Podcasts Anna Cusack on how she planned her 4th trimester and surrounded herself with the support she needed Listen/ Watch links: Enjoying the show and you'd like even more? Become a Patron! SUMMARY- Anna shares how she planned her 4th trimester to be a time of rest and support, and how she set herself up for becoming a mum. Anna also shares some of the obstacles she tackled on her way through the first 4 months, and what she'd suggest for anyone preparing to welcome a new baby to their house. You can visit Anna on her website, where you can find her book and download the postpartum preparation guide mentioned in this episode. If you do buy the book, use the code SPARKLER at checkout for $2 to be donated to Little Sparklers foundation. Anna is also on Instagram and Facebook. Enjoy the podcast? Donate now to help us produce Season 3 Full Episode Transcript: Carly: The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children. Appeal: It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child, but where we used to be surrounded by experienced parents and grandparents willing to pass down their wisdom and lend a helping hand, in our ever-changing world we’re increasingly left without the support and kind encouragement of old. At Little Sparklers, it’s our goal to support families wherever they are. We are here to be your village, providing a listening ear, gentle encouragement and the reassurance that no, you’re not alone - we’ve been there, too. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on the generosity of our volunteers donating their time, and our donors who support us financially. Your donations are what keeps us going and ensures we can continue to provide free support, assistance and resources to families just like yours. So if you are in a position to donate Donate now Carly:Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host, Carly Grubb, and with me today is Anna Cusack. Anna is a motherhood revolutionist and I love following her work online. She is an author and a postpartum doula. She has… runs a fantastic blog on Instagram and Facebook called Anna Cusack, and she’s also a speaker. She reaches thousands of women each year with her evidence-based information and inspirational, actionable content. Anna combines her knowledge in areas of traditional postpartum care, breastfeeding support, sociology and exercise physiology to guide women through their transition to parenthood and the early years of mothering. So thank you so much for coming on the show, Anna. I love following all your feeds. There’s always some really interesting conversation points and thinking points that I really appreciate. Thank you very much. Anna:Oh, it is such a pleasure to be here Carly. Thank you for having me. Carly:And at the end of last year Anna actually, I asked for a copy of her book, Mama, You’re Not Broken, and I read it. It was actually the first book I read in summer and it was such a breath of fresh air and I guess it’s not like your typical parenting motherhood book I guess. Or ones that I’ve read previously. Anna:Yeah, it’s not a how to, is it? Carly:No. It felt like I was just having a conversation with another mum, and it felt really validating in so many ways because you’ve really unpicked a lot of the themes that were sitting in behind my matrescence, and some of the frustrations and confusion and anxiety was all so beautifully unpicked for me and I really, really – even though I’m actually quite a long way out the other side of all of that now – it took me back but in a good way. It helped me make sense of some of the things I don’t think I’d even really considered yet. So thank you so much for bringing the book to the world. And for any of our people listening along, I will be dropping a link into our show notes for Mama, You’re Not Broken so that you can get a copy, or if you’ve got another new mum in your life I feel like it’s the kind of book that, oh, it would have just been so fabulous to be able to pick it up in a tough time and go, ‘Am I broken? Hang on a second.’ And have Anna in my ear, or in front of me to help along. Anna:I had a couple of really nice messages where people have said that they were given it for their baby shower for example, and, and found themselves reading it in sort of half-light, hoping that their baby would stay asleep when they were one week old and… and just that they felt less alone reading that. So that kind of feedback’s really warmed my heart. Carly:Absolutely. It’s a real gift. So thank you for that, and be sure to check it out if you’re looking for a read or for a present, like we’ve said. But we haven’t, we’re not here to talk about the book today so much. Anna:No, we are not. Carly:We actually, no, we’ve actually got you here to hear your personal sleep journey with your family. So, do you mind introducing who is in your little crew? Anna:Yeah, it is a very little crew. There’s me and my husband and my daughter, who is 3 in less than a month and just like they say, that three years of infancy goes in the blink of an eye but also feels like it will never, ever, ever end while you’re in it. Carly:Oh yeah, when the tough times are happening it’s like an endless, endless, long tunnel, isn’t it? Anna:Yeah. One that sometimes… sometimes you’re not actually sure if there is a light at the end of it or if you’re hallucinating. Carly:There’s that too, definitely. We can, we can assure there is actually, genuinely light. But yeah, there’s almost like those little false starts where you’re… you start to really wonder and it can create that doubt. So tell me, before you had her how did you think you were going to handle sleep for your family? Anna:So, in a way I think we were some of the very few parents who were