- 20 -
I shudder to think where we would be had my neighbour not mentioned the name ‘Sheyne Rowley, Australian Baby Whisperer’. Alexander is our first child, and to say that we were completely, utterly and ridiculously clueless first time parents would be an absurd understatement. I wasn’t aware that one baby could vary so much from another. That’s not to say that we weren’t prepared for crying; we just weren’t prepared for 24 hours a day, seven days a week screaming from a newborn – “sleep like a baby” – not so much… not at all. My husband and I were each averaging one hour of sleep a night, and by his 4th week of life, Alex and I were placed on the priority list for the Riverton Centre and were there the following week. That didn’t work, so we struggled along til Alex was 6 months old and we settled into a routine that worked for about eight months… the result of control crying (which almost killed all 3 of us).
When he was 14 months old, we started Alex at a day care centre for 2 days a week. Alex lasted 2 weeks there before our world fell apart for the second time… only this time it was a thousand times worse than when he was a newborn. We weren’t aware of just how sensitive Alex was, and he did not handle day care at all. He screamed the entire day on each of the 4 visits there. On the 4th and final visit, we picked him up at about 1pm, and he screamed for the following two days straight. We didn’t think it was humanly possible for such a little person to be awake for that amount of time – but he was, and he SCREAMED for the entire 48 hours. He had emotionally lost the plot and crossed the line to trauma; hence he would not, or could not, be alone. We made 3 trips to the emergency section of our local children’s hospital in one day. Every test, scan, x-ray, poking and prodding revealed nothing physically wrong with Alex; and so we were sent home three times with a screaming baby, and still no answers. No amount of driving around in the car, singing, patting, rocking, cuddling… or dare I say, Neurofen, could get this baby to sleep – or at least, stop screaming.
From that time until the day Sheyne came to stay with us two months later, my husband and I were again averaging an hour or two of sleep per night. Alex would stand in his cot and cry/scream until I returned. I tried timing the cries and enter at 5 minute intervals, trying to gradually extend it out to 15 minute intervals, however the crying intensified and the end result was that Alex was a mess, my husband was a mess, and I spiralled with PND. I will never forget lying down in Alex’s room every night for up to 6 hours whilst patting him to sleep through the cot bars, then trying to creep out once I heard his breathing change to those long, deep breaths. I’d go to sleep for an hour or so until the alarm went off and it was time to get up and go to work and pretend that I was perfectly sane. I would make it to work and have a cry at least once a week out of pure exhaustion and frustration on the shoulders of work friends who were very sympathetic, but hadn’t experienced this. And so the circus would continue.
It wasn’t just that Alex wasn’t sleeping; he wasn’t eating anything, his behaviour was atrocious with tantrums, and he was such a sad, miserable little boy. It broke our hearts. The time had come to make contact with The Australian Baby Whisperer.
I sent off an e-mail explaining our dilemma and after a little wait (which of course felt like an eternity), I received a phone call from Lisa, Sheyne’s Personal Assistant. The first time I spoke with Lisa she said, “It’s okay to cry”, and no matter how hard I tried to hold it together, I bawled down the phone to a woman I had never met, or spoken to before. At last someone who understood. But that wasn’t rock bottom. That came when I spoke to Lisa about 2 weeks later, and then Sheyne later that night, and told both of these complete strangers that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want Alex anymore, couldn’t cope, needed sleep so desperately that I couldn’t think, let alone work during the day and sleep for an hour at night. My husband and I had almost become strangers, and I yearned for my pre-Alex days. To be blunt, I was hating motherhood, and the guilt that stemmed from that was unbearable.
After our initial phone consultation, Sheyne recommended Package A, the 5 day in-home stay. My husband was initially completely against the idea – “it’s money we don’t have and there are no guarantees” and, “don’t pin all your hopes on this” were the comments I’d hear regularly, however by the end of the second day of Sheyne’s stay, my husband was SO astounded by the results she had achieved, he was converted. We both now believe it’s the best investment we’ve ever made.
I was dumbfounded that by the end of the week, Sheyne did not have to make a single nighttime entry to settle Alex. Yes, he woke occasionally, but after distinguishing the cries, an entry would have completely woken him without giving him the chance to learn to self-settle. Also by the end of the week, Alex was eating everything I gave him with little resistance, and his behaviour was so much better.
I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t worried about having a houseguest, and having Sheyne see the state of our house (lets face it, if I had 10 minutes to either lay down or sort out the pantry, the choice was obvious), however it was such a pleasure having Sheyne stay with us. I cried the day she left. But, within a week after having her stay, I had the pantry organised, the tupperware cupboard clean, and Australia’s cleanest kitchen benches!
So how did Sheyne do it so quickly after we had tried and failed with everything else? Sheyne has such an extensive knowledge of little ones. With every new facet of the routine she implemented, Sheyne would pre-empt Alex’s reaction (“he’ll throw this toy”, etc) and she was spot on every time. Verbal cues, role-playing, patience like I have never seen, and such a positive outlook, coupled with her vast knowledge and experience with kids is how she did it. There is no magic wand though. Sheyne can’t ‘fix’ your child for you, but she certainly taught us how to understand Alex, and how to teach him to sleep. The month or so after Sheyne left was a lot of hard work, but the end result is nothing short of amazing.
It’s now been 6 months since we met Sheyne and life with Alex has become enjoyable. During that time, I’ve been in to settle Alex maybe 8 times at night, and most of those were early in the piece after Sheyne left. On each entry, I’ve been in his room and out again within 20 seconds. I have never, and will never pat Alex to sleep again. There’s nothing like having a fantastic day with my son, watching him play ALONE and then ‘clocking off’ at 7:00pm to spend time with my husband, or watch a movie, read a book… because now I have time and the energy to.
Also since Sheyne left, we moved Alex into his ‘big boy bed’ with next to no issues. This smooth transition from cot to bed was a direct result of the The Australian Baby Whisperer Forums (on the web site), which is an invaluable source of support and information for parents of babies with sleep issues. After not having a single friend or relative who could understand what we were going through, it was unbelievably nice to know that we were not alone with baby sleep problems. If we have another baby and even remotely encounter the problems we’ve had with Alex, I will not hesitate to contact Sheyne again. I cannot sing her praises enough.
Read about grateful clients campaign to deliver a message of hope to mothers around the world.