Saturday, 11 March 2017

Should we all just be waiting a bit longer?


For those that follow me on social media, will know that last week we overcame a pretty big obstacle. We gave up the dummy. I never really planned on using a dummy but when Elijah was in NICU, he constantly wanted to suck and this gave him comfort so the nurses made him one. I vaguely remember freaking out before Elijah was one because he was waking up about 100 times a night for it. I was very sleep deprived so sought advice from friends how to kick it.  Cold turkey was the favoured option, we lasted 2 hours and a failed nap time before I wanted to chuck myself out of the nursery window. We sacked it off, and I gave in and relented with the excuse of, well he will need this for recovery after the op. We will address it after (that is pretty much the theme for my first year of parenting.) But, then the year crept up on us, and he was sleeping better, he would wake up and put it back in himself, unless he couldn’t find it,  which was normally embedded in his ear for some unknown reason. After Elijah’s second birthday we began to consciously try to cut it down during the day, and this worked well. He would wake up, put it in a special box and not have it until bedtime. We went on like this for perhaps a month or so, then he got ill. Then low and behold the dummy was back in full time work.

This brings us up to last Friday when something occurred, something that would bring terror to many a parent. I LOST THEM ALL. By all I mean three, but it was tipping down and I was certainly not dragging my 5-month pregnant arse off the sofa and a grumpy toddler out to get more. Bedtime crept closer, there was some silent panic and I looked EVERYHWERE. We were facing bedtime on our own, dummy-less for the first time in 2 and a half years. I am not sure where it came from, but, ‘Maybe the dummy fairies took them for other girls and boys and they might leave you a gift’ left my lips. He brought it. I was smug with my impromptu bull. Oh lord, it is 7pm and I have no ‘gift’, a quick text to Greg resolved this and before you knew it I had even penned a letter from the fairies. Might as well go the whole hog. He slept through. I was shocked, he asked for it a couple of times in the morning but loved getting his note and magazine. So, day two without the dummy how was it going to work? Well I wouldn’t be around to find out, I did what every sensible mother would, and dumped him at Nans and ran for the hills! After him finding a dummy in the garden that the fairies should have taken that is. Whoops. I have now also found the other two! That was a week ago, and we are still without it, looks like we cracked it. It wasn’t planned, I wasn’t even too bothered he still had one. I knew he wasn’t going to get to 15 and have on even though I do still suck my thumb, ahem. I remember putting all that pressure on me and him to get rid of it before, but for what? To stop the dummy police from arresting me? Neither of us were ready to give it up.  Because I was pressured by social expectations and other parents to fit in and loose the dummy? It has led me to revaluate milestones and big changes like this, weaning, sleep training, potty training, losing the dummy. Should we all just be waiting a bit longer? I mean does it really matter when and how we do these things?

We of course, didn’t have the average start to parenthood but we still faced the same problems all new parents do. I remember vividly the 4 month sleep regression, and I think this was when I can pinpoint where I mentally I started getting very ill too. Elijah was waking up a lot, and we would then bring him into bed with us. I then couldn’t sleep so went and slept on the sofa. This went on for a good few months and I was miserable. One day I remember Elijah was experiencing silent reflux but at this point it hadn’t be diagnosed. He was crying and crying I called up Greg at work begging for him to come home. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to leave. I had even planned this. I would have a bag and my passport packed and hidden in the dining room. When Greg came home from work, I would ask him to go put Elijah to bed and this is when I would sneak out. I didn’t really plan what I would do after I left, but I thought about that for a really long time. We read all the books, we scoured Mumsnet, Baby Centre and tried EVERYTHING. I mean the whole lot, white noise, bath and bed routine, story, stopping naps (BAD MOVE), a late snack just before bed so he was full, a warm bottle. You name it we tried it. Being a NICU baby waiting for an op, I pandered to Elijah, I let him fall asleep on me and wouldn’t put him down. I gave in so easily and I didn’t want to stress him out. He became very dependent on us. We co slept and this was fine up to a point, when we returned from having the op me and Greg were incredibly strained. We were not sleeping in the same bed and neither of us where happy. So, I trotted off to the library and found a Supernanny book, we tried the control crying technique. Elijah was probably about 1 by this point, so old enough to know roughly what was going on. By night two he went to sleep on his own and in his own bed. All night. Yes, he still wakes up now and again on the odd occasion but getting that book and sleep training saved our relationship and our sanity. I think it worked because he was older.
Would we ever sleep again without the dummy?
With the new baby, we potentially could do this from a younger age, as there is no risk to their heart. They will not need an op. I have learnt a lot from having Elijah but I still think I will wait. It just seems with the sleep training he got it because he was old enough to understand, the same with the dummy. I used to drive myself insane with trying to do what everyone else was doing but the truth was this was pointless. If they are not ready, then there isn’t too much you can do. It is just a lot of stress, fighting and being miserable for nothing. Socially there are a lot of expectations from you and your baby to tick these things off at a certain age and if you do not you feel like a failure. If we are honest, I spent most of Elijah’s first year being completely depressed. Driving myself mad for him to be exactly like everyone else. I have learnt to relax and one of the best pieces of advice I was given was if it isn’t a problem for you, then there is no problem. The same with weaning, go with your gut and your baby will lead you don’t worry about everyone else. Stick two fingers up to the unspoken competitiveness. I recently learnt the hard way about potty training (seriously when will I learn?) I thought he was ready, others his age were so he was right? Wrong. After many wet patches on my bed/sofa/ carpet/ cat, I gave up. The stress and pressure I was putting on Elijah wasn’t fair. If he didn’t want to go on the potty or toilet, then he wasn’t ready. I am letting him lead me, he likes wearing pull ups, staying dryer a bit longer, telling me he is wet, and coming with me to the toilet for now that is enough. I wanted him out of nappies before the baby comes, but if he isn’t then so be it.

It has taken 2 and a half years for me to realise but I do think as parents, we just need to relax. I could say not to compare your child to another, no point you will. Then you will feel crappy because they are eating curry with a fork, peeing on the toilet and can count to 50. You look at your child and they are rolling around the floor like a weeble eating fluff. I can’t even remember where all this pressure came from but I knew Elijah had to be dummy-less, sleeping through the night and should be able to thread a bead on a string whilst walking with a book on his head. My one regret with Elijah was that I just didn’t enjoy him. To take in everything he was doing, to think that was enough. That we were enough, that I was doing a good job. The pressure is crazy, so are the unreal social expectations. Give yourself a break. I think if we all did this, we would be a lot happier. I most certainly am, when they are ready, they are ready. It is so much easier to do these things when they are willing too, if not it’s like hitting your heard against the wall. Take a step back and evaluate it, is it worth it? Does it really matter? If it isn’t life and death then just leave it, and wait a bit longer. It will be worth it in the end, and you won’t have fought a never ending war to get there. 

 

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