actually prepared for what the newborn stage would look like. I just had no conception that we would still be doing so [5:00] much supporting of sleep for so much beyond that. So, both my husband and I have studied child development at various stages of our education and worked with children and are familiar with the role of attachment and emotional responsiveness and support, so we were quite, quite committed to doing whatever we could and, and learning whatever we could. I also approached my own sort of fourth trimester period essentially out of a place of not micromanagement but really needing to research and plan. After I was born my mother experienced postnatal depression and with my own, yeah, history of occasional bouts of mental ill health I was really concerned that that would be me as well, and I read anything that I could get my hands on to mentally prepare myself for what that could be like, and then went about doing things to resource myself so that I would have as much support as possible. So, that actually worked a treat. My daughter was born at 41 and a half weeks and I had her at home. We had a co-sleeper bassinet attached to our bed in preparation, and because we skipped that hospital part of things it was literally like she came out, we had a feed, I got stitched up – or the other way around with that – the midwife helped us sort of wrap her up for the first time and put her in the co-sleeper and then I just went to sleep with her next to me, and she had that… uh, I think sometimes they say that the first sleep can be a really long one because they’re recovering and getting over birth. I think we were probably awake like four or five hours later rather than 12 hours later, which kind of sets the scene of the sleep needs that she’s going to have beyond that, but obviously I didn’t know that at the time. So yeah, like the first morning the sun’s just coming through our curtains and I’m sitting there with this baby on my chest and just in this blissful state, and there was no way that… that I had any thought that she needed to be away from me at that point. So the co-sleeper was there and I would feed her often through the night, and that feed would be like an hour each feed and then she would go back in the co-sleeper for, I don’t know, an hour or two, and then we’d do it again. And I would spend a ridiculous amount of time on like the Australian Breastfeeding Project Group book to check that I was not ruining my child, and then Beyond Sleep Training Group to also check that this was actually okay. Because even though I believed it when you’re awake that long by yourself at night it doesn’t always feel okay. So, that was sort of the night-time side of things, but also we kind of joke that she was born… she was just born with FOMO, fear of missing out. So, you could see even the first two days, like you’ve described before Carly, good neck control, really sparkly eyes, wanting to look at everything, strong eye contact, drawn to patterns, wanting to watch light dancing on stuff. Just… just wanted to be in everything and around everyone and held. And… and that was okay with me. I’d done a lot of reading into, as I said, what that fourth trimester would be like, how postpartum is observed in more traditional cultures around the world. And in most places – maybe not now with colonisation and westernisation – but in most places mothers and new parents have at least three weeks where they really don’t do anything except for sleep and feed their baby, and everything else is done for them. They’re nurtured, they have food provided for them, they’re massaged, they’re, you know, somebody else is doing their laundry, all of these things. And I am a person who really, I’m a bit bull at a gate. I just get going. And I’d asked my husband ahead of time, like I know [10:00] that I am going to ruin my body and I’m going to ruin my mental health if I start doing stuff too fast, and I need you to tell me just to lie on the couch. So he had a few weeks off, two and a half, three weeks with us and, you know, I had a full deep-freeze worth of food that we just sort of went through and we just spent as much time with her as we could, and I didn’t mind about contact napping and I didn’t mind about her sort of sleepy sucking on the breast. There was a period of time where my pelvic floor was like definitely not up to even carrying her between rooms, let alone babywearing. So the idea of any other way of her being close to me and sleeping just wasn’t really possible. And because I’d arranged for people to come over on their days off, like I’d literally asked people, ‘Okay, so you start work late on a Wednesday, could you come over every Wednesday morning for the first two months and keep me company?’ Or the first four weeks or whatever. And across the week when my partner went back to work that meant that I had someone come and spend a couple of hours with me at least four days of the week. And so I would be happy lying on the couch and we could chat or… I remember there was one friend that would just come over with a pack, with a pack of cards, and she would be like… my daughter would be like sleep feeding on me and we’d be playing, I don’t know, gin rummy or something with the other hand and trying to figure out how to like balance the cards without dropping the cards or dropping her. And that was all fine. Yeah, I just, I suppose I thought that she might grow out of that degree of need at some point in time, and for a long time it didn’t happen. Carly:Well, I think it’s amazing that you had that start though, because it is part of then being able to cope better as things stretch out because you actually had that period of recovery and rest. Anna:Mm. Exactly. Carly:And still