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'I RESENTED MY INFANT CHILD'
After months of sleepless nights, Jacqui Flint seriously considered harming her seven-month-old baby. That was when she asked for help
'I lay in bed, my jaw and hands clenched with anger, thinking, "If I go into his bedroom I am going to bash his head against the wall and then at least there'll be silence and I can get some sleep." I was referring to Cameron, my seven-month-old son.
On average my husband, Miles, and I were up seven times a night, patting Cameron back to sleep. I was amazed at how someone so small could have the power to destroy my life. In the dark hours of the night, when I sat patting him on the back, I felt no bond and no love towards my baby; instead I was filled with such burning resentment that my feelings started to scare me. I felt completely dissociated from Cameron and in my mind I would refer to him as "it".
There were many times when I felt afraid to be left alone with my screaming child. No-one I spoke to seemed to know what I should do and I felt completely helpless. It was soul-destroying and I was exhausted. Welcome to the best form of torture: sleep deprivation. I couldn't function at work; each morning I'd drag myself out of bed and drive to the office, sometimes not even remembering how I got there. I would sit behind my computer in a daze, trying my best to appear busy.
Work wasn't the only part of my life that suffered: emotionally I felt numb and intimacy was the last thing on my mind. Conversation between Miles and I was limited to the essentials and I was permanently on autopilot, doing what I had to do to get through the days without thinking or feeling. We started arguing over silly, insignificant things and I snapped at everyone, even my dogs. Our social life was also non-existent.
My relationship with my son was volatile. At times I wanted to be with him but most of the time I would do my best to avoid him. Because he was constantly tired he was a miserable and fussy baby. "Is this what being a mother is all about?" I asked myself. "Sleepless nights and a miserable baby?" I felt that my life was over and intensely regretted having a baby. When I spoke to other moms, they couldn't stop gushing over their babies whereas I felt angry, frustrated and completely desperate. They were off to Moms and Babes or Baby Gym and I couldn't fathom where they got the energy from. I longed for my old life.
It was in the early hours of one of those familiar mornings, when I went through to Cameron's bedroom for the umpteenth time, that I grabbed his chubby little arms, looked him in the eyes and shouted, "I could shake you until your head falls off!" Fortunately I didn't. Instead I dumped him in his cot, stormed out, climbed into bed, shoved my face into my pillow and started screaming. In my mind's eye all I could see was Cameron, and this only intensified my screaming. I knew I had to take back control of my life - I needed help.
Then Miles and I attended a Baby Love workshop that focused on routine and sleep. I remember thinking that even if the woman had told me, "Hang your baby by his toe in a tree and I promise you he'll sleep," I would have done it. Fortunately, I never physically harmed my child but I now understood how a parent could. The urge to take out your frustration on the source of your sleep deprivation is far more common than we realize.
Through implementing a daytime routine and sleep training, just seven days later, Cameron was able to put himself to sleep unaided and stay asleep. I'm not saying it was easy, but we persevered. We finally had our lives back. I was well rested and full of energy and found myself wanting to spend time with my son. Cameron is now five years old and we have never looked back. I had a second child, Erin who is now two, and am the owner of the company Baby Love. Sleep deprivation is torture for both the child and the parents, but it doesn't have to be that way. I'd like women who have felt this way to know they are not alone.'