My Sleep Survival Story...

I'm Eileen. Wife to Dave. Mama to my beautiful twin babies. And when I'm not walking the dog, or trying to run our mad house, I am also a Sleep Specialist for Children.

1st May marks "National share a story month", so I thought I would share my story with you. Warts and all. Featuring my recent struggles in becoming a mother and how I ended up resigning from my permanent teaching position to pursue a fresh challenge which would result in being completely passionate and dedicated to my new professional role.

I'm going to skip a few chapters, otherwise I might create a book instead of a Blog post.... so lets fast forward to January 2018. The boys are about to turn 1 year old. I have had a very hectic year of maternity leave from school, and I prepare to return to my job, my vocation, the career I studied really hard to have over 4 years at University. I was excited to catchup, I wasn't formally replaced so I felt a responsibility to get back to helping the department to run. I enjoyed some time out of the house and using my brain for something other than nappies and sensory play and constant feeding !

The fairytale didn't last long. The boys weren't sleeping. My husband was working long hours 5 days a week. My parents work full time. His parents live too far away to help. It was hard! The boys were sharing a room. They were taking it in turns to wake up at different stages of the night. They would disturb each other and wake each other up. We would do man on man, picking a twin to commit to dealing with in the night. The logistics of the situation are quite amusing now but we weren't laughing back then. The boys would start their day anytime from 3am most days. We were arguing the whole time about the best ways to handle these ridiculous situations. We were going to bed at 8pm every night in preparation for the night wakes and early starts. Instead of being a joyous time where we would soak up every minute of being parents to our children, I was wishing the time away, desperate for the day to be over so that I could go to bed !

I phoned my health visitor one day in a state of desperation. I couldn't hold back the tears as I explained the boys weren't sleeping and that I didn't know what to do and that I felt like I wasn't coping with the situation I was often left to handle by myself. Whilst many of you will have a positive and supportive experience with your health visiting team, I'm really disappointed when I look back at the little help I was offered. The health visitor came to visit that day because I was distressed on the phone. She came in and sat down. Looked at me with a sympathetic face and told me ... "You are bound to be tired pet, you have two babies!". Then I was handed a sheet of paper with instructions on how to use a chair to encourage a child to sleep and gradually remove yourself from the room. Upon asking if this technique would work for 2 children sleeping in the same room, she couldn't answer my question. The best bit occurred when I was asked to complete a PND form. Upon handing it back to her she confirmed that I was suffering from post natal depression. I knew that PND is a serious condition that affects many women in their journey into motherhood. I also felt like I was clued up on the signs and symptoms linked to this condition and I felt like something didn’t fit. She referred me to the doctor for medication, who told me that he was not prepared to prescribe any medication as after doing my post op examination and the boys' first check, that he was completely confident that there was nothing I was suffering from except extreme exhaustion.

I felt totally alone. I felt like a shit mum. I felt unsupported. I felt like I didn't know how to respond to my own children. The two tiny little miracles that we created and I grew in my massive belly for 37 weeks and 1 day. They needed something from me and I didn't know how to give it to them. I lost all my confidence, I stopped going out. I was anxious because I felt I couldn't handle the simplest of situations because I was too tired to think straight. I became run down and unwell a lot of the time needing time off school to recover. It was a very dark time.

6months into my return to work, a fellow twin mum mentioned a sleep specialist who she had enlisted the help of with her twin boys who are almost a year older than mine. "Get in touch with The Sleep Nanny" she said - "Best money I have ever spent!" I don't know how much this type of service costs but if this Sleep Nanny can sort out my friend's twins, then I want a piece of that action !

I contacted the company. We were allocated a sleep specialist called Rachel. She asked for lots of info about the boys' routine and what we currently had in place. We had a video call to discuss where she could identify the problem areas and what to do in order to change them to ensure the boys were well slept instead of over tired. Rachel was patient and kind and sympathetic, I was pretty frazzled and desperate for things to get better.

We worked with Rachel for over 8 weeks. She guided me through the process and we spoke every few days over email, text and phone calls. Just having somebody who knew what they were talking about and had an informed answer for every question I came up with, was the most reassured I had felt in a long time. My confidence grew and the boys' sleep started to improve in a matter of weeks. Me and Dave were sleeping better and the process which cost us around £500, completely changed our lives as a family. The boys are able to enjoy being little boys, their awake time is filled with fun and they are well slept and can enjoy whatever we are up to - toddler groups or visiting granny and grandad or nursery days or being at the park. I feel completely confident and reassured that the boys are getting the restorative sleep that they need for their growth and development and to help them to be strong and healthy.

So the boys were sorted. Dave and I had narrowly avoided divorce. We were all sleeping better. But school still wasn't fitting in very well to our family life. Any time mid lesson I could hear my phone ringing, I felt sick and just KNEW that it was the nursery phoning to say that one of/both of the boys weren't well and needed to be collected. Dave tells me that he's in Aberdeen and he can't get to Nursery, and I tell him I have a room full of 12 year old children relying on me to learn how to play Twinkle Twinkle on the Keyboard. It felt like the pressure was mounting as I continued having to take time off to deal with continuously sick children. It wasn't sustainable.

In October 2018 I decided enough was enough. I was stressed about time off at school, I felt behind and not able to commit. I felt like I was in a position where I had to choose the responsibilities of my job, or my sick child/children. There was no contest, I had to resign. I handed in my resignation in December 2018, by which point I had taken the decision to enroll in training online to become a Sleep Consultant myself. A job where I would be running my own business, working from home, fitting my work hours and commitments around how and when the boys need me.

Not only did I get my fairytale ending in spite of everything - toddlers that sleep well, a happy and fun-filled family, a job that I can work which means I can be the best mum to my boys, but I also have an amazing job. I was completely overwhelmed by the experience we had in addressing the boys sleep needs. It wasn't rocket science. It was simple, structured and logical ways of reaching a long term solution which we could all benefit from. I suddenly realised that all of the feelings that I have experienced over the last 2 years as we struggled with sleep deprivation is just the tip of the iceberg. And that there are hundreds and hundreds of families who are experiencing EXACTLY the same, if not worse.

I am proud to be in my new role. I am excited to concentrate on my shiny new career. I am passionate about my family, and about being able to offer the help and support that offered such a huge change for us as a family.

Against all the odds... she lived happily every after...