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A collection of stories, insights, pain and laughter that details our lives, our experiences as women and mothers and the wisdom that comes out of that.

"Go the fuck to sleep!" Exhaustion, judgement & the toolkit that got it all back

Bridget Wood

If the definition of a boundary is the point at which we're about to lose ourselves; I was gone.

At 3am one Sunday morning I found myself overwhelmed, exhausted, and unable to hold space at all, for the raging and crying my baby was consumed by. My husband snoring beside me added salt to the wound. 

The absence of quality sleep is the one constant in the early years of parenting, for many mothers. And it can be our undoing; all intentions to be a centred, calm-amongst-the-chaos mother out the window, as the sleep debt takes it's toll, wreaking havoc on our sense of self, and our relationships.

On the surface, there seems to be only two options when it comes to night-time parenting; either sleep train your baby through 'controlled crying' or feed/rock/pat/shush them on demand throughout the night, often in a co-sleeping arrangement. 

Co-sleeping was always my natural choice, and it's been a beautiful relationship with both of my children in the early months; until it doesn't work anymore. And if we don't listen to the whispers within, that we need to shift something, it comes like a sledgehammer at 3am.

As I plunged into my own darkness and anger, and faced the mirror my child was reflecting to me, and really bathed in the powerlessness I was feeling in that moment,  I realised Sylvie was teaching me to let go - she was making me feel what she was feeling, so it would be painful enough for me to change something.

This is the profound nature of the parent-child dynamic, our children constantly reflecting to us where our next evolution of growth is; taking us to every pain and unmet need, and also every joy and excitement that's possible to experience. 

In the podcast episode 'When your baby won't sleep' I share the raw truth of what this pain was revealing to me, to get me to face and transform. 

And the remarkable thing is that when we transform, the world around us transforms. When we get congruent, align our beliefs, and create the space for healing, our children feel the warmth of this intention and respond. 

To move past the resentment I was feeling, and create the transformation I wanted in our night-time relationship, I ask myself the following questions:

- What is this trying to reveal to me about my own story? 
- How can I provide alternative opportunity for Sylvie to feel heard and release her big feelings?
- What are the benefits to me and our family of creating the change I want?
- What are the benefits to Sylvie in creating this change?

Clear and congruent to move forward, I setup and styled Sylvie's bedroom into a calm and inviting space, and spoke to her all day about how bedtime would be different, and that I will be listening to her tears and frustration as we make a few changes to her night-time habits. 

A breastfeed before dinner (instead of feeding to sleep), bath, massage, book, listening to her tears, and once they subsided, a lullaby and she drifted off into the land of nod. It seems she was welcoming the transition to more independent sleep, as she woke three times the first night, and only two the second, with just one feed during the night. By the third night, she woke just once, between 7pm and 7am.

From resignation, to building resentment, at my unpredictable nights and the constant waking, in just three nights I've created more spaciousness within me, which is paving the way for greater connection with my children during the day, and more time that's just my own, at night. 

And the beautiful thing? I'm so excited in the mornings to go and greet my babe when she wakes; it feels like I love her just that little bit more! 

Bridget Wood is Co-Founder of Nourishing The Mother and a lover of life and connecting people to themselves through wisdom, introspection and quality questions. Bridget is also the Director and Events Manager of Suburban Sandcastles. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a desire to understand the bigger picture of human behaviour and how the world works, Bridget is on an inspired path to learn more deeply who we are beyond the limitations that we, and our society and culture, place upon upon us.