Conversations with the boss

As a stay at home mum, I answer to just one person – my very vocal 19 month old daughter. Little Chop’s language development is advanced and she seems to add new words to her already bursting vocabulary every day, but there is one word in particular that’s on high rotation at the moment. ‘No’. She says it with a little inflection at the end, like a question, which makes me giggle.

Me: Little Chop, do you want to watch The Wiggles?

LC: No?…No?

Me: Yes! The Wiggles!

LC: No?

Me: But you love The Wiggles

LC: No

 

Me: You put your right foot in/ you put your right foot out/ you put your right foot in and you shake it all about…

LC: No?…No?

Me: You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn around…

LC: No?

Me: That’s what it’s all about!

LC: No…

 

Me: Come on baby, time to go to sleep.

LC: No?…No?

Me: Yes. Lie down please.

LC: No?

Me: Yes. You’re tired. Lie down now.

LC: No…bye

Sure, it’s not always the word I want to hear, especially at bed time, but I’ll take ‘no’ over a frustration tantrum any day!

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Me: Come on LC, time to go. LC: No? No

Three’s a crowd a.k.a sex and the co-sleeping parent

co-sleeping positionsThere were three in the bed and the little one said, “roll over, roll over.” So they all rolled over and Daddy fell out…went to the spare room and there he has slept for the past year!

Before Little Chop was born, I never really considered the effect her arrival would have on my relationship and how it would change. I knew that it would change, how could it not? A newborn demands your love and attention above everything and everyone including your partner, so you inevitably compromise and sacrifice things you enjoyed in your childless life to put your baby first – things like socialising, sleep and sex.

After giving birth, sex was the last thing on my mind. Having delivered a 4kg baby aided by an episiotomy and forceps I was quite content to never have sex again. Then my milk came in and the early challenges of breastfeeding took their toll. Sleep deprived with cracked nipples and a throbbing episiotomy scar, I waded zombified through those early weeks, often sobbing while breastfeeding with the pain that radiated from one end of my body to the other. My partner who was also sleep deprived and overwhelmed by our new arrival was patient and equally disinterested in sex…for a while at least.

Then my six week post-partum check-up rolled around and my partner started to get interested. Really interested. I was still in a fair amount of pain and didn’t feel physically or emotionally ready but I thought I should give it a go for my partner’s sake and to see how things were healing down there. Let’s just say that it didn’t go too well. I cried. It was painful and I was so anxious and self-concious about my squishy post-baby body that I felt tense and awkward. I told my partner I didn’t want to try again for a while and that was that.

By the three month mark, my episiotomy had healed and I was feeling more confident having lost most of my baby weight – I was ready. Within a few weeks, our sex life was almost back to normal, less frequent, but consistent. A couple of months later Winter rolled around and I started feeding Little Chop in bed overnight rather than braving the cold lounge room. She self-weaned from her dummy and no longer wanted to be swaddled. She would only sleep in my arms or by my side. We became co-sleepers. And so, my partner was sent to the spare room where he has remained for the past year. As my Doctor said, “Oh Laura, that’s no good for romance.” Mmm, you don’t say…

I had wondered about the sex lives of co-sleepers before I became one. I knew co-sleepers with more than one child so obviously they had managed to find a time and place to do the deed. If you’re curious, like I was, allow me to enlighten you. It’s tricky. You either need to plan ahead or be extremely spontaneous. It might be a nap time quickie or something you ‘book in’ for the evening instead of watching Masterchef. Occasionally, you’ll be interrupted when your child wakes unexpectedly and you’ll have to abandon the act because they don’t know how to self-settle. And, unless you have a spare room, it probably won’t be in bed because that space now belongs to your child. So there, now you know.

