About two weeks before I gave birth to my first child, a friend gave me a popular book by a certain parenting/sleep guru. Over the next two weeks, I became obsessed with the author’s manual on how to ‘parent’ a newborn. I read it and then read parts of it to my sceptical partner, John. Our baby girl Kalani came along and I quickly worked the author’s routine into her life. And it worked. Kalani was, or should I say Kalani became, a perfect sleeper. She began to sleep through the night at six weeks of age and would sleep during the day as long as I let her. Oh, life was great! I had swooned into motherhood. And I, yes I, was a GREAT mother! I had mastered sleep. I was like the baby whisperer. Kalani was a ‘good’ baby. I therefore was a ‘good’ mother. Right? Wrong.
Three years on and I still feel sick in the stomach when I think about this. I don’t think I quite gloated (well perhaps I did). I definitely wasn’t shy in telling other new mothers of my achievement and how ‘simple’ it was to achieve this baby goddess. Oh and the judgment. I am mother, hear me judge. I judged other mothers on their child’s inability to sleep, how much they cried, how many milk feeds they had, what they ate, their goos, their gahs. I still don’t know why I was so quick to judge or why I took so much of the credit for Kalani’s sleeping. I honestly valued her ability to sleep as a direct reflection of my ability as a mother. It was so small minded, judgmental and utter rubbish.
When Kalani was 23 months old, I gave birth to my second child, Xavi. For every moment of pride I felt with Kalani, for every gloat and every peaceful night- life’s big circle came back around and smacked me in the face. I had a child who would cat nap at most during the day and wake two to three hourly at night. Oh and the crying. I couldn’t get him close to a routine. My popular “sleep book” did not work for Xavi! He wanted to feed constantly. For months! Similarly with Kalani, I began to judge my own ability as a mother on Xavi’s inability to sleep. I lost all my confidence and instead of sticking to one routine, I tried many. The mother in the park said I should call Tresillian, my neighbour swore by another baby sleep author. My sister said, don’t do a routine, just go with what the baby wants. “Let him cry for a while”. “Don’t ever let a baby cry”. “Wake him up.”. “Never wake a sleeping baby”. Aghhhh!!
I felt judging eyes on me everywhere. My in-laws. The neighbours. Other mothers. Everywhere. Maybe I was over-sensitive but I just assumed they were judging me like I had judged others.