My son is now 16 months old. When he was newborn he was a nightmare. We couldn’t lie him flat for the first 6 months of his life. I couldn’t leave him for a microsecond. I now believe he may have had silent reflux, though he was never diagnosed.
As a new mum I was utterly overwhelmed by him and his needs. I couldn’t meet them and meet my own basic needs. He fed every 2 hours from me, took an hour to feed, half an hour to burp and then slept for half an hour before waking again. He did this all day and all night for 4 months. I got used to sleeping in 20 minute stints because that’s all I could get. He pushed me to the limit until I broke.
His demands re-triggered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in me, a condition I had suffered from before, and I began to react to him as if he was my violent father. I felt trapped and terrified all over again, while he just screamed and screamed and screamed.
I was in an absolute, utterly horrific nightmare.
We did have some great moments too. The flip-side of a clingy baby that takes ages to feed is that you enjoy lots of long, snuggly cuddles.
But after four months when I broke down and couldn’t go on any more, I went back to counselling to deal with my PTSD, we put the baby onto formula so my partner could help more, and I coincidentally discovered Hand in Hand Parenting.
Here, I discovered emotional release. Letting my baby cry while I stayed close. At first the idea of Staylistening sounded absolutely horrific, but over time I have gotten used to the idea of letting him release his emotion and trying to see it as a good thing for him, rather than an all-out physiological attack on me.
My counsellor was of a similar mindset to the Hand in Hand Parenting folks and between us we developed a mantra, “Whatever it takes…”
I consciously let go of any notion of ‘training’ or keeping control my child and instead focused on strengthening the bond between us, letting him express his emotions, and trying to control my own behaviour instead of his.
I won’t say it was easy, but it got easier with practice.
Now he is 16 months and everyone – I mean EVERYONE – tells me what an amazing child he is.
“So chilled,” they say. “So easy going.”
We have a beautiful bond that I absolutely treasure, and we laugh and play and have so much fun.
He still isn’t sleep trained, he still eats food only if he’s in the mood, he’s still a wild card in many respects, but I don’t worry about any of that any more.
I don’t worry about making rods for my back or making him behave in a way that pleases adults around us. I just assert boundaries where boundaries need to be and I focus on strengthening our bond.
I recently heard about the idea of “holding space” for someone and it occurred to me that Hand in Hand’s approach is all about that. Holding space for your child and trusting in their inherent good nature.
You would never guess we had such a challenging start to our relationship. Now, I can see my son blossoming and I absolutely beam with pride.
From Karen, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
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