I'm three months and a bit in on this second-time parenting journey and things have really started to get difficult. For one thing I cannot find a moment to sit down to write anything with both children needing me ALL THE TIME and when they don't need me the call of my bed is very strong! My priorities right now are children first, sleep next and then probably food! My poor husband fits in some where after those and the pets are right at the bottom!
Tyler's reflux has gone from mild to really bad and I have discovered that apparently it is normal for reflux to peak at around 3 months. Tyler's sleep has been slowly deteriorating (except for the constant 4 am parties which remain as always!) and now I know why... grrr... - and this is exactly what happened with my daughter and the three to six months after she was born was a very difficult and often dark time.
To top it all off at the beginning of Feb I experienced an adrenal crash. I battled with adrenal fatigue after Jocelyn was born and, thinking it was what all parents of young babies feel, did not have it diagnosed until she was over a year old. Fortunately with the correct treatment and lots of rest I came right eventually.
However, this time it really snuck up on me and pulled my legs right out from under me. It was literally a crash. One day I was tired but functioning and had enough energy to do the grocery shop and fetch my daughter from school and even endure another really bad night in a series of what seemed to be the longest growth spurt a little boy has ever had in history. The next day I was a little dizzy in a very chilled post-natal yoga class and that dizziness led to shortness of breath and complete and utter fatigue. This was made worse by a totally paradoxical feeling of being wired which was worse at night and meant I was not sleeping at all. I had obviously been skirting around the threshold of my cortisol reserves and one more bad night threw me over the edge.
Realising what was going on I felt utter despair and panic, knowing how long it took to come right last time. However, I am writing this blog because after only a week, some acupuncture treatments, the right food and supplements and hibernating in my bed with my little boy (adding to guilt about not spending enough time with my daughter) I am actually feeling a lot better. I am not so wired and not so tired and the dizziness is intermittent. I am going to have to continue being very careful and shelve my expectations of being momtrepeneur right now but I am so relieved that I have managed to be with this in the way that I have, leaving me feeling empowered. And that is the point of this blog - not self-pity but rather to share the consciousness issues around challenges because, as with all challenges, this this has brought some amazing lessons and shifts.
Mentally, I knew I had to work with the components that were related to the adrenal fatigue. It was at this point that I could see how my fear had been triggered when I became aware that Tyler definitely had reflux and it was worsening. I immediately catastrophised and had the expectation that it was going to be as difficult as it had been with Jocelyn from 3 - 6 months. Furthermore, my fear was then triggered when I realised that I was experiencing adrenal fatigue again, as it had taken me months to come right the first time. With all that fear I had flipped into overwhelm and panic, as well as a related fight/flight response to this perceived "threat".
Following the adrenal crash, when I was not able to attend a school event with my daughter and husband as I was just too exhausted, my son went on a sleep strike for over two hours and I became very wound up (which no doubt was greatly exacerbating his sleeplessness). I reached a breaking point and fell back on my bed with Tyler on my chest, sobbing. And then began to breathe. I calmed myself and started to just sit with my breath and become conscious of whatever came up for me. It was then that I realised how the fear had been triggered and I also realised I just needed to give myself a break. I had started to become more aware of how dependent Tyler was becoming on me to fall asleep as his reflux worsened. Jocelyn had required hours of rocking to get to sleep for well over a year (being a big part of why I had become so fatigued). So with Tyler, although I had chosen to follow a baby-led approach, I was getting into a state about how he was getting to sleep and that he was not getting enough sleep. Sitting on the bed, focussed on my breath, I realised I had to just let go. I had to learn to take it easy on myself and surrender. If I rocked him to sleep then so be it and if he slept for only 3 hours a day instead of 4 or 5 then so be it - it didn't have to MEAN anything or be good or bad. I had been turning it into a bad thing and fighting what was happening and that was exhausting me. I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and ease and then realised that my not-too-long-ago little monster had turned into an angelic sleeping babe-in-arms. Since that day I have felt that exhaustion and lethargy lifting and I have been far more allowing and relaxed with whatever is. There is no doubt the adrenal fatigue was greatly triggered by my fear and consequent need to control and to fight the status quo.
This brings me to the why behind reflux. Why do so many babies seem to have colic or reflux or a combination of both these days? I do think that it is diagnosed more now and my mother swears that I had reflux as a child now that she has seen how my two with their reflux. I also believe there is a physiological element to it - the little valve between the stomach and esophagus is not very well developed and only really starts to become stronger when they are more mobile. Reflux can be due to birth trauma too but here's the joke - my daughter apparently suffered from reflux because the extra long labour put pressure on her cervical spine (and therefore the vasovagal nerve into her digestive system), while the very quick birth of my son caused general constriction in his body and hence reflux and digestive problems (both of these were evaluations made by osteopaths). So you just can't get it right?!
However, what I really want to discuss is the mirroring that happens between mom and baby and how this can exacerbate reflux. Our babies are super sensitive to our moods and states of being. When we are tense in mind we often tend to tense up our bodies, including the abdominal/stomach muscles. I felt quite connected to my daughter but am very much more connected to my son for some reason. I can literally feel in my abdominal area when he is having discomfort and often the feeling in me precedes squirming, crying, passing wind in him. So he can definitely do the same with me as, generally, babies are way more in touch than adults. So next time you are feeding your baby or even holding him/her to go to sleep be very conscious of relaxing your body and mind through focussing on your breath or using another form of relaxation.
In BodyTalk the consciousness of stomach (from where reflux comes) is around being able to digest life - just like with food we take in life and either assimilate it for nourishment or reject it as we perceive it to be 'bad' for us. When a baby has reflux there may be something he/she is rejecting (besides the milk obviously) and it may be that mom is battling to stomach the way things are. Tyler was very likely mirroring my own rejection of life. I also did a number of BodyTalk sessions on Tyler and picked up a huge fear of separation in him. I had started to go back to work more and he was more aware of that and was clearly rejecting the separation. Also I had been focussing on trying to make him go to sleep on his own and this was a further separation for him when he was just not ready. Interestingly, this week I did a session on him as I once again paced the house between 4am and 6am with my wide-eyed, refluxy child and the BodyTalk brought up a fear of separation linked to 4am when my contractions started and 6am when my membranes ruptured and physiologically my body was getting ready to expel him - a big separation for a new baby. All of this was causing him to reject me and my milk as he rejected the perceived separation (and had been causing him to be particularly restless between 4am and 6am every morning!)
Through all of this my son has been such a gift and mirror to me- as all children are. Just in the last two weeks he has helped me to learn to be aware of my own acceptance and rejection of life and how it is; to surrender to the way things are and to stop trying to fix and control things due to fear. I now have more compassion for the part of him that fears separation (which mirrors my own inner child fears of separation which were quite severe when I was little), resulting in me talking to and reassuring him always that he is safe and loved and I won't be leaving him. I have also been working with my own inner child around her separation experiences.
So if you have a baby who battles with reflux take a look at how you are being and reacting to life at that point. See if you are in fact rejecting how things are, trying to control, feeling tense and unable to let go. Perhaps, if you are able to start shifting some of that you may well find the reflux eases.
It has only been a couple of weeks but I can't explain how much easier it is to be with Tyler and the reflux now versus a few weeks ago, and it does appear that the reflux has improved. We still have some rough nights and bad patches but I am not so fearful, anxious, exhausted and depleted. I no longer reject those rough nights and bad patches or try to change them no matter how tired and frustrated I am and I allow myself to be tired and frustrated too versus getting angry about that within myself!