Michelle and Craig's story

My introduction to Aware Parenting (The Aware Baby) was from our CalmBirth handbook we were given at the end of our weekend workshop. Our instructor had included summaries of each section of the book in his handbook. It resonated hugely with me. It made such sense.

It talked about the need to cry and as it seemed so logical, I didn’t think we needed to buy the book. I thought there was enough information to survive. I didn’t know how distressing a crying baby could be and what can seem logical and simple without a baby, can be very confusing when you have a live crying baby in your hands.

Later on, when in Melbourne on holiday at about 7mths into our pregnancy, a friend put the book in my hands and highly recommended it. She had a baby about the age of 6mths at the time. She offered to lend it to me but I declined. I said we had already come across it and told her how the sections were summarized for us at the back of our CalmBirth book. We talked a bit about it, but not being a parent yet, my partner and I didn’t have much to contribute and were still very much in the dark about “what it’s really like”.

We had our baby girl, India, at around 42 weeks after a long posterior labour of around 2.5 days. The labour had been nothing like I had envisaged. I certainly felt “jibbed”. We were happy though, ecstatic, to have our little baby by the end of it and left the hospital the following day. The night I had in the hospital on my own, I added only 2hrs of sleep to the very little sleep I’d had the previous 2.5 days. India would cry every time she came off the breast and I only knew to feed her sitting in a chair. Up I’d get, put her on, she’d feed (or suckle) and fall asleep. I’d take her off to get back in bed with her and she’d start crying. By 4am I summoned help and the nurse put her on as I lay down in bed and we fell asleep for 2hrs until my partner was back up to visit. Thank God, some support.

The first night at home was hilarious from my viewpoint, as I watched my partner’s face in horror as we went to go to bed at 10pm ish like pre-baby days, and within minutes India woke up and started to cry her little eyes out. Oh how she cried. I looked at him and said “yep, this is what happened all night last night”.

Like many newborns I suspect, India cried a lot. I think she had stress from the labour as it wasn’t the most pleasant and I lost my “calmness” for a few hours at the end and peace of mind hours earlier. They kept checking her though and told me she was fine, not distressed. My grandmother also died 2mths before India was born which was very upsetting for me and included me flying home to Brisbane for the funeral. More stress for India in the womb.

We had many a stressful moment in the early days with India crying and crying. Not seeming to want the breast (turning away, not taking it) and all else was ok ie warmth, dryness, closeness etc. She did not take to any “soothing” techniques well – rocking, singing, being pushed over a bump etc. If it worked, she could sleep for a mere 5mins before waking again and crying. Sometimes my partner would have to rock her little bassinet for hours to keep her asleep. When he returned to work in the 2nd week of her life, I thought I would go crazy if I didn’t get some help, I was extremely sleep deprived. She was NOT sleeping anywhere close to the 18-20hrs stated everywhere. I wasn’t “catching up” in the day time.

I then realised we really did need the Aware Baby book to have more of a clue about what to do with the crying. Our little summary was no where near enough and it didn’t feel safe to do without more knowledge. We knew the first 2-3 weeks were important in establishing breastfeeding and milk supply. We rang my friend in Melbourne to get some input from her. We decided to buy our own book, ordering online and waiting until we had our own copy before we did anything. It didn’t take long to arrive.

We started at around the age of 3 weeks. It was the evening and my husband took her in his arms and sat on our couch and held her, listening to her cry. I couldn’t bear to hear it as it was so distressing. I went and had a shower to drown out the noise. When I came out, there was silence. My partner was sitting on the couch and she was in blissful sleep in his arms. He had a smile on his face and I couldn’t believe it had worked. She was asleep!!! Oh my god! And so easily! She slept so well afterwards. The most settled and for longer than ever before. It was such a relief and the start of longer stretches of sleep for her. It hadn’t been that hard, much easier than rocking her or a bassinet for hours on end.

I cannot remember the whole course of events that follow except that the first session gave me the confidence to do it myself. We both gained confidence following that first time. We also both truly believed in crying being a need – the idea really resonated with us, as did many of the ideas from Aletha. We had seen it work exactly as described and were ecstatic that we had a way that worked that was not physically draining on us like all the other ideas we were presented with.

Over the coming months the crying sessions were regular and long. They did slowly reduce in regularity. They eventually fell into a pattern of one big session in the day with me, and then one at night with my partner before sleep. It was a small milestone getting to two crying sessions a day. At times in the early months, it did seem like all she did was cry. It would often be long, up to 1hr, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Then it was just the one in the evening before bed with my partner, no more day time crying on most days. Finally at around 5mths of age she stopped crying on a daily basis. One day I realised she hadn’t cried, then another and said to my partner, “she hasn’t cried for two days”. Hurrah and wow!

She still did cry but it seemed to be different following on from 5mths. She could still cry for long periods but the time between these sessions could be days or weeks as she got older. There were many a time when we were still wondering when we’d get a good night’s sleep. She woke at night til well past 1 yr of age and often would need to cry.

Now at nearly 2yrs of age, her crying is rare. If she does cry from frustration, a hurt or when she’s tired, it is very short lived, minutes in fact. Very occasionally, more rarely, she will have a longer spell of 10mins or so.

Her crying dwindled in length and regularity as she’s gotten older. I don’t necessarily think this is a good thing; it is just what it is. We understand that she still may need to cry from time to time and we certainly are open to that need. It just seems that she doesn’t seem to need it so much anymore. We gave her so much space and time to cry when she was younger; I think she could be right for a while!

Many people comment on how calm India is and at her pleasant nature. She doesn’t seem to have any aggressiveness I see in many other toddlers. She seems very present, friendly and social with others. She likes people and other children and is very gentle with young babies. Her attachment to us is very secure and she seems to feel safe with others when we aren’t around when she knows them, even if it’s only been a short while. She seems very receptive to new people.

It’s been an interesting journey. It was certainly a lot easier to hold and listen to her cry then trying to “soothe” her. Having said that, my partner and I both agreed that it was quite draining having to listen and pay attention to her big crying spells on such a regular basis. We’re glad we did it though. At times it was quite challenging and we wondered if we were getting it right. We touched base with Marion a couple of times where we got invaluable feedback which kept us focused on the Aware Parenting path and we were also very supportive of each other.

Aside from the crying, Aletha’s other ideas of Aware Parenting are values we also hold and her book has been a constant resource for us. Our philosophy of child-rearing has very much been based on the Aware Parenting style. We listen to and respect India and in turn she seems to listen to us (people have also commented on this). At times we’ve felt it hard and wished we could be more like other parents that have a more parent-centred approach to child-rearing, thinking it might be easier. We believe though, in the long run our lives will be easier if we invest the time and energy in her first few years. We now also get a fairly well rested night which is great. It took longer than it was “supposed to” but she now sleeps well most nights with us, stirring maybe once for reassurance. I did wonder if it would ever happen though.