Up until the birth of my second child, there had never been a moment in my life when I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind.
But after being deprived of anything that resembled “decent” sleep for 12 months on end, exhaustion had altered my laid-back, approachable and relatively chillaxed self into a hyper-sensitive, darty-eyed person who tended to laugh at people when they politely asked me how I was doing.
To my family, I was a raging, fragile mess at home in the evenings, living on a bunch of 45-minute sleep cycles from about 8:00pm until 6:00am. I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t feel sick with tiredness.
It took just one night collapsed on the kitchen floor with a crying, tired little bub to make me realise that no-one was winning. My partner was amazing, but unfortunately, he wasn’t lactating. I suddenly found myself angrily hissing at my child to “go the f*** to sleep”.
Yep, I just admitted that. I was desperate.
That’s the moment when I decided I needed some help.
My GP handed me a referral to a baby sleep centre in Brisbane, and I’d always trusted her judgement. But deep down, I figured it would turn out to be some kind of archaic, anti-attachment type of place where I’d be forced to leave my baby to cry in a dark room and sort himself out. No thanks.
More importantly, I told myself, that would mean I had failed to fix the problem all by myself, something that I wasn’t ready to admit. I was extremely committed to fulfilling the role I’d set out for myself — being a gentle, responsive parent — and I’d already decided that sleep training didn’t fit the brief.
On my quest to remain a “selfless” mum, I decided it was better to suffer than to train my kid to sleep in a separate room. Never mind the fact that I completely lacked the energy to enjoy being a parent.
I spoke to a psychologist with a special interest in postnatal depression. Her words resonated with me. Why do we have to choose between sucking it up, or crying it out? Wasn’t there a gentle way to help both parent and child to get some sleep?
I had never thought controlled crying was fair on babies, but co-sleeping wasn’t working at all because he was waking up constantly throughout the night.