What my Doctor said is true, unfortunately. Co-sleeping is no good for romance. When you spend about twenty hours of the day with your child you tend to crave and relish in your alone time. Well, I do anyway. Nap time and evenings are the only times of the day I get to myself and sometimes I am reluctant to give that up, even for my partner. Maybe that’s selfish but it’s what I need to preserve my sanity. Sometimes I feel like I am stretched very thin and I don’t have enough time and energy to meet everyones needs. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a co-sleeper. I do miss the intimacy and comfort of sharing a bed with my partner and I know he misses it too. But, would I rather get up to settle my daughter multiple times each night? Or, let her cry herself to sleep? No. It is what it is and it won’t be forever so for now I’ll take my daughter’s warm sleepy cuddles over a torrid sex life and that’s fine by me.

Tomorrow is another day

hair brushed, good dayI don’t brush my hair everyday but I did have my bra on from a reasonably early hour today so I thought it was going to be a pretty good day.

Little Chop had woken up early in the pitch black and it was 3 degrees outside – I should have been grumpy, but I wasn’t. We got up and I made us porridge with blue balls and apple. Yes…balls, Little Chop’s name for blueberries, which makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. Anyway, we were snuggly and warm in front of our big gas heater, eating our blue ball porridge, watching Giggle and Hoot and having a pretty good time. We read a few books, played with trains and danced to Play School songs in our jammies. Lovely.

At 11 I put Little Chop down for her nap, showered, perused eBay with a cup of decaf then set about making a bolognese to re-stock the freezer for lazy days to come. I was just browning the meat when I heard Little Chop wake, so I brought her out to the lounge room and attempted to put her down, but the closer she got to the floor the higher her legs climbed up my torso. Little Chop had emerged from her nap as a spider monkey of sorts. So, Little Chop on hip, I went back to the kitchen and attempted to carry on with the bolognese. Ever try cooking one handed while balancing a 12kg toddler on your hip when your 21 weeks pregnant with a bad back? Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I managed to unclench Little Chop’s grip on my jumper and peel her off me but maybe I should have abandoned the bolognese at this point because she proceeded to go on a search and destroy mission in the kitchen. Nothing on the bench was off limits – plates, knifes, potato peeler and cutlery were all grasped at on tip toes. Next stop was the bin where packets and scraps were poked and examined. Then the cupboard doors were thrown open and every plate was threatened with sudden death. I must have said ‘no’ twenty times before Little Chop finally ended her spree of chaos, deciding to squeeze between me and the stove to climb my legs and demand ‘mup, mup, MUP!’ instead.

I managed to finish cooking the bolognese but Little Chop required my full attention for the remainder of the afternoon. I don’t know if she’s teething or going through a clingy period, or maybe a ‘wonder week’, but I have never heard ‘Mum’ so many times in one day.

LC: Mum, mum, mum, mum.

Me: Yes, Darling?

LC: Mum….Mum, mum, mum.

Me: Yes, what would you like?

LC: Mum, mum, mum, mum, mum!

Me: Yes?

LC: MUM! 

Me: Argh, what?

So, as I trudge down the hallway to resettle Little Chop for the third time tonight all I can do is remind myself that tomorrow is another day…

Gentle ‘no cry’ sleep training for toddlers

Yes, it is possible!

I recently wrote about co-sleeping with my 16 month old daughter, an arrangement that has worked for us for over a year now –  an arrangement that I love and hate in equal measure – so it is with mixed feelings that I have taken the first steps in transitioning Little Chop out of my bed.

A month or so ago, as I moved into my second trimester of pregnancy with baby number two, I decided that it was time to begin some gentle sleep training with my snuggly little bedfellow. This has coincided with attempted weaning so it’s been an emotional, anxious and frustrating time for both of us. I say attempted weaning because although Little Chop’s daytime breastfeeds have been successfully replaced with cow’s milk, her overnight comfort feed has proven much harder to shake.

To set up our new sleep arrangement, I had my partner remove the infant side from the cot and replace it with the toddler side, then position the cot like a sidecar by my bed. I didn’t want Little Chop to feel imprisoned in her cot and I wanted to be able to reach into the cot to comfort her without getting out of my own adjoining bed.

We established a loose bedtime routine – dinner between 5.30 & 6, a few books, an episode of The Night Garden, into jammies, kiss Daddy goodnight, change nappy then cow’s milk bottle in bed at 7pm.

