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SUMMARY- Join Carly and Leah De Shay-Evans as they discuss Leah's experience with D-MER and aversions and how she struggled to find support, as well as her mental health, healing from trauma, and leaving an abusive relationship. Leah also shares what's worked for her in returning to health, finding a new partner, and how they meet their children's needs and their own.

You can find Leah by following her work on, the Fam Doulala on Facebook and Instagram 

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.
Carly: Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. This week we’re welcoming back the wonderful Leah De Shay. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, we heard part one of Leah’s story and how her family, or how she came to be handling sleep in her family, and this week we’re looking forward to hearing how that looked when she actually welcomed her own babes to the fold. So, welcome back Leah.
Leah: Thank you so much. Excited to be here again.
Carly: So, tell me, when we finished the last episode we were just getting to the part when you were welcoming your first babe, who you said is now ten years old. Is that right?
Leah: She is almost ten. She’s going to be ten very soon. Yep.
Carly: So, while you were pregnant with her did you have an idea of how you wanted to approach sleep with your family?
Leah: Um… I’m not sure my idea was conscious. And if anybody’s listened to the previous episode, we were talking about defaults, which is just like not even really having an awareness of how much the customs that you grew up with are affecting your expectations and your subconscious behaviour. Right?
So, I think, for me, there was no conscious – and this so, this is an extremely common phenomenon, so it’s good for everybody to think about - there was no conscious, like me sitting down and looking at anything that had happened in my childhood, or anything that I was accustomed to, and conceptualising like, ‘Oh, this is how I was raised. I should see what other people have done with their children for sleep.’
Like, that process absolutely did not happen during my first pregnancy. And I think it’s normal that it doesn’t happen for most, I think people come into it with assumptions, not even necessarily processing that they are assumptions. You know what I mean? And so, I was very, very stereotypical in that sense. Like, I was no different than most of the patients I would ever see, like in the future, dealing with my first baby. So nope, there was nothing conscious that happened.
Carly: So, were you thinking…? So, you were planning to breastfeed and co-sleep with her?
Leah: I was. Because that… that was the norm in my family.
Carly: That was your default.
Leah: That’s right.
Carly: Yep. Excellent. And so when she came along how did you find that immediate postpartum?
Leah: So, this is where things I think get really fascinating, and I hope this speaks to some people because it’s a… it was so unexpected for everyone involved. So, I actually had a really, extraordinarily difficult time co-sleeping. And it was heartbreaking for me because in my family that was like a marker of being a good mother.
Carly: It’s how things were done, kind of like my family with cot sleeping.
Leah: It’s how things were done. Correct. And so this isn’t… this isn’t a statement on what is right or what is not right because, especially now as a provider, what is right is what… whatever situation is safe and fulfilling that accomplishes and meets the developmental and, you know, social, emotional needs of the baby and then the provider, for me is what’s right. Right? And so, I could only devise…
Carly: It’s got to work for your family. It’s got to.
Leah: Yeah. It has to work, because if you can’t do it, it won’t work. Like, that’s…
Carly: Sustainability people.
Leah: That’s the bottom line.
Carly: Because they’re not babies for a day.
Leah: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, of course if it’s harmful, you know, I’m just – to be extremely straightforward – I don’t… I do not work with families who are practising cry it out. I don’t shame them. You know. I release them. They have to work with someone else. But that’s a boundary for me because that… there is, in the risk/benefit ratio arena there is only harm on a research level. So, I have a responsibility as a clinician and a provider to be extremely upfront about that. And it doesn’t mean that I think that I… I understand why people resort to it. Truly. I’m like, when we get into… I really do. I had… I have, my child who is autistic had extraordinary colic. I truly understand the amount of exhaustion and exacerbation that a parent gets to where they are so desperate for sleep and relief that you’re kind of like, dude, kid, if I don’t get any more sleep, neither one of us is going to survive. So, if you get… if you’re going to lay… No, truly. Like, and this is just me being empathic.
