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Sarah Norris – The Baby Detective

Self Care And Parenting
August 18, 2018

Self Care And Parenting

This post is a bit different from my normal, informative ones, but I hope will serve as an explanation for the recent lack of posts, and to make a point about why self care is important for everyone, especially parents who are frequently busy, stressed, exhausted, low on funds, and often dealing with unexpected and, sometimes, traumatic situations.

My job working with families with new babies can get tiring and intense but after 25 years I am now used to it. After learning the hard way I have changed my way of working to ensure I get home often enough to recharge my batteries at my little country cottage, which has definitely improved my quality of life.

It works well, and I have a good work/home balance, but 4 months ago the unexpected happened and turned my life upside down.

Tragedy Strikes.

I had been working with new clients in London for only three hours when I got a call from my dad in A&E. He was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t speak so put me on to a nurse who told me my mum had Sepsis and she was in such a bad way that they had put a ‘do not resuscitate order’ on her. To say this was a shock was an understatement!

My parents are both 84, my mum has mid-stage Alzheimer’s, and my wonderful dad is her sole carer, but there had been no warning that she was physically ill.

My clients were so understanding. They said I should go immediately. So I joined my brother and sister-in-law on the long drive home, where we were met by all the rest of the family at the hospital.

Mum was very ill, drifting in and out of consciousness, confused, weak and upset, and between the family we devised a rota to ensure there was always someone home to visit mum and support dad, which led to a crazy schedule for me.

The Whirlwind Schedule With No Time For Self Care

Because I was the only one who could visit midweek, my current clients, and the next clients I was booked with, generously adapted their bookings so that I would spend 48 hrs in London with one client, 48 hrs with the other, and two and a half days midweek with my parents in Doncaster, returning to London for one night with the second client, then starting all over again.

I am eternally grateful to both these clients as without their understanding I would have had to cancel both jobs.

I am used to coping with stressful jobs, and rising to the occasion, but this was the most difficult situation I have ever encountered because of the personal emotional strain I was under.

My life became a blur and I had no time or opportunity for any sort of self-care, no relaxing baths, no walks to clear the head, no gin and tonic at the end of the day. I didn’t even have time for any pampering such as manicures, pedicures, massages or hairdressers. I put myself on a low carb diet to give me more energy and mental clarity which worked, but it also meant I couldn’t comfort eat either, and I began to feel the strain. My only comfort was cuddling my client’s babies, which gave me precious moments of peace.

This reminded me of the hundreds of times I have told clients that they MUST make time for some sort of self-care, and made me realise how easy that is to say…but not so easy to do!

I Felt So Alone

At my lowest, I felt so alone and torn by needing to be in 2 places at once, that the only thing I could think of to do to help myself was to put on my cuddliest, snuggliest fleece to act as a do-it-yourself hug.

This went on for 3 weeks, until the work bookings ended. My mum made good progress, even getting as far as a rehabilitation centre that had her up and walking again, but she has since had another bout of sepsis and an internal bleed which proved too much for her frail body so after a further 4 weeks in hospital she is now back home for ‘end of life care’.

We have a wonderful team of Carers, District Nurses, Doctors, and every other help we could possibly need and I think we have all now come to terms with the inevitable. Mum is happy to be home, and pain and distress free which makes it easier to bear, and we are trying to enjoy our remaining time with her.

My mum is the heart of the family, and for me in particular, she is why I am the way I am. As well as raising her own 5 children, she fostered over a hundred newborn babies that were awaiting adoption, and it is from her that I get my love of babies, my instinct, and my common sense approach. Even now, when she is getting less and less responsive, I know that whenever i show her a picture of one of my clients babies, I will get a beautiful smile. Now our roles are reversed and it is my turn (and my honour) to ‘parent’ her as she has parented me, and also a chance to be there for my dad as he comes to terms with losing his partner of over 63 years.

Being self-employed, I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can take time off work, and I am managing my time a little better…but I’m still struggling with the self-care because on the odd occasion when I get back to my own cottage, I see all the things I should be doing that have piled up whilst I’ve been away. Instead of relaxing and recharging, I start trying to catch up on chores, but getting stressed because the ‘to do’ list seems endless.

