The Art of Sleep

My husband and I have been lucky so far, in that Sophie is a great sleeper. Sometimes. She caught on to the whole ‘night time, day time’ situation really quickly and we had very few issues with the night time sleeps. However recently her daytime sleeps have gotten to a point where she will only nap when being held, usually by me. So now we’re in training and it’s a lot harder than I imagined it would be.

It was always going to take a bit of adjustment to get the hang of self-soothing, but Sophie is doing so, so well, much better than I expected from a little girl who has only ever been rocked to sleep. The hardest part has actually been controlling my own responses to her becoming unsettled. My first instinct is to swoop in and pick her up to rock her back to sleep or offer her a feed. Even when I’m dead asleep, as soon as I hear the tiniest noise coming from her crib, I’m wide awake and ready to interfere. And that’s what I need to remember – it is interfering. If I don’t let her find her own way to calm herself now, I’m setting her up for a world of trouble in the future.

It hurts my heart to see her get worked up, and so far I haven’t been able to let her get to the point where she’s crying (although all the literature says that a little bit of crying is alright), but I think at the moment we’re in a good place where I’m giving her enough space to learn.

Today I was planning to start using some of those same techniques for Sophie’s daytime naps, but circumstances haven’t allowed it. Her grandma came to visit and we went on a lovely walk to the library before the weather heated up too much. When we got home I took the opportunity to have a shower and wash my hair, which gave Sophie time to bond with her gran. However as soon as I stepped into the shower I could hear her crying, and before long it became clear that nothing my poor mother in law did to soothe Sophie was working. Even so, I knew she was safe and it was important for me to learn to trust other people with Soph and to dampen my ‘grab her and make it better’ instinct. So while I didn’t linger overly-long in the shower, I took the time to wash my hair and exfoliate (although I forgot to moisturise), before coming to the rescue.

My poor little darling was beside herself, but once I picked her up out of her pram where gran had decided to put her, she didn’t take long to settle. She even fell asleep after a little bit of rocking. I know I should have put her down to nap before she fell asleep, but after hearing her cry for so long I couldn’t bear to leave her alone in her cot, and I think she needed the contact too. I hope breaking the rules this once won’t derail our journey to self-soothing, but I think in this case the comfort we both get from her sleeping in my arms is more important.

New Year, New Me

This year my resolutions are a little different from previous years, mainly because I’m a little different from previous years. I’m a mother now, and that means I have new priorities. For the first time in my life I know the true meaning of responsibility; there is another human being, completely helpless on her own, relying on me to keep her safe and healthy. To keep her healthy I need to keep myself healthy, and that’s why I have decided to step away from my usual goal of losing weight, and instead focus on self-care.

For years now, ever since I was a teenager, I had an unhealthy relationship with my body. I went from overweight to underweight to overweight again, and spent more time hating my body than I can count. This is why every year I made the resolution to lose weight, usually chose an unhealthy goal weight, then dived into it with extreme calorie restriction and fad diets, crazy amounts of cardio, and an obsession with weighing myself. Needless to say I burnt out quickly and never made much real progress with my weight loss goals.

This all changed for me when I got pregnant. For the first time I can remember, I saw my body as something more than a thing to be hated. I was growing a life inside of me and I felt so strong and sure of my body’s ability to do this. I was really worried that I would freak out when my belly started to grow, considering my history of body-image issues, but I loved my little belly and I miss it now that it is gone. I know it sounds a bit cliché but pregnancy is a magical time, and it taught me to love myself, to trust my body, and to believe in my own inner strength.

This year, my goals are much more simple. I want to worry less, to read more, and to take more time for self-care. I am a natural worrier, always have been and always will be. My emotions are often close to the surface and I can be quick to fall prey to depression and anxiety, especially when I bottle things up to be able to get through the day. This year I will write in my journal rather than bottling things up or ruminating on the things that bother me. I find writing very cathartic and I know that putting my thoughts down on paper will help me to get a better perspective on things. Once my worries are no longer inside my head, I can let go and move on.

In 2021 I really thought that I would easily reach my reading goal of 50 books, since I had more than enough free time being pregnant and out of work, and stuck at home in lockdown after lockdown. Unfortunately, one of my worst pregnancy symptoms was brain fog. I was so unfocussed and had no concentration to speak of. I’m ashamed to say that I only managed to finish reading 16 books, most of them audiobooks. This year I’m going to try again to reach my goal of 50 books, and I’m tentatively planning to reread some of my favourite books and finish some series that I’ve had sitting untouched on my bookshelves for far too long.

My final goal of self-care is something that I have always struggled with. I’m always happy to encourage others to indulge, but when it comes to taking my own advice I find it hard to justify. I always feel that I should be doing more important things and struggle to unwind, which is something I hope to change this year. I have a baby to look after and that takes up a lot of my time, which is why I need to look after myself and avoid burning out. I will allow myself 3 acts of self care every month at the very least, whether it is a bubble bath, an afternoon in the park with a picnic and a book, or greeting the sunrise with a cup of tea. I have to learn that doing things for myself is just as important as doing things for other people.