Carly: Yeah. Yeah.
Leah: Like, I understand where you’re like, I’m just going to have to put you down in this crib and you’re going to have to cry, because if I don’t go to sleep I’m going to die on the road to work tomorrow, and then you won’t have a parent. So, you know, a lot of parents are just doing that calculation inside their mind. Those… those families I absolutely will work with because I know how to do risk reduction for them. It’s families who have a night nurse and a doula and a mum in the house and all of the rest of that, and they still choose to do cry it out. I’m not their doula. You know? Like, that’s not… I’m not for you. You’ve got other influences that are apparently really strong that are priorities in your life. And while I’m not going to judge you, like I’m also not… I am not the right person support you. You know what I mean?
Carly: You don’t have to be a part of it.
Leah: Correct. People whom are desperate, and they are resorting to cry it out, out of a sense of just inability to find any other option and truly going days without sleep and all the rest of that, I am their doula. I absolutely can help you. Right? And so, my experiences reflect being really disoriented and coming face to face with feeling like I didn’t measure up, like to my mother and my aunts and my grandmothers. So, I had D-MER, which is dysphoric milk ejection reflex. Yep. And then I had aversion once the kids got teeth.
Carly: Far out.
Leah: Yeah. I got all the things.
Carly: Oh, no.
Leah: And it was so heartbreaking for me because those things, that was not… no one in my family knew about that. So, when I went to what I thought were going to be my support systems to seek help, they were all sort of like, ‘Oh, god. What’s wrong with you? Like, you should see a doctor about that.’
Carly: Oh.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: That’s brutal.
Leah: So… it is. And my – and this is not a remark against my mother. Like, no… nobody berated me. You know what I mean? Like this is not… and that does happen.
Carly: But they just didn’t know.
Leah: Correct.
Carly: Yeah. It fell outside their range of reference.
Leah: Absolutely. And there I gained an immediate sense of exclusion. And it was extremely jarring for me, from an identity standpoint, from a relationship standpoint. So, my experience was disorienting to be honest because I planned to do these things. And you know, at that point, that was in 2010… when I got pregnant, 2011, end of 2010. She was born in 2011. And so, at that point all of these things were just sort of like starting to come into trend, that you were even discussing them, right? And they were, at the time they were… 'fed is best' was not really out yet, and so 'breast is best' was still a thing that people were saying, and it was like, should you? Is it safe to sleep with? And like, is it extreme or is it better? That’s when all of the sort of the conversations were happening, about 10, 11 years ago. And I was just heartbroken. I really felt like something was wrong with me, mentally, physically and emotionally. I have…
Carly: Did you find some support? Like, obviously outside of family. But was there anyone you…
Leah: You know, it took years. It wasn’t until she was in preschool that I was able to find social support. And so, a huge part of my secondary wave in my career has been creating space for support and being some… an assertive, sometimes aggressive advocate against the shaming that happens among my colleagues in the community for women who deal with this. I really have no tolerance for my colleagues who…
Carly: Fair enough too.
Leah: Yeah. Like, because how… it’s not helping. What are you helping?
Carly: That’s right.
Leah: What are you helping?
Carly: And what’s the plan? Like…
Leah: Right.
Carly: … what about? What about these people?
Leah: Right.
Carly: Where’s the support there?
Leah: Correct. It’s different if you say this is out of my… my scope, and this is out of my comfort level as a provider. I respect that. But a lot of… in… amongst the IBCLC and doula circles there… there’s a lot of Madonna complex collectively that’s going on with them, where being… being an acceptable woman is still limited to your ability to materialise all of these idealistic, stereotypical things about femininity. Right? And so, I… it led me to be way more assertive in being a feminist, and just really lean into advocacy. I mentioned that I was doing STD and breastfeeding research, and so I was already in arenas where I was dealing with people who were parents, but also were… their lives involve a lot of taboo issues that other people don’t want to talk about, sex work, LGBTQ communities, which now like is more normalised, but 10 or 15 years ago it still was not. Like, when we were at college it still wasn’t, like it was normalised in the sense of that we all knew it existed, but there… there wasn’t a lot of integration. Certainly not in care.
