By Guest Blogger Batya The Baby Coach
Up All Night: One woman’s story of raising 4 kids under one- and-a-half
“Man plans and G-d Laughs.” This saying should be stamped across the forehead of every parent, because crazy situations we think will never arise always seem to come our way. We all have glorious plans about how patient we will be, exactly which type of cloth diapers we’ll buy, and how we’ll sleep train. But then we actually become parents and suddenly find ourselves woefully unprepared for our new lives as our “plans” slowly trickle away.
As a baby coach I receive many late-night calls from desperate moms, but I will never forget the call I received from my childhood friend, Tarra (names have been changed to protect the sleep deprived). She called me in a panic with some wholly unexpected news: She had just found out that she was pregnant with triplets!!
When Tarra become a mother, I had a pretty good idea of how her home would run: exactly the opposite of mine. Her kids would probably sleep whenever, however, wherever, and she’d be completely happy like that. Her motto for life growing up was always, “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day – why plan anything…ever?”
Tarra, however, got the shock of her life when she hadn’t planned on having three babies in one shot. Having one baby alone can be challenging to a new Mommy, but multiply that by three and it is almost beyond comprehensible. When she brought them home from the hospital, she was completely (and understandably) overwhelmed. The babies were all up at different hours of the day and night, each one having his own time of irritability, conveniently usually just after she had settled another one. Before my eyes I saw my vibrant, carefree friend transform into a tense, exhausted Mommy.
She realized that something had to change. Even though she herself was never a fan of predictability and routine, she realized that her lack of structure was causing her life to be downright chaotic. She decided that she needed to have some order or her babies were going to drive her absolutely mad.
The fact that I had already been a baby sleep consultant for a number of years definitely helped her figure out where to start with their sleep. We were on the phone constantly discussing their habits, how to help improve their naps, and most importantly how to help them all have a concentrated stretch of sleep at night simultaneously.
I think the hardest challenge Tarra had throughout the beginning of all this was a balancing act. Figuring out what her natural tendencies were while at the same time offering structure so she could be a happy, good Mommy. Does that mean that every mom who isn’t naturally structured has to implement routine? No way! It just means that when someone has three babies all at once and is literally losing it, it may be time to reevaluate what the most important thing is. In Tarra’s case, it was her sanity.
More shockingly than when she had the triplets, Tarra had another (singleton) baby a year and a half later. But, because she was already so confident and on top her toddlers, having one baby was a breeze. She was definitely more laid back and at ease with baby #4, because she was at a place in her life where predictability wasn’t demanded from her nearly as much. The “older ones” were in a playgroup in the mornings, and she was able to spend her mornings relaxing with her baby and not feeling bound to the clock by the toddlers’ routines.
When a mother contacts me frantic that her baby isn’t sleeping in a crib, I always first wonder where her ideas are coming from. Is it because she feels pressured to be a certain type of Mommy? Or is it because she is unhappy with her situation but feels she has remain at status quo because of a certain philosophy she wants to associate with?
The most important thing to always realize is that something is only a problem if you think it is. Tarra realized she wasn’t coping and needed to make changes – so she did. It doesn’t matter what your neighbor or sister does, it only matters if you and your baby are happy.
So next time you hear someone tell you that you’re too harsh and your baby MUST sleep in bed with you, or you overhear someone saying that Attachment Parenting is prehistoric, my advice to you is to simply plug your ears. The only voice you need to hear is your own.