There I was, another day full of tears. My eyes felt gritty, I was too embarrassed to leave the house because of the circles under my eyes and I found it difficult to be bubbly and smiley with my little man. The house was a mess and I couldn’t even bring myself to nap during the day for fear that I would just melt into this existence where the real world did not exist. I had reached a point – we had tried everything. From naturopaths to paediatricians, rocking to sleep to laying down sleepy but awake. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING was working.
I trawled Google for the millionth time and began to stumble upon Sleep Schools. I decided it was our final shot, our last hope. We had Private Health so why not go for the best? So we did. I cried over the phone to the admissions nurse when she asked if I was ‘depressed’. Within 2 days we were driving 3 hours away to stay for four days in hope that we would come home with a happy baby that slept.
When we arrived my husband and I were both a mess. We were beyond tired. They asked me a series of questions and determined that I didn’t have Post Natal Depression but I scored pretty high on the anxiety scale. Big fat Surprise. Not. My anxiety levels probably peaked when I walked down the hall and saw that my baby was going to be way down there, in a tiny room in the dark for his sleeps and I was going to be all by myself in another room with no baby monitor.
The nurses seemed nice and the first day was a gentle approach. However there was talk of things like the fact that they thought Mr T was weaning himself off the breast completely as he wasn’t feeding well during the day. He was 9 months old at the time. Then there was the fact that I was not to breastfeed him at all from the hours of 10pm to 7am. This was not going to be easy. Did they know my kid? He breastfed overnight like it was going out of style.
As the days went on things went from bad to worse. The first night Mr T woke hourly. They tried to comfort him and came and got me when they couldn’t. They tried to pat him to sleep and had some radio in the room that was meant to calm him. No picking up of baby allowed. He was scared and knew this was not his home.
Then there was a time during our stay, I forget what day, where I came across an amazing nurse. As the day progressed she got to know Mr T. She said he had ‘spunk’ and was not going to back down easily. We tried gentle techniques and it worked. It was amazing. He was going down awake and falling asleep in his cot. No more putting him down only for him to wake 10 minutes later. And best of all minimal crying was involved. I urged her to watch him breastfeed and she gave me some tips. No talk about him weaning himself. Excellent.
With the night though brought the night nurses and there was nothing but tears from him and I. I paced the halls and they told me to go and do stupid things like “get a cup of a tea” or “how about I get you some ear plugs?” They didn’t want me to go in there. They said this is what had to be done. The next morning my beautiful angel looked so tired. I had never seen him look so exhausted.
My perfect nurse came around again and I told her what happened. I put my foot down and said this was my last night and I wanted to be doing the comforting and I wanted a monitor in my room. It was done and much to the night nurses’ dismay I went in there 2 hourly and comforted him by patting and I didn’t once let him cry.
The next day the paediatrician came to see me. It was determined that while progress was made it really wasn’t enough. He should be sleeping without me in the room and perhaps I should stay another night. “No thanks” I said and we walked out the door and I will never forget that breeze that hit my face. I felt free.
When we got home, I kept doing what my perfect nurse had taught me. It was working and Mr.T started sleeping 3-4 hour stretches. My husband and I decided in a week or two we would start to gently stop the patting etc. But here is what happened: Mr T got a cold, then he got mobile. He was rolling all over the place. Everything we learnt went to crap and before I knew it we were back where we started.
Months have now passed and Mr T is crawling, standing and has popped 4 new teeth. He still does NOT sleep but he has some good days. Yesterday I was ridiculously lucky to speak to Pinky McKay. For the first time ever, I was made to feel no guilt by a professional. She was amazing to talk to.
This morning I breastfed in the rocking chair until Mr T was sleepy. He gave me a little bite so I popped him up over my shoulder and I smelt his hair. Then when his breathing was heavy I popped him down and blew him a kiss. And I did not feel guilty, not once.
I’ll be putting Pinky’s suggestions in place after going shopping this weekend and I can’t wait. I’m excited by a fresh perspective that hasn’t come from a book (although her books are great). It’s come from someone who over the phone got to know my baby. Someone who listened, understood and sympathised. She offered ideas and things to research which I hadn’t looked into before. I’ll keep you posted on our efforts and the effect it has on my spunky little guy’s sleep.
Have you been to a sleep school? Was it a pass or fail?