bottle while I got some alone time, and learned what her cues were so we didn't fall into the game of her being under or over tired. I learned how to handle night wakings and when she was actually awake to eat vs. moving through sleep cycles. By 11 weeks we were all sleeping better and I was feeling more like myself. I felt confident going into the 4 month sleep regression and Ella sailed right through it!
My sleep needs have changed and I've learned how to keep my anxiety in check. Two kids in, and your sleep just changes. But anytime I notice some OCD tendencies creep in or I have a sense of losing control, I always check in with my basic human needs--have I eaten? How much sleep am I getting? Did I drink enough water today? Have I done anything for myself lately? Do I need to go for a run? My kids are my biggest priority, but I can’t give them all the care, love, and attention they need if I haven’t taken care of myself.
I will always carry around a 10 pound weight of anxiety on my shoulders. Some days it's lighter, others heavier, especially when it comes to my kids. I think once you become a parent, you will always worry-naturally. But making sure that you put yourself first sometimes is important.
Remember: you are the best parent for your child, but you can't always parent the best if you aren't taken care of.
Becoming a Sleep Consultant
When I took the leap and signed up with The Cradle Coach Academy to become a pediatric sleep consultant, I didn't know where this would take me. I certainly didn't think it would take 2 years to complete and launch my business, but life, a pandemic, and babies happen. I choose not to take anxiety medication anymore because I don't like how it made me feel, but that means I am constantly checking in on myself and purposely slowing myself down. Being a mom to my babies is and will always be my priority and I know I am not the best mom when my mental health is suffering.
Launching Rainbow Dreams has been a dream I've had for a long time. I want this space to be a place where other parents can come and not feel alone. I genuinely enjoy helping families get the sleep they need because I have experienced what sleep deprivation can do to our mood and overall health. I know from my extended research the benefits that sleep has for not only us, but the growth and development of our children.
I feel that if I can help other parents get sleep, then I've done my job. I’ll share all of my best sleep and parenting tips (and by parenting tips, I mean all the things I have learned not to do), our favorite tried and true products for all ages, and let you follow along on raising two under two.
Should I ever go radio silent, it doesn't mean that I'm not okay, but it does mean my kids need some mom time. Social media can be a lot to navigate and a lot of times it makes me feel overwhelmed and anxious, but that never means I don't want to hear from my clients and friends! When you become a client, I make sure that you get my undivided attention.
Thank you for following along here! I hope that even if we never end up working together, that in some way--through blog posts, Instagram Q&A's or posts--you might feel a little less alone and that I can help you and your family.