Our wonderful journey
Sitting in my living room ten days after my first son was born, in a misty haze of exhaustion; I stared blankly at my Health Visitor as she nodded towards the pile of baby books that a kind colleague had given me. ‘I see you’ve been doing your reading.’ she smiled, knowingly – a little too knowingly for my liking if I’m honest. In reality I hadn’t actually read any of them, but I knew that when I did have time (how did I have no time when I was at home all day?) I’d soon have Noah sleeping through the night.
Lang, who was close to retiral, shared some of her wisdom with me then. ‘You’re used to control Emma. Used to managing a team, to working to schedules – you have to throw that out of the window, you can’t control a baby; he controls you.’ I smiled and nodded, but inside I was thinking she’d confused me with a cliché of modern working women who get pregnant. I had no control issues, I was completely relaxed.
Of course, I was entirely wrong and Lang was entirely right.
It didn’t take me long to realise that the books I had weren’t great – one obvious point that made me doubt the integrity of any of them was that they each seemed to promise sleep. But if any of the theories actually worked, wouldn’t there be just one book?
A few weeks later, during a bleary breastfeeding session, I trawled Amazon browsing baby paraphernalia and The Wonder Weeks book appeared as a suggestion. Its bright and I have to say unusual cover, given that it featured photos of babies with their eyes open, caught my eye. I clicked add to basket. Perhaps this could be the key to controlling the uncontrollable new addition to my life?
The book arrived when Noah was 6 weeks, and from the start it was clearly very different to any I’d seen. It’s written by a psychologist couple who realised after studying chimpanzees that each infant underwent a set number of regression periods, where they would be fussy, clingy to their mother and quick to cry. After each period they had learned a whole new set of skills and it became clear the regression was key to the skill learning. Frans and Hetty went on to investigate if these same regression periods and subsequent skills developments were present in infant children – and found that they were. Reading the introduction of the book was such a eureka moment. Noah was normal! His crazy bouts of incessant crying and non stop feeding were bound by nature to happen! I was not just particularly crap at this thing called being a mum! And Lang was right, it’s not about controlling the uncontrollable – but I now had a compass to navigate us through the stormy weather largely unscarred.
And so began our journey of Noah’s life accompanied by the Wonder Weeks.
When Noah was 19 weeks and wouldn’t sleep, or be held by anyone but me – yes, I was frustrated but I understood he wasn’t behaving like this because I was failing as a mother. And when well-meaning relatives told me he was teething (he didn’t get teeth until 13 months) or that I shouldn’t carry him all the time because it wasn’t good for either of us (sigh) I confidently thanked them but told them they were wrong.
The book is like a good friend. Its tone is validating and understanding. It acknowledges that when your baby hasn’t slept, eaten, drunk or whatever you will be at the end of your tether. You will cry, with sadness and anger. You will argue with your partner and you will eat a giant bar of dairy milk with two glasses of wine, breastfeeding or not. There are examples from real mothers around the world who feel exactly what you feel and it’s such a great ally to have on the bedside table.
We are now in the last leap and we are feeling it. Between the tantrums if his toast isn’t cut in quarters, to the clinginess, the lack of appetite and the tantrums when his toast is cut in quarters, we are certainly earning this last mental leap in our 18 month old’s development. But we weather this storm with positivity and hope as we remember to look at situations from his point of view, and that’s a gift the Wonder Weeks have given us that money really couldn’t buy.
– Emma Cram – 6th January 2014