I didn’t realise how much of a control freak I was until I had my first child. In that way, he was such a blessing. Despite a rocky start with a bit of colic and feeding every two hours in the first two weeks, at about eight weeks J started to gravitate towards a routine, and at four months slept through the night from seven to seven. Honestly, we didn’t know how lucky we were!
Until that point I was shell-shocked from the quick labour and wicked episiotomy, and the sleep deprivation was nothing like I had anticipated. But, from four months, J was a dream ninety-nine percent of the time. This kid had two sleeps until he was about two years old. One day his afternoon nap was of such epic proportions, I watched an entire film without hearing a peep out of him. When he was about nine months of age, life was so cruisy that I was bored, (yeah, I know, ridiculous!) and I was itching to get back to work.
I started teaching in the new school year and my husband and I felt so chilled about this parenting gig that we thought we might as well start trying straight away for bub number two. It had taken me about nine months to get pregnant with J, so we figured we should get cracking if we wanted a two to three year gap between them.
As fate would have it, I got pregnant straight away and my blissful three days a week of teaching suddenly became so much more exhausting with my morning sickness and ‘days off’ chasing after a toddler. Nevertheless, L arrived just before Christmas and burst into the world with amid chaos and calamity. The birth itself was actually a triumph for me. After my feelings of failure with my episiotomy with J, I had enrolled in a Calm Birthing course so that I could overcome my fear and hopefully avoid being cut or tearing second time around.
Indeed, despite birthing in the exact same room as J was born in, I had L kneeling on the floor and by some miracle had not one tear, even with the midwife reaching up to pull him out by the shoulders as he was born. Afterwards, however, was another story. When showering after the birth I felt like I was losing a lot of blood and then when I was taken to my room to lie down, I began cramping (worse than when in labour), starting to lose consciousness and to haemorrhage. Long story short, the room filled with nurses and doctors, they saved my life and I had to choose to have either a blood transfusion or bedrest for two weeks after I left the hospital. I chose the latter, which in hindsight, perhaps was not the most effective option, as the first year with my two boys was probably the most difficult of my life so far.
L was a velcro baby, he suffered from reflux and he only slept in thirty minute patches, if that. I was a walking zombie and between the three of us we were at the doctor’s every other week. For my first son I had followed Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep routines and it suited him to a tee. For L, it was another story, and yet I just kept persisting. I did everything exactly the same as I had done with my first son but L did not sleep through the night until he was eleven months old.
I was exhausted! I got everything my eldest contracted through creche, including Hand Foot and Mouth disease. I had a pap test that came back with pre-cancerous cells, I had recurrent thrush and dizzy spells. I was rushing around like a madwoman trying to please everyone and was running myself into the ground. It was crazy. And it wasn’t like I didn’t have help either; both my parents and my in-laws visited to help or took my toddler often. I was so grateful but in some ways this made me feel even worse - I had all this support and yet still wasn’t coping. I felt like a complete and utter failure.
As L began to walk and talk, his reflux well and truly passed and life started to get easier. When L turned two I knew I wanted to have a third child. We did try for number three and we were blessed with E three years after L was born, and just as he had been toilet trained! This time I felt as though the birth was horrific (fast again and painful) but my recovery was the best of all three. It was somewhat prophetic because my recovering from the birth rolled into the recovery of my mothering - when I let go of what I thought I should be doing.
I tried to put E in her crib from the start but she just wouldn’t settle. So, I did the unthinkable, I co-slept. I had not even contemplated co-sleeping with my first two because it was not ever put to me as a safe option. In any case I would have been frightened that I would roll onto my babies. But with E, honestly it was the best thing I ever did. I was surprised that I actually slept well and had energy for all my children. And when E cried, I breastfed her. I didn’t try to ‘hold her out’, or write down the time she fed and keep track of how many minutes each side like I did with the boys, I just fed her. I fed her when she was tired, scared, bored, when she hurt herself. I did what I had to do to keep everyone happy and life moving on.
No, she didn’t sleep through the night by at four months, or eleven months, and doesn’t even now at two and a half years, BUT I’m happy. I get a great night’s sleep each night, I still have energy for everyone in my family and I don’t have any regrets. E taught me to slow down. I don’t have to do everything and be everywhere on time. I try to, for sure, but it’s not the end of the world if we’re not. I say ‘no’ to people, (nicely!), if I can’t fit things in. If they are true friends, they will understand. I say ‘yes’ to time to myself more now too. Probably still not as much as I should but definitely more than I used to. Mums and dads need to have time to recharge and not have people needing and demanding of them twenty-four seven.
My third child changed me for the better but I don’t mean to say that it works like that for everyone. I know lots of mums who were just like this first time around, or second time around, but it took me till three to step back. The year E was born, I was also fortunate enough to befriend a lot of other mums of three who had the same experience and who confided, ‘You do what you need to do to survive’.
I don’t want to make it sound ominous. It’s anything but that. I am so blessed to have three beautiful healthy children and there is no doubt that each day it gets easier. Each of our children are unique and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to parenting. However you choose to parent, have faith that you know what is best for your child. Your parenting may change as your family grows too, and that’s okay as well.
I’m a reformed control freak, cured by having three rambunctious children and fuelled by coffee and chocolate. When I’m not child wrangling, teaching primary school kids Japanese, or procrastinating over home duties, I’m settling in on my couch with a wine, watching BBC historical dramas or reruns of Felicity, and writing.
Hood: Macedon Ranges
Children: Two boys (aged seven and five) and a girl (aged two and a half).
Motherhood in 5 words: Chaos interspersed with heart-melting moments.
Fav family-friendly place: 3 Little Pigs Cafe, Gisborne, and Woodend Children’s Park, Woodend.
Coffee order: Cappuccino no sugar
Blog: A Pocketful Of Time
Time is a precious commodity as a mum. Here are my reflections on my life as a mum, the beautiful area I live in, my family’s road to healthier living, and the occasional poem.
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