My Attempts at Self Help

I think this is what often happens with parents everywhere, you get so busy caring, organising, managing, juggling… pushing yourselves, that even when you have done the urgent jobs, you still keep going doing all the less important ones just out of habit, or fear of being swamped.
What I am trying to get myself to do is to let some things slide, to look at jobs and ask myself.

Does it really matter?

Can it wait a few more hours or another day ?

What would happen if I left this job until after I have had a bath, gone for a walk, or had a lie down?
…and its working. I am slowly starting to unwind, I feel my patience returning which is making me a much nicer and kinder person when caring for my mum.

I also did something that just doesn’t come naturally to me…

I Reached Out For Help.

I don’t have the sort of close friends that a lot of people have, the ones you can go for a drink with and talk about anything and everything. Being a bit of a loner and working an intensive job with unpredictable hours my social life has suffered, but I am part of an online parent group, called Mums Who Hide In the Loo, who are the kindest, most amazing, accepting, supportive, non-judgy group of women I have ever come across. Thank you, Emma Gibbard, for creating this wonderful group!

I almost posted several times, because I felt so lonely, but talked myself out of it because I am a private person (who also doesn’t like to admit when I am not coping). However, when I finally did post a few weeks ago I kicked myself for not having done so earlier because the outpouring of friendship, love and support was overwhelming. I haven’t cried once since this all started, but I came very close when I read hundreds of comments from people who had taken the time to reach out to me, it was so moving.

One member messaged me about a battery operated kitten or puppy that has a heartbeat and moves when you stroke it which helps a lot with Alzheimer’s patients, whilst another called me from the Netherlands to offer support, and then sent me everything I need for a do-it-yourself-pedicure kit (with coral coloured nail polish that I had mentioned lol)…Thank you Natali x

I also found that writing that post, and this blog, was surprisingly therapeutic. Putting everything down in black and white allowed me to be a bit more objective, making it seem more positive and manageable, less messy and confusing. It gave me much needed perspective.

Moving Forwards
To try and minimise some of the pressure I was under, I let my business, my writing and the infant feeding charity I run all slide, which is why there have been no new posts for weeks. I am beginning to pick up the reins again now, and I want to try and deliver on my promise to tackle the subject of all aspects of Infant Feeding in my blog and on the Facebook page.

How You Can Help Me

Please be patient with me whilst I get back into the swing of things and find the right balance between home and work, but also I wondered if we could share suggestions for self-care with each other ? They might help other parents who are also struggling and suffering alone, and maybe make a difference to someones life, however small.

What can we do to help ourselves that doesn’t cost much money, or take up much time?

Do you have any recommendations for online groups (local, national or international) that welcome everyone, don’t judge or criticise, and are supportive to those struggling? (a link would be great). The one I mentioned has a waiting list, but I’d love to hear about others.

What have you done to cope and care for yourself in similar, high stress situations ?

I hope we get some great suggestions which I can collate into a file on my website that we can access when we are struggling and need encouragement or inspiration.

*edited to add*
You know those niggles and pains you have ? The ones where you tell yourself it can wait, it doesn’t matter, you don’t have time, and you will get round to it later ?
I’ve learnt the hard way that it does matter, and that I shouldn’t have waited because what started off as a slight pain in the arch of my left foot, and a bit of a niggle in my right hip has now turned in to serious pain in both, to the point where I am limping on both legs and look like a duck on a frozen pond when i walk ! I reached out to my mums group again and knowledgeable people have told me it is important that I get help as soon as possible, and should see a podiatrist. I am now going to give myself priority and make sure I get an appointment this next week…no excuses !
If this sounds like you, then get on the phone, prioritise yourself, and get the help you need. x

Also, if you are struggling with anything, please remember you are human, with your own needs, and you don’t need or deserve to struggle alone. Please be brave, reach out to someone so you aren’t alone anymore, or at the very least, set aside some time for self-care as a matter of urgency.

Sarah xxx

Why does my baby cry so much in the evenings ?

Some babies really struggle in the evenings, being restless, difficult to feed, crying, or even having major meltdowns…just when you are at your most tired after caring for them all day.

