The best advice I ever received, as a mum
When you have a child, everyone has a tip to share, their absolute must have best advice But some days it feels like everyone just wants to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Or at least that is how feels as a new mum who hasn’t had a good nights sleep for months. People forget that the very large pregnancy bump together with a child bouncing on your bladder make it nigh on impossible to have a good night’s sleep so you’re exhausted before the baby even arrives.
When the advice comes at you, from all directions, you smile and say “thank you” but in your head you are thinking “just shut up” (or words to that effect).
The first few years:
When I look back at the first few years of having children, I am actually in awe of what I managed to achieve. Given that sleep did not feature on anyone’s agenda (except my husband’s – of course), I am amazed that somehow we are all here, in one piece and actually thriving.
I had one child who, even now, is not a fan of sleeping through the night, then at 6 months he had emergency brain surgery. I was then on mega alert for any slight change in his behaviour so neither of us slept much at all. Then 8 months later, the twins arrived, 3 months earlier than expected. Again, the stress of having children in NICU meant no sleep. Then the fun really began when they arrived home and suddenly I didn’t have a bank of nurses around to help with night feeds or nappy changes. Add to this, a child who did not like change of any description, and a child with no light perception and I had to accept that sleep would not be a close friend for the foreseeable future.
I loved the advice from the various professionals we saw, or in magazines I read – “sleep when they sleep”. Oh how I laughed (or if I am being honest, oh how I cried). You try “sleeping when they sleep” when you have three children under 18 months.
Forget any special needs or disabilities; three children under 18 months raises a lot of challenges – not least of all, getting a pram that allows you to take everyone out of the house together.
Add special needs to the equation and suddenly the challenges increase ten-fold. Appointment after appointment, practitioner after practitioner, form after form, advice after advice after advice. Trying to remember exactly what you were supposed to be doing, what advice was for what child, how to actually use the advice such as “use his obsessions”, how to encourage your child with ASD to try new foods, how to teach your blind son how to use a spoon, remembering who was coming to the house today or where your appointment is that day, did you ask anyone to help out – so much to do and so little sleep to help you do it.
Something had to give:
Eventually, something had to give and it was me. I ended up being rushed into hospital, by ambulance, with chest pains.
Thankfully, it turned out to be stress related, my body’s way of saying “ok, Mrs, hang on a minute, we’re struggling here”.
When I was lying in A&E, worrying about the kids, worrying about me, worrying if my friend had managed to get hold of my husband, etc, a Doctor arrived to chat. He (and yes it was a man) sat on the edge of the bed, talking about what had happened and then asking what was happening in my life, what had been happening when the chest pains started. As I started to talk, as the tears started to flow, he took my hand and said
“You’re not Superwoman, you know? Superwoman is a fictional character. And she doesn’t have any children. And she certainly doesn’t have any children with special needs or disabilities”
I lay there, in floods of tears and as I heard these words, the reality of what he was saying hit me.
- I was trying to be everything to everybody
- I was trying to raise three children with special needs without any real guide
- I had no family nearby and hubby was working lots of extra hours so we could just pay the bill
- I had no real network of support as we had moved to the area just a year or so earlier
- I was setting myself 5* standards but I only had 2* capacity.
I was kept in overnight, supposedly to monitor me, but I think it was more a case of just letting me rest.
When I came home the next day, I hugged the children and looked at my hubby who was experiencing sleep deprivation. The breakfast dishes were in the sink, children were still in PJs, the therapies had been skipped but everyone was still in one piece.
So, today, as you think about everything you should have done, everything you would like to do. As you give yourself a hard time because the dishes are still in the sink, the stairs need hoovering, you’re still in PJs at lunch time or the kids are sat in front of the tv/their ipad so you can just catch up on Facebook, please remember
Superwoman is a fictional character – without children
Repeat this mantra to yourself. Repeat it everyday until you start to believe it.
I received so much advice over the years, most of it well meaning, but this one sentence is the one that sticks with me. Most of my friends are probably sick of hearing me tell this story but I know what a difference it made to me.
I really hope it makes a difference to you.