I sit on the end of the cot while Little Chop has her bottle. When she’s finished, she always sits up, burps, occasionally stands up, and will come to my lap. We cuddle, I rub her back, talk to her in a calming voice and shoosh her gently if she becomes too animated. When she is calm, I say ‘time to lie down’ and I lay her down on her back. She will usually sit up again a few more times. Each time I repeat ‘time to lie down’, I lay her back down and rub her belly or feet while continuing with the gentle ‘sh sh sh’ sound. If she gets up repeatedly, I say a little more firmly, ‘lie down now’. If this upsets her, I distract her by singing a lullaby or a soothing song – I like ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz. She often turns onto her tummy when she is ready to go to sleep and when she does, I rub her back a little bit then take my hand away so that she can try to go to sleep without my help.

This isn’t a quick process. At first, it took about 45 minutes to an hour, but as Little Chop got used to the new routine it became faster and easier. She now climbs up into the cot herself and is usually asleep in about 20 minutes, sometimes less. When she wakes up later in the evening, as she inevitably does, I go in and comfort her, lay her back down and stay with her until she’s gone back to sleep. She also still wakes during the night and if I can’t settle her with shooshing and patting I bring her into bed with me. If she still doesn’t settle, I offer a breastfeed – but this is now my last resort.

I am flexible with the new routine and if Little Chop needs her mummy because she is sick or teething I put her to sleep in my bed where she feels the most secure and comforted, then back to the cot in a day or two when she is feeling better.

I don’t believe in using ‘controlled crying/comforting’ or ‘cry it out’ sleep training techniques – any method that causes distress or anxiety to my child isn’t an option – I’d much rather transition Little Chop slowly than risk damaging the strong bond that we have established.

If you’re after a quick fix sleep training method, this isn’t for you, but if you have time and patience, it may be an option. As with everything, the sleep training method that’s best, if you decide to use one, will depend on your child and what you feel comfortable doing – it’s personal choice. But whatever you choose to do, good luck!

 

* I am not a medical professional or sleep coach, I’m just a parent, sharing my experience with other parents who may be in a similar situation.

The Beautiful Mama Blog Award

Gifted by the lovely Valerie at Atlanta Mom of Three

Gifted by the lovely Valerie at Atlanta Mom of Three

I have been nominated for the Beautiful Mama Blog Award by my new friend, Valerie from alantamomofthree.wordpress.com/. Here is a little about how we came to know each other.

When I began this blog just one short week ago, I was having a bad day. It had rained incessantly, my 15 month old daughter was going stir crazy, my partner was at work despite it being Sunday, and I needed a break – badly. So, I sat Little Chop down in front of her favourite DVD with a snack and crept away to the dining table to escape for a little while. A cup of decaf and a Tim Tam later, melbournemummy was born.

I didn’t think anyone would be able to find my blog in the great vastness of the world wide web, let alone comment or subscribe but the next morning I was delighted to find that someone had found my blog through our mutual love of Downton Abbey – and commented – and subscribed! It was Valerie, and her comments made my day.

I have been blown away by the friendliness and camaraderie amongst fellow mummy bloggers and I am so glad to have found this wonderful, supportive community.

So, in the spirit of the Beautiful Mama Award, here are three things I love about motherhood:

1. My daughter lets me see the world through her eyes. Everyday things that had long lost their wonder are new again – especially things in nature like animals, shadows, flowers.

2. My daughter needs me and that makes me feel good. Being needed by someone you love who loves you equally in return in extremely rewarding and makes you feel like you have value as an individual. Which leads me to my next point…

3. My daughter gives me reason for being. Before I had her, I wasn’t sure of my place in the world, but as soon as she came into my life, I knew that if nothing else, I am here for her – to love her, comfort her, teach her and protect her – until my days are over.

And now I’m blubbering…

I’m still new to the blogging world, so I will be passing this award on to other Beautiful Mamas once I’ve had a chance to get to know some of you a little better.