So, I sort of already had a primer of like being there for the underdog and identifying with that dynamic, if that makes sense. But I think going through the experience of thinking that, oh, like this is all just going to come naturally to me, right? Because it is natural to me, right? Like, hypothetically, in my mind. And then finding out that your mind and your body are together, but they are not one and the same. And I think a huge part of becoming a mother is navigating that, and it can be so jarring for some of us. Right? When it… when everything doesn’t line up. So…
Carly: Well, it’s kind of the control side of things, isn’t it?
Leah: It is.
Carly: Like, you kind of just have the opinion if you just work at something, or you decide this is how it’s going to be…
Leah: Right.
Carly: … you can make it so.
Leah: Correct.
Carly: And it’s just not like that when you have a babe.
Leah: It is not.
Carly: It’s not like that at all. So, tell us, when… so, obviously you had a rough time breastfeeding. Did you actually… were you able to…?
Leah: I actually… so, I had… and this is… we know now in research – and you know, we don’t know which is coming first, the chicken or the egg and causation… correlation is not causation – but there is a correlation between extremely high supply and D-MER. And that’s again, different podcast for like biology and to talk about the dopamine upcycle and all of the rest of that, why that might be the case. So, I had… only that was another thing that was… that was alienating. Because on the outside, like I… I pumped extremely easily. Like, I expressed easily. I just had so much milk everywhere. And so, everyone… it didn’t leave me a lot of space to find support. Because what everybody was seeing was, oh, you have a great, big, fat baby. You know? Like, breastfeeding must be going great. Oh, wow. You have a freezer full of milk. And I was like, yes, and I am miserable because right now I am the behest of my breasts. Right? Like that’s, I have no control over this. This isn’t about what I want to be doing. Like, I… and I got into that runaway train of like my breasts are always full and I’m extremely uncomfortable, and I have D-MER so every time I have a let-down I feel miserable, and it’s happening all the time so I’ve got to empty my boobs, and I have to feed this baby more, but god I hate feeding this baby. Like, it really can get you into a terrible place. And unless you’ve had the experience it’s kind… you know, even when you have the experience it’s not easy to understand, because it’s not a logical experience.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: Like, it’s not an experience that makes sense. Right?
Carly: But it is how it is. Like, that’s…
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: … that was how it felt, and it was how you experienced it. So, do you think that played into… how did, like your relationship with the babe look then? Like, if you’re finding this so damn, like frustrating and miserable, how was… how were you feeling with babe?
Leah: I think my saving grace that allowed me to cope in a way that did not affect her negatively, and I feel like because, you know, she’s a decade old I can say that with some confidence. You know, she still has the rest of her life ahead of her. Maybe she’ll end up on the couch in ten years about, like breastfeeding nightmares or something like that. But right now she seems to be…
Carly: But she’s doing alright now.
Leah: Right. She seems to be really well-adjusted, incredibly bright, really cool kid, so I think she’s okay. The one saving grace of my default culture having been very child-centred was that I was able to separate what the war that I felt was going on with my body from my relationship with my child. And that’s not something I am taking credit for. I want to be really clear. Because I did… I definitely ended up with depression. With maternal depression specifically, because… because why wouldn’t I? I was exhausted. I was such a light sleeper that every time she like breathed differently I was awake, wide awake. Which I later learned was anxiety. So, it ended up, my co-sleeping issues ended up being from anxiety that had been undiagnosed for years and I had no idea about. But they flared up so high that I got OCD symptoms and every… so, I just had like overlapping things. And, you know, the less you sleep is the worse anything becomes. So, even if you don’t have mental health issues, you’re going to if you’re not sleeping for a long time.
Carly: Cycles. Swings and roundabouts. Yeah.