getting company. Like, you know, you could realise that there was ways to work in some things that helped you feel… still filled, fill your bucket while you were also doing the… Anna:Yeah, and I think if I didn’t have that company then I would have started feeling all of those things, of like I’m falling behind, I’m not keeping up, I am a failure, because she wouldn’t be put down. She was the sort of baby that I had a little bouncer chair, I don’t even know what they’re called, in front of the toilet, and you’d put her in that and she would be like turning blue by the time you were finished doing the quickest wee in history and picking her up. And the idea of hanging out an entire load of washing on our clothes airer was so far beyond me that I couldn’t do it. And some babies, you know, I kept getting… getting this idea – I don’t know if this was… if this is, was me projecting this back onto myself or if people were saying this to me because I can’t really remember, it’s all a bit of… Carly:Blurs in. Anna:… a mishmash of that time. But she just wouldn’t do the car. Like, we probably left the house to drive somewhere twice in the first five or six weeks, something like that, and until she was months old, like I don’t know how old, maybe at least six months old, possibly longer, I couldn’t bear driving more than 12 minutes from my house, and we live in an area that’s a bit out of town. It’s at least five minutes to get to anyway. So, our radius was very limited. And I would, I would have a look. I would go, okay, I can do 12 minutes, and I would plan somewhere along the way that I could stop at six minutes because she would be hyperventilating. Anyway, I kept getting this thought of like babies love to sleep in the car. Just take her for a drive. And it was the most… the worst thing that I could do. I would try like putting a mirror in the backseat so that she could look at me, but it just, it was just terrible. It never worked. And I think part of that as well was that I was following her most of the time. I knew that she didn’t need as much sleep as other babies, but there’s still that thought of when you’re so tired that you just want them, just want them to sleep, [15:00] and I couldn’t walk every single day with her when it was 40 degrees and she would be sweating. I just wanted her to sleep somewhere else and she wouldn’t. So, yeah, that’s the start. Carly:I so feel you. Anna:I suppose that’s the first three months at least. That’s where I’m up to in my head. Carly:Yeah, I feel, I feel you. I’ve had two car-hating babies, and they weren’t my little sparkler. My little sparkler, well, he hated it to start with but he actually grew to love the car. But my two other babies, who were quite cruisy dudes by comparison, were nightmares in the car, and I so relate. I live in a small town and it was, I would literally be using all of my energy to drive safely a short distance… Anna:Yeah. Carly:… and just get us all there safely to get out the sweating, purple mess from the back as soon as I could. And I had a lot of friends around me who had babies who loved the car, and they had those click in, click out capsule things and the kid’d still be asleep if they did… Anna:Yeah, that would transfer. Ha. Carly:Yeah, and it was just so foreign for me. Like it’s, just wasn’t something I could relate to. But it wasn’t anything that I did, wasn’t anything you did. This was actually our babies and you know, it’s sort of I think there is that element of it’s really hard to accept that you just don’t have that kid sometimes. Anna:Yeah. I.. I helped out a friend who was going to a pelvic floor physio appointment, so I was holding her baby who was, I don’t know, somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks old. And I was just walking around with her and playing some music through my phone and eventually the baby went to sleep on me. She transferred into the car seat. They drove 20 minutes, half an hour home, and then the baby transferred from there into a cot and kept sleeping. And I was just like, who…? Who has a child like this? Definitely not me. Actually… Carly:What is this? Anna:Like, are you sure? Are you sure that’s what happened?Because it was just so, so different to my experience. Carly:Well I think… and I, I think that actually feeds into it a bit too, because unless you’ve had one of these babies it can seem like you’re being – like to others who haven’t had these babies – it can seem like people like you or I are being a little overdramatic and perhaps it’s our anxiety talking, that we can’t even go to the toilet. Anna:Maybe, yeah. Carly:And it’s like, no, actually it’s… it is as bad as I am describing, and the fact that I can’t even go to the toilet without hysteria is real. And I get that you can do that happily without your baby going into hysteria, but what I’m telling you is still real. And I think that there’s… that’s actually part of the gap that goes on, that makes you feel isolated in those experiences, because unless you’ve actually had it, sometimes people have this little bit of a doubt of like, really? You can’t just have a shower? Like just put them in the little bouncy thing. They’ll be okay. And it’s just like, oh, you have not lived in my house. More about Little Sparkler babies Anna:Yeah. I was very fortunate in that my parents are not too far away and they did get it because I was also that baby. Carly:Ta-da. Anna:So, fancy that. It was kind of like they were so supportive and also every now and again there’d just be a little bit of a chuckle and like a, ‘Oh, payback.’ And I was like, ‘Aw. I cannot blame my husband for this at all. I know it is all me. It’s all my personality issues, like a chip off the old block’, and the sleep is exactly the same. Carly:Yeah. See, we were in role reversal. It was my husband who was the sparkly fellow. Anna:Ah. Carly:I, I feel like the kids as they’ve gotten older, they have got more and more of me. Like, you know, picked up on lots of other things that are more me. But when it came to that intensity as a, as a baby, that was my husband. I was a very chilled out baby. So yeah, my… I feel like that was probably a bit of a rip job for me but it is… it is what it is. Anna:It’s interesting though, what you find out. Like I have over the course of our sleep journey, I’ve found out from my parents, who I’m very lucky to have like closely in my life, that there’d always been this story of how they went on a family holiday and they, they lived up in Queensland at the time, and this holiday is down sort of Central New South Wales. It was a 15 hour drive. And there’s always been this story that I cried the entire 15 hours, and when I finally fell asleep with one hour to go my dad got pulled over for speeding trying to get home as quickly as possible with me asleep and I woke back up. Carly:Oh, your poor mum and dad. Anna:So, that’s always been like, ah, just the car. Just like the car thing, alright, okay, it’s pay back. I get it. But then little bits come out where it’s like, ‘Oh, oh yeah, but it took us five days to do that trip.’ So when I’m planning, like we had to do trips to see family members [20:00] who are unwell, a good sort of eight hours drive time away, and it would take us two full days, like first thing in the morning until six at night to get there, because she just, like even though she was at an age where she still needed naps she rarely slept in the car. And so we would have to plan all these play stops, even like – sounds ridiculous to plan like sleeping stops from a drive, but it would take us so long to get anywhere. And like as soon as that kind of information comes out it’s like, okay, I’m not just being too soft. Like I always thought that it was kind of that they’d pushed through. Carly:Yeah. Anna:That they’d been able to put up with my crying. But that’s not the case. It took them all that time and I just didn’t know. Another one that was like I didn’t sleep through either at all or consistently until I was in my kindergarten year, so the year I turned 6. And so I just, I don’t have a major expectation of her sleeping through because of that. Carly:That’s really powerful, isn’t it? That… Anna:Yeah. Carly:But like you say, like I was just bringing us back to your story, so in the newborn part you sound like you had a really good understanding of how much she might need you in that stage, but did you still have this idea that perhaps after the newborn stage she would just sleep better? Or like so then the realisations kind of came after that? Anna:I did think it would be better. I did think it would be better. So, she outgrew the co-sleeper bassinet quite quickly. She sort of likes to sleep with her arms out like a snow angel, which doesn’t really give much room when she was already a decent sized newborn. So probably about, between 6 and 8 weeks she outgrew that, and the way our room was configured at the time, we did bring a cot in that had been given to us. And it had more space and she was that little bit older, so… and I was very quick at hearing for her and getting up if she needed me, but getting into the cot was a struggle. So, she would like cluster feed like a demon for so long in the evenings, and then eventually she would drop off and I would pace with her, and then I would stand next to the cot and I would rock her exactly 200 times and then lower her down so that her feet would touch first and then her bottom and then her shoulders and her head. And I am not a very tall person, and the side gate thing was as low as it could go, so all of this is like me on my tiptoes and leaning on the rail and hoping not to get unbalanced and drop her. And… and usually it would be okay and we would get the first block of sleep. And that first block of sleep sounds great, but she might have been cluster feeding for three or four hours and the first block might have been two hours. It could have been three or four, but it was usually two. And the first block for her has then always been the best of the night, so after that it was always consistently one or two hours. And there was only so much that she would put up with – the pacing and the rocking and stuff each night as well - very quickly it turned into, actually I just want to reattach to your boob. So, she also loved that in the daytime though, so essentially we were pretty much on feeds every hour and a half to two hours the entire 24 hour period, and around 3, 3½ months old my husband got quite sick. He got flu A and it just completely wiped him. And I saw him the first day and was like, ‘I have a small baby. I’m getting out of here.’ So, I moved to my parents’ house with her and at the same time I had realised that I had oversupply and so there was milk going everywhere, she was choking, her poos were this like explosive green, mucousy mess, and I got a independent, board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) to come over because I’d, I’d tried the Breastfeeding Helpline, I’d tried all the rest, but it wasn’t happening and it was making our sleep harder and harder, because she just wanted more milk. Like she wanted the breast through the night to comfort her back to sleep, but it was actually making my oversupply situation worse and putting me at more risk of mastitis and more discomfort, and then her being more windy as well. It was like quite a nasty cycle. So lactation consultant came and she helped me, I had to lie, like lie completely flat on my back to feed, which means that then any