We had forgotten the most important thing…

It’s World Mental Health Day today & it’s got me thinking about my own mental health and motherhood journey, and about how much I truly struggled in those early days.

My whole life I’d been a planner…by nature and by job description. I had motherhood all planned out.

And then our baby was born and, well, let’s just say it didn’t quite go how I planned, not least where sleep was concerned. And our lives were turned inside out and upside down.

We became consumed by this quest to work out why he wouldn’t sleep. We scoured the internet at 3am, read all the books…drove ourselves insane totally fixated on it.

And then , it became clear one bleary eyed morning, that in all our planning and daydreaming, we had failed to realise one very simple fact:

That this baby we were now blessed with…was in fact an actual person. A real, live person. With his own head and heart and tummy and body and wants and needs and total disregard for plans and thoughts and feelings and very loud cries and total distaste for sleep. Not a robot. Not a doll. Not a project to be managed. A person, a teeny tiny little person.

And if there were ever 2 things in this world that we cannot control…it’s other people, and sleep

Suddenly the serenity prayer came to me…

“grant me the serenity to know the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I couldn’t control him or his sleep.

But what I could control? Just 2 things…

  1. How I think about sleep
  2. How I feel about sleep.

So how did we change how we thought about sleep?

We chucked out all the baby expert books and instead focused on reading our baby, trusting our instincts and learning what real, biological normal and healthy sleep looks like.

We stopped driving ourselves mad wondering why our baby wouldn’t sleep and instead got curious about why he couldn’t sleep, learning how to create the best conditions for sleep to come.

And what about how we felt about sleep?

Well, knowing what was normal and that he wasn’t broken or needed fixing helped massively…but also we stopped blaming sleep for everything that was wrong in our lives. We dug beyond and behind our sleep struggles to see what was really going on and then worked to fix THAT instead.

But there was still something missing…we were still reacting to blips and getting caught up and tripped up when sleep wobbled…as it does, often.

What piece of the puzzle was missing? Me…

I had totally fallen out of the picture. I had fallen off the list. I had lost myself in all of this struggle and I was feeling it. I’d lost sight of who I was, what my values were, what made me happy…all of it.

Because yes, sleep struggles can rob us of the joy of motherhood like nobody’s business…but it’s nobody’s business but OURS to put that joy back in again. And once we do, those sleep struggles seem so much smaller, so much easier to navigate. Everything is easier if we’re looking after ourselves, it just puts everything back into perspective.

So I put myself not just back on the list, but to the top of it. I prioritised my own health…physical, mental and emotional. I not only gave myself permission to feel more joy but I made it a mandatory part of every single day.

Because in the words of Dr Laura Markham

“you cannot DO better, if you FEEL bad.”

It’s just science.

And really, all we want is to do better for our little ones, isn’t it? Then we owe it to them to make ourselves feel better, first.

So start with joy. Start with your OWN joy, and the rest will follow. Even sleep.

And if  you’re not sure how, but you would desperately like to, then join my free challenge Sleep Calm & Carry on, designed to take you from Sleep Rage to Sleep Sage in 3 days.  We kick off on 16th October and you can find out more and sign up here


First published on Selfish Mother.

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