Lara and Zach's storyMy son Zach's sleep problems began at eight weeks of age, after he was immunised. Athough previously a great sleeper, since that time, he woke every hour - occasionally every two hours - and sometimes as frequently as every 20-30 minutes.
I tried routines, rocking, patting, breastfeeding to sleep - everything. By the time Zach was 16 months old, both Zach and I were beyond exhausted. Not only that, but my frustration was slowly growing, leading me to feel hopeless, helpless and sometimes a real failure as a mother and a human being.
I had tried practicing Aware Parenting, but had real difficulty with ceasing to feed Zach for comfort - particularly feeding him to sleep as he was used to. I thought he must feel so frightened, abandoned and alone when I didn't feed him to sleep. It was then I consulted Marion - and I am eternally glad that I did. What a life changing experience!
Marion helped me understand the difference between my feelings and Zach's feelings when he asked for milk and I didn't give it to him at bedtime. I was projecting onto Zach my own feelings from intensely emotional childhood experiences. She also helped me understand that given my (erroneous) belief that Zach was feeling so frightened and alone, it made perfect sense that I would try to prevent him from having such a painful experience and end up feeding him to sleep. She helped me begin to relieve myself of that immense burden of guilt I'd been trudging round with every day - and that changed my life.
Before talking to Marion, the guilt I'd been walking around with was based on the belief of what a bad mother I was, how I was 'damaging' Zach - I can't even describe how bad it felt. I think underneath it all was that belief I was a 'bad' person. And every day I found new opportunities to pile more guilt on myself. I have since tried to treat this belief with awareness, tenderness and compassion. I'm not trying to change it, but I'm trying to be aware of every time it emerges. What a revelation it's been. I feel like I have movement and life inside me, instead of deadness and weight.
I realised that when I see Zach's pain, I see HIM. I think that's all anyone needs. Just now he had a big cry, and as he arched his back and screamed, my heart exploded with love - I felt so honoured to be able to do this for him, that he is showing me his deepest, most intense feelings. I cannot even describe how moving an experience it is.
Most challenging for me has been allowing myself to have those so-called 'negative' feelings such as anger. But the great gift of Aware Parenting is that finally, after all these years, I am allowed to be a human being! It has taken quite some time to 'get' this, but I am slowly realising I am allowed to be imperfect. In order to be more present with Zach, I need to be more present with myself. As a result, some immensely painful and long held feelings have bubbled up into my consciousness - sometimes they seem to burst out one after the other. But after I sit with and come through the other side of the pain - the amazing relief of releasing feelings and experiences I never thought I would be able to is a gift beyond compare. Aware Parenting has truly enabled me to experience motherhood as a healing experience. I know I am a much more relaxed, fun and unconditionally loving mother (and wife) because of this.
As we started Aware Parenting relatively late with Zach, it took some time for him to feel safe to let all his feelings out - especially with me. I think it took quite a few weeks for him to cry as freely with me as he does with my husband. Sleep has been up and down, but it is finally slowly improving.
I wanted to mention what a gift Marion gave me in terms of living in the moment. I've realised that frustration often arises when I develop an agenda - Zach, you need to cry more now! Or Zach, you need to eat more food, or you'll be hungry tonight! Thanks to my talk with Marion, I've had more and more moments being with him, where maybe for the first time, I don't need him to be any way or doing anything other than just how and what he is. And it is joyful beyond words. I feel like I'm not missing out on his life anymore, obsessing about pain and damage. We're both just here and now, like I've always dreamed. And honestly, in the past I've done visualisations of how I want my future self and life to be...and this may sound strange, but these days when I'm being really aware, I AM that person,and that IS my life. I wasn't trying to have that experience, but I have these moments of joy, and I suddenly remember visualising how I wanted to feel that way all those years ago. I must have somehow known that was in my future. It makes me feel that anything is possible.
On a final note: in my daily yoga practice and on our daily walks with our dogs, I feel more and more in rhythm with life - with the earth, the trees, the birds, the wind - and it brings me such peace. Being with Zach constantly reminds me to be aware. I feel such letting go. I'm not getting enough sleep, and I don't really know what else to do about that other than learn to become a more aware parent day by day, but I just breathe in what feels like the pulse of nature, of the universe, and that's enough for now.