Home' Aurora : Aurora April 2012 Contents 13
www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Joanne Isaac is a Mum of three,
having welcomed Number 3 into the
world in November. Here she provides
a refreshingly honest account of the
challenges Mums face, sometimes
exacerbated by the demented
fog of sleeplessness...
By JOANNE ISAAC
WHEN YOU HAVE a new baby you are often
asked, "Is he a good baby?" I don't know if
it's the sleep deprivation but when someone
asks me that I feel my teeth start to grind together.
Of course he is a good baby! He is sweet, innocent
and untouched by ill-feeling. How can a newborn be
anything but good?
What people really mean when they ask this question
is, "Does your baby sleep through the night and allow
you to continue your former life without interruption?"
Most people who ask this question will then go on to
tell you about their own or some relative or friend's
baby who started to sleep through the night at one
week old. Logically you know that this is impossible
and untrue but it can knock your fragile sense of
self-worth for six.
New mothers are highly sensitive creatures. We
are sensitive to noise, mess and criticism (real
or imagined). A new mother's self-esteem hangs
by a thread, exacerbated by the demented fog of
sleeplessness. When someone asks about the
sleeping habits of your newborn you feel as though
they are questioning your parenting skills.
At the time of writing our son is seven weeks old. We
also have two daughters, six and four years old. I
am, therefore, currently exhausted. My little man is a
typical newborn -- he sometimes sleeps well and for a
few hours at a time, but mostly he catnaps and needs
help to get to sleep or he goes off to sleep easily only
to wake up after 20 minutes.
Having been through the newborn baby challenges
twice, you would think that I would have some
amazing settling skills in my proverbial bag of Mummy
tricks, but alas, I seem to be as clueless as ever
when it comes to getting a child of mine to sleep for
more than three hours straight. I have an excellent
understanding of all the popular settling techniques
but I can't seem to successfully put any of them into
practice. I blame sleep deprivation -- how can you
effectively settle your baby when you can barely keep
your own eyes open?
Sleep deprivation, an acknowledged form of torture,
has many wonderful side effects -- black bags under
the eyes that render you unrecognisable to yourself,
a short temper the whole family is afraid of and an
inability to see the humorous side of anything. You
spend countless hours of each day fantasising about
your favourite pillow and poolside cocktails in Fiji.
It is no wonder then that it sets me on edge when
someone asks, "Is he a good baby?"
I think the best way to approach a mother with a
newborn is to simply ask, "How are things going?"
and then listen to the answer without judgement. It
doesn't matter if it's your first baby or tenth, mums
with a newborn will appreciate the opportunity to
talk honestly with a friend. It is also best to keep
suggestions to yourself unless the new mum asks
for your advice. In these days of information overload
new parents tend to have read all the latest advice on
everything and are already sadly confused about the
best approach to take -- unsolicited opinions just add
to the general feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt
that can paralyse parents, especially first timers.
I am coping better with the lack of sleep this time
around as I know a number of things to be true:
You get used to being tired as one week rolls into
Your wonderful husband, who is currently ensuring
the household ship doesn't sink and your other
children are properly cared for, will do anything to
ensure you get as much sleep as possible (happy
wife, happy life), so rather than be a martyr this time
around, I ask him for help as often as possible ---
sometimes I even ask nicely!
The baby will eventually sleep for at least six hours
straight at night (a night that will go down in history as
a very good night for me).
He will probably be my last baby and I am
determined to appreciate our special time together.
It is so busy during the day with the girls constantly
on the go and demanding what little attention I
can spare them that the 3am feed is a blissfully
quiet period of time that Caleb and I can share
I know one day I will miss the time when my
children were small, including all the challenges.
These are golden days that not everyone gets to
experience and I intend to cherish them.
In the meantime when someone asks me if he's
good baby I simply smile and say, "He's not just good,
Postscript: Caleb has now been
sleeping through the night for a little
while, although that is
bound to change
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