Leah: Right. So, by the time she was about 7 months old I knew I needed help, and I was trying to go back to work, and that’s when it really… I actually got into a car accident the second day I went back to work, because I was so exhausted. And my eyes were wide open, but I was not awake. Like, I literally, I woke up when I felt the impact, even though my eyes were open, because I was almost… I would describe the experience now as hallucinating. Not in the way that happens when you’re on drugs, but… but in what your brain does when you’re that fatigued for that long.
Leah: Yeah. And the remarkable thing was even when she was in care and when she was babysat, then I couldn’t even get to sleep. So, when I tried to co-sleep I could sleep. I was just constantly waking. But when she was not there and someone else was taking care of her, I couldn’t sleep at all, and that was sort of the trigger – like, ding – this isn’t actually about the co-sleeping or the baby or the breastfeeding. There’s something else going on inside your head for which all of this is a trigger, and it just ended up being anxiety. So, my takeaway from that is that when I… in the previous episode when I talk about giving ourselves space, like as women I think we… there’s such a lack of support and sometimes just a spirit of just pushing things aside. You know? As women, as we’re getting older. And that’s okay. Like, we don’t need to blame ourselves for that. Society is what it is. Our cultures are what they are. And, you know, you can’t blame yourself for being a product of however you grew up.
But don’t ignore like your own pain.
You know what I mean? Like, at some point during the process there’s so much pressure during the new period to… to adjust that you can’t even escape, that’s necessary in order for you to take care of your kid, that if there are things in your life that have always been things that you needed support over, and you’ve told yourself, oh, it’s not a big deal, or you know, like, I don’t really want to bother people with that, or this is just me. You know, all of the things that we tell ourselves, like to push things inside, into the back of your mind. Don’t be surprised if it comes to the front. And when it does, like get some help.
Carly: Absolutely.
Leah: So, I found help with a therapist. That’s…
Carly: I was about to ask you that. I was like, who did…?
Leah: Therapy is where I found help. Yes.
Carly: Who did you see? And so, how old was baby when you actually were able to get you some help?
Leah: About 7 to 8 months.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: That seems to be a really common trend. Hey? Like, I…
Leah: Yes.
Carly: I was in the 6 to 7 month, but it took me to break before I did that. But…
Leah: Yep.
Carly: Yeah. It seems to be really common. Like, you just, it’s like you think you’re going to outrun that newborn period.
Leah: Correct.
Carly: And then you kind of stretch it a bit further. And then when it’s still not okay it’s like, hang on a sec.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Like, and it’s okay. Like, it would be so brilliant if people were able to get that support they needed much earlier, before you hit that full-blown breakdown exhaustion.
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Leah: Yes. Right.
Carly: Because it really, it’s hard to come back from. Isn’t it?
Leah: Very.
Carly: Because you’re still mothering. You’ve still got…
Leah: Yes.
Carly: You’ve still got this kid who needs you every night.
Leah: You’re always working against a deficit.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: You end up working against a deficit for years.
Carly: Yeah. It’s very hard to come back from, and I feel like, did you find then with your second, third and fourth babe that you were able to address that before it became such a heavy deficit?
Leah: Yes.
Carly: Or did you find that it was still a challenge?
Leah: No. So, that’s a… that’s a wonderful reflection also. So, I got help. I had a wonderful therapist. It is important to note though, in me saying that I have – and so, I’m separating these two things for a reason – I think… I fully believe that mental health issues are medical, clinical issues. I am, you know, there are communities that really have a rare sense against medication, and on a social standpoint, and from an intersectional standpoint, I understand where a lot of those things come from. However – big however – I don’t indulge like demonising people seeking pharmacological treatment. You know what I mean? Like, whatever… whatever is safe and available to you is what you should use to find balance for yourself.
Carly: Absolutely. And especially for some people that can be the difference between able to have success in therapy or not.
Leah: Absolutely. Definitely.
Carly: Because if you, you know, that… it can provide that… that space you need to be able to actually get properly well.
