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Have you had a moment when your whole world falls apart and you question whether you should be allowed to be a mum?

A friend of mine knocked on my door this morning distraught and in tears. She had gone into work and had a niggling feeling she had forgotten something.

Then as manager, she was told someone had left a baby in their car. She was astounded that this had happened and wondered how someone could do such a thing.

She went down to the car park and as she neared the car she realised…it was her car. She had left her baby in the car and it had been 20 minutes.

Fortunately, the baby was safe and well.

Now, we could be quick to judge here. “How could she leave her baby in the car and forget?” “What kind of mother is she…?”

In fact, as she sat with me she kept saying, “I can’t believe I did this” “What kind of mother does this?” “How could I do this?” “I love my baby girl more than anything…”

The reality is she is a wonderful mother. In fact, she is one of the most wonderful mothers I know.

Here’s what happened in the nine days prior:

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday her baby was sick. Despite numerous trips to the doctor, she still could not find out what was wrong. Baby screamed day and night.

On Saturday and Sunday the screaming continued so this wonderful mother decided she would go to a different doctor. Although her baby improved a little, she was still worried and stayed close to her all night.

By Monday the baby was still unwell so another night of broken sleep went by.

On Tuesday the baby was better but her older brother began vomiting. Four bed changes later my friend got through another night.

When Wednesday came, she herself began vomiting, the bug lasting through to Thursday.

In between, life was going on…preparing breakfast, lunches, dinner, washing and going to work two different jobs. Nine days of sleep deprivation had accumulated.

It was now Friday. She reassured herself that if she could make it through today she would be able to catch up on sleep at the weekend. It was this morning that this dreadful incident happened.

How many of us have had an incident happen because of sleep deprivation and exhaustion?

I Almost Drowned My Child

When my first child was about 8 weeks old, I stayed at my mum’s place for the weekend and was sleep deprived as is common in this early phase. I gave him a bath: I first washed his tummy and then turned him over to wash his back. I did not realise that I had submerged his head in the water and almost drowned him. As I turned him over, I realised what had happened and screamed to my parents for help. Fortunately, he was fine. I went into shock at how I could allow such a thing to happen. I questioned my ability to be a mum that day.

Many of these situations work out well and no-one is really harmed, so what can we do to help ourselves pick up the pieces and move forward in a positive, healthy way?

Ask for help – Go to someone who can help you get some sleep and rest – your partner, a friend, a neighbour or get some paid help. Get yourself out of the danger zone.

Catastrophising – This is where your mind keeps going to what could have happened, the worst that could have happened. “What if he had drowned? What if it had been a hot day? What if…”This is a cognitive distortion of the reality of the event. Becoming aware that you are doing this and then saying to yourself “drop it” will be vital for completing Step 3.

Accepting what happened – You don’t like that it happened, you didn’t want it to happen but it is as it is.

Gather the learnings – Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this incident?” What indicators do I need to listen and watch for in myself to prevent this from happening again? What behaviours or responsibilities do I need to change to ensure I get adequate rest.

Forgiveness of self –This is the part that is often forgotten and usually the most difficult to do, yet it is the most vital piece to help us move forward as a stronger mum. We are usually our own toughest critics. Imagine what you may say to your best friend in this situation. What words of love and support might you offer? “You are a wonderful mother” “This one incident doesn’t define you as mum.” Now offer these same words to yourself.

Do you have an experience to share below? A moment where what could have happened didn’t bear thinking about it?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • Fortunately I’ve not experienced one of these moments. It would be frightening.

    Reply

  • I have a list of ‘worst mum moments’ that randomly play over and over in my mind. It’s not a good feeling

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  • I was overtired one time i was on the floor with my son playing. He was a baby who was crawling. I put my head on the floor for a minute i fell asleep. Woke up to a fright my son broke wine glasses that was in the cabinets. He managed to open the door and broke glasses. Yes he did have cuts on his hands but no where else. So i napped when my son napped and did not answer the front door.

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  • Thank God I have never experienced a situation like that but I feel for this poor mum maybe the partner or her family could have helped while her kids were ill so she can get some rest it’s hard to manage a household 2 jobs and kids

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  • Amazing how often this seems to happen – maybe we should all try to live in the moment and stop chasing our tails.

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  • The whole ‘ it takes a village to raise a child’ is so true, how ever there are many parents out there that do not have village to call on when the need arises. I am one of those people. My husband is often away and it is just me left to deal with out two children. Many a times i have heard ‘if you need anything please ask’. This I have done and been told sorry I cant now i am too busy, so i stopped asking for help.

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  • I liked how this article suggests that you should ask for help. You do need people around to support you being a parent.

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  • When we’re totally sleep deprived we can make ill choices. Think one of the first steps is accepting we have our limitations and take care for ourselves before taking care for others.

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  • I must admit, i am quick to say how can someone leave their child in the car or accidentally submerge their childs head in the water while bathing them.
    Im lucky my child sleeps well therefore i sleep well but i have been sleep deprived before and suffered consequences because of that. I feel for the mum and any other mums (or dads) who have had to endure the guilt of accidentally causing harm or been close to causing harm to their child as i know i would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to my little girl as a result of something i may have done.

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  • Oh my gosh. Thank goodness baby was ok. We really are our own worst enemy sometimes. I hope she as been able to forgive herself now x

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  • We are all human and all prone to making mistakes. I like point no. 5 Dina makes about forgiving ourselves. We would forgive our best friend if something happened, why not give ourselves the same forgiveness?

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  • Things like this can happen. Years ago I can remember after a very hectic, tiring day Hubby came home from work and said where is Scotty? I felt dreadful I HAD FORGOTTEN TO GO AND COLLECT HIM FROM FOOTY TRAINING. This was not quite as unnerving as leaving a baby in the car but still made me feel pretty awful and a neglectful mum. Hubby said you must be tired and had a busy day I will go and get him sweetie don’t worry and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. All was well. Some of the other parents were late picking their boys up too!

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  • Have always had a hard time not judging myself and letting things go when I do things wrong. The mummy guilt gets me so bad. Am looking for ways to be able to let it go.

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  • Being a mum can be so very stressful at times… This story is a great reminder to us all as well as a great reminder to support each other and not judge when these things happen.

    Reply

  • It’s really hard being a parent. I never had an incident but sometimes I was very close!

    Reply

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