hope of transferring her back to a separate cot or a bed, to be able to do some kind of like army roll and stand up and rock and lower her to a cot, it just wasn’t happening. So by 4, I think 4 months old – ‘cause this all happened and then like that 4-month-old patch of awful sleep comes as well – and so all of that, I think that, I think 4 months is when I decided that she was just in the bed with me. And we took a side off the cot and we latched the full-sized cot to the side of our bed, but that wasn’t really with the intention of having her in it, it was just so that I felt like she could be on that side of me without risk of rolling onto the floor. So I think about, yeah, 4 months old is when I was like, nah, I’m done. The only way I’m going to survive is full-time co-sleeping. Learn more about safety and shared sleep Carly:Yep. I can relate as an oversupplier also, and laid back feeding makes a massive difference definitely. Anna:Yeah. Carly:Just in terms of it just can’t spray so directly down that throat, ‘cause that was like, my babies would just get covered in it whether they wanted it or not. It was just rolling into their mouths. Anna:Yep. Spot on. Carly:But yeah, that laid back position really, really does make a big difference. So anyone listening along, if you’re doing oversupply stuff, it’s a great position getting that laid back one working for you and, but you’re right, it’s virtually impossible to then do a transfer. So being able to figure out how to do that safer shared sleep is a really important part of being in that position. You’re also more likely to fall asleep like that as well, because it’s, you know, breastfeeding and sleep go together. Breastfeeding and sleep So that’s a really important one to keep in mind. So, she… she was having, like you said she was super wakeful. You think some of the sleep stuff was playing in from the oversupply. Did you notice any… Anna:I think so. Carly:… any improvement in her discomfort? Because it sounds like she was a bit uncomfortable at that time. Anna:Yeah. Yeah, so she was definitely more settled in terms of she didn’t have the gas and the tummy pains anymore. I was feeling better as well because I’d started going down a like, ‘Oh, she must be allergic to something in my diet. I’m going to cut out all this stuff,’ before figuring out that it was actually like a quantity issue rather than what was in it. And yeah, like I think… I think she was definitely in less pain, and probably around that point in time the… that first block of sleep stretched out a little bit. But then that sort of came in ebbs and flows. Like because sleep’s not a linear thing, as we know, it just was really, really up and down for an extended time after that. I knew the newborn part was going to be hard. I knew that she would need me really intensely, like even to 3 or 6 months. But yeah, I didn’t have a vision of what it would look like after that and that’s the bit that surprised me I think. Sleep is a rollercoaster Carly:Well, I’m just looking at our time and we’re about to come up to our 30 minutes for the first episode, but I think we need to hear this next bit in a second episode. Would you be able to stick around and have a bit more of a talk with me, Anna? Anna:Yeah, of course Carly. Carly:That’d be amazing. So just to finish off this episode through, from what we’ve been talking about, do you have a tip that you’d like to share with our listeners for this week? Anna:I think.. it’s tricky because if you’re listening to this you probably have already done or are in that postpartum period. So I suppose my tip is for you to be talking about what you know with the people who are expecting their babies and to, yeah, to let them know what they’re really in for and how they can prepare and seek support ahead of time because you know that they’re going to need it even if they don’t know that yet. Carly:Yeah, definitely. And I think sometimes we hear it’s more like the fearmongering stories around labour and birth and whatnot, and it’s not a matter of trying to scare expecting parents into thinking that they’re in for a hell of a ride. We know they’re in for a hell of a ride, but you can frame it in a way that’s actually really quite powerful. Like you said, when you set yourself up with supports and whatnot through your fourth trimester, you can actually pave the way for a much smoother recovery and set yourself up for that kind of thing. So, like you say, I think that is a great space. There’s also a lot of our listeners who are expecting second and third babies and further, and if you haven’t yet had a postpartum that you would call restful or one that you’ve been able to recovery from, then perhaps this is their cue for actually putting in and seeing if there’s a way that they can better arrange that for themselves, for the coming [30:00] fourth trimester, because even if it’s not your first… Anna:I actually have a… Carly:… it’s still a really crucial time. Anna:… I actually have a free… a free guide that’s about 20 pages or so about preparing for fourth trimester on my website. So I might give you that link as well, Carly. Get your free-guide Your Peaceful Postpartum Carly:Yes please. Yes, that’d be amazing. We’ll drop it into the show notes and it will be in, also in the transcript for anybody who is keen to get that resource. So thank you so much Anna. And we’ll wrap that episode up for now, but we’re going to be talking again with Anna next week to make sure that we can hear all about this next part of her sleep story that wasn’t something she was quite so prepared for. Thanks for coming along Anna. Anna:Bye. Carly: I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. 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