Leah: Yes. Right.
Carly: My thing would be, as someone who’s been through that kind of challenge as well, would be that I wouldn’t rely only on medication.
Leah: Correct.
Carly: I think if that were the only thing you’re doing, it’s probably not going to be you getting really well.
Leah: No. No.
Carly: But, yes.
Leah: You will… you will form a dependency, but you won’t… you won’t have any sort of solutions that… that give you progress. So, you’ll just stay static. Right?
Carly: And addressing.
Leah: Yeah. You’ll get into a holding pattern.
Carly: And addressing the actual, underlying… yeah.
Leah: But you won’t undo whatever is causing the issue. I completely agree. So, pharmacological actually did not end up working for me, which was sort of upsetting at first, but I had a wonderful therapist, and so I was able to go through like cognitive behavioural therapy and it was really, really helpful for me. With that in mind – and so, trigger warning for anybody who’s coming up – I ended up having to face and deal with some traumatic things that had happened to me outside of my family that involved abuse, and I realised that I had been in a marriage that was abusive. I’m leaving space to think about that also because, like the way I said it was on purpose. I realised that that marriage that I was in was abusive. The statements where we just talked about where… it was a very short marriage. He was a police officer. There was a lot of things going on. Also for another podcast. But because I had never even told my parents some of the things that had happened to me, not… not within my own household. Right? And so, because of shame and because of just lack of awareness and whatever else, they are things that I had never faced. So, it all came to a peak when I had a child because I was exhausted. Right? Like, it was also feeding into that, and I wasn’t in a healthy situation. But I couldn’t recognise so many of the things that were happening to me. I was continuing to internalise blame for them in myself. And going to therapy, my therapist was like, I’m sorry, what happened with your husband? You know?
Carly: It’s like, you’re not taking that on? Like…
Leah: Right.
Carly: That’s not you.
Leah: No. She was like, ‘Woah, woah, woah, woah. Let’s back up.’ So, it really helped me unpack so many things that had gone on in my life. Also why I’m divorced obviously. Thankfully. Everybody does not leave their abusive relationships, and that’s also a different conversation. And there’s no… abuse is such a really bizarre, dark dynamic, you know, on both sides, for both people who are going through it. So, no shame or judgement for other folks. But I have seen in the last ten years as a provider so many women who also had a-ha moments of like, oh my goodness, I’m experiencing emotional abuse. Because they hear someone else talking about it, and then they hear it, name it that way. And they’re like, oh, it’s not just my husband, like being a prick and making me feel terrible. Like, this is a name. It is a thing. It has like… wow.
Carly: There’s been a lot of realisations in the community.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: The Me Too movement’s made a massive shift in the way people are thinking.
Leah: Absolutely. So, I separate those two things because number one, you can be depressed and have anxiety and have OCD and be in a really, extremely loving partnership. You can. And so I intentionally didn’t include that in me talking about it at first, because I wanted people to know that like, it’s complicated. You know? Like, sometimes both present at the same time. Sometimes people are in abusive relationships and they really, really lean into their mothering, and their mothering is like their… their outlet where they do great, and then at work is where they’re experiencing extreme, you know, disruption. It just, it’s so… it can be really different for everyone. It’s such a difficult transition. But if there is anything latent that you have not had support for, like get support for it.
Carly: Absolutely.
Leah: That’s 100% my takeaway point for that.
Carly: Yep.
Leah: So, in that relationship I… the only way that I was able to resolve what was going on was by leaving. And that I… it’s not for lack of trying. Like, I tried everything available to me, but as you also learn when you’re parenting, like you can’t make anybody do anything. Least of all your partner. So, I did everything I could do, and he was extremely unwilling to participate in any progress, that’s putting it lightly, if not directly, aggressively opposing me at all times. So, the only way for me to level my mental health and make sure that it wasn’t affecting my child in a way that I thought her development was really going to be threatened was for me to put a boundary on that relationship. Again, I had a lot of support. My family’s wonderful and they helped me with that. Everybody doesn’t have that, and I know that, and that’s terrible, and that’s also like for a different conversation. But surely find someone. You know? Like a therapist. There are organisations. There is support available even if it’s not from the people who really should be giving it to you. You still should be able to find it.