So you head off to Google or online mum groups and you hear terms like Evening Colic, or The Witching Hour, and that’s what we are going to look at in this blog.

Colic

Firstly, the term colic is not a diagnosis of a particular problem, it is a description of a pattern of behaviour…basically it describes a baby that cries excessively for 3 hours or more, 3 or more times a week.

As you can see, it’s a very loose description, and the excessive crying can be caused by any number of things, including hunger, tiredness, wind, reflux, illness, pain, teething, over handling, over stimulation.

It can also be a mix of several of these and its your job as a parent to try and figure out what is wrong and deal with it.

What is Evening Colic ?

This is much the same.

It describes a baby that cries excessively during the evening (usually from around 5 or 6pm through to 10 or 11pm, or even later if you are really unlucky).

It is more common in younger babies, under 5 months, but can go on much longer if the cause is not discovered.

We still have to play detective and figure out what is going on, but in this case, a major factor is usually overtiredness and/or over stimulation, along with hunger.

A baby has to cope with so many new things once they are born including learning how to latch on to bottles or teats, drink and breathe at the same time, they are feeling discomfort and pain from their own insides that they can’t understand or do anything about.

Their senses are bombarded by light, sound, movement, textures, tastes, smells, and all the interaction from people around them.

Their brains are in overdrive trying to process all this and its overwhelming and exhausting which is one of the reasons babies need so much sleep.

Naps help, but what they really need is some deep sleep so their subconscious can get on with trying to make sense of it all, so by the time evening comes they have just had enough.

They are exhausted and stressed, sometimes too stressed to eat or go to sleep so they get frustrated, and the only way they have to express themselves is by screaming

Tips to Help You Cope

Once you understand what is going on, it makes it easier for us to figure out ways to help them, such as

  • Try to make sure they get lots of sleep through the day (at least 1 hour of good solid sleep before each feed)
  • Make everything calmer in the evenings by turning down lights and music/tv, and getting rid of visitors. Sometimes the best thing is to remove baby to a dark quiet room, and use gentle music or white noise.
  • Handle them gently, rock, sway and walk around, and talk or sing to them soothingly.
  • Don’t make them wait for a feed. It won’t hurt to bring a feed forwards if it avoids baby getting wound up.
  • Make feeding as easy as possible.

**If you are breastfeeding you can try expressing or using formula from a bottle just for this feed.

**If you think your milk supply could be low (very common at this time of day) then try topping baby up with expressed milk or formula to make sure they have a full tummy.

  • Wind thoroughly but use gentle, passive positions and movements.
  • Swaddle baby so they feel secure, and you can even swaddle them to feed and during winding
  • Take turns with your partner if you have one. It is no easy thing dealing with a crying or screaming baby and can easily stress parents so being able to hand them over to someone else whilst you take a break will make a huge difference – don’t both sit there trying to calm baby, take it in turns.
  • Warm deep baths where baby can float and relax can really help. Turn lights down low, make bathroom warm, you can even get in there with baby if you think that will help. Candles are lovely if you can do it safely.
  • Make bottles a bit warmer than usual.
  • If nothing else works then try using a sling if your back is up to it.

Evening colic get better as baby gets older and they become better able to cope with the world, so if its really bad, just do the best you can to help them, and remember that it will end, it’s not forever.

Older babies can also go through temporary patches of evening colic if they are experiencing developmental changes, or if they are teething or starting nursery or during illness, just remember it is an expression of serious ‘end-of-day-itis’ so try and help them as best you can by managing them and removing all the stress factors you can think of.

I hope this has given you some insight into the problem, and some ideas about how to cope with it if you experience evening colic at any time, but if you have any questions or need more help, I’m always happy to help in my free FB group The Baby Buzz where I hang out every day…I love talking about all things baby 🙂

Sarah x

 

 

 

 

The Author

I’m Sarah Norris, a Baby Care Consultant and Parenting Coach.

I have spent over twenty five years, often working 24 hours, 6 days a week, supporting hundreds of families with new or young babies aged from newborn to 12 months old, and often helping with their toddlers and older children.

I help parents discover what parenting style they want to use to care for their baby, and offer advice on different approaches that might suit them and their circumstances best.

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