Carly: Absolutely. And it’s… it’s kind of, even if you’re having little, niggling thoughts of, oh, maybe I’ll just give it a bit more time, that probably is a sure sign you should be seeking support now.
Leah: Absolutely. 100%. And that doesn’t mean you can’t give it more time, but give it more time while you have support.
Carly: With support.
Leah: Absolutely. 100%.
Carly: I agree. I agree. It makes a massive difference.
Leah: Yes. So, when I… when I went into, you know, there was a gap obviously of almost five years before I had my next kid. I got remarried to a man who I had known before my ex-husband. You know? And we had been really good friends the entire time. He also was co-parenting which, for me, it wasn’t necessarily like a need, but it ended up being so helpful because the capacity for someone else to… to understand and not judge and not question or necessarily be frustrated with dynamics that were part of my life – hopefully less part of my life now also with, you know. How that happens in the US is… the US does not take domestic violence seriously, which is extraordinarily terrible. But for people who are listening outside of the United States, if you’re like, why did you have any co-parenting? Yes. Different conversation. The US is a crazy place.
Carly: Oh. Australia’s like trying to make grounds, but it’s pretty disgraceful here too.
Leah: I’ve seen… I’ve been watching the pages. And we definitely can’t get into it right now, but my goodness. Wow.
Carly: Yeah, there’s lots… lots of room for improvement, let’s say.
Leah: Definitely. I’ve seen.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: So, when I… the next choices that I made, you know, I was in therapy the entire time, which is definitely a privilege everyone doesn’t have. And as an advocate now I… I have channels. I’m connected enough that if people reach out to me and they’re really serious and they want a therapist, you know, and they have a lot of barriers, then I am happy to like connect people. So, I want to put that out there. I feel like that’s a responsibility of mine.
Carly: Thank you for that.
Leah: I had therapy. My… my husband currently had therapy also, because I was like, I’m not marrying another man who hasn’t gone through therapy. I don’t care if you don’t think anything’s wrong with you. Like, you have to go.
Carly: It’s a requirement, buddy. It’s a requirement.
Leah: Absolutely. It’s a pre-req. So, please finish it. And he was fine with that. But we… we discussed all of these things. And, you know, he… he has a daughter who’s nine, and… and they’re friends. It’s actually one of the reasons why we’re together, is because when they were like one-and-a-half they started some of their first full sentences were asking to play with the other when we were in a close social group. And so, we ended up getting really close after our children got close which is, you know, kind of cute and whatever.
Carly: It’s like you were meant to be, hey?
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: Forcing the paths to cross again. Love that.
Leah: So, he also came from a background where co-sleep was the norm and breastfeeding was the norm, but now I was able to reflect to him, like, I love this norm and it’s a wonderful ideal, but I struggled with it. I need a partner who is willing to do these things knowing that it does not serve me, like medically or mentally. Like, I can’t fulfil this need for my kids, but I still want it fulfilled. And when I’ve talked about this at conferences, you know, and round tables, it has really been a huge a-ha moment for partners of any gender because sometimes you’re dealing with things in a marriage, and it’s really just a lack of understanding of different needs in the partner. Like, just because both parents can’t fulfil a need doesn’t mean the child can’t get their needs fulfilled. So…
Carly: It’s a team effort.
Leah: It is.
Carly: If it can be a team effort it can be one. That is for sure.
Leah: Absolutely. So, I was just in charge of all of the feeding, whether it was breastfeeding or pumping or whatever was happening, and most of the time it was breastfeeding. But we came up with a system where I would breastfeed the baby, and because I was still awake, because I cannot sleep with my kids next to me, I would then give the baby to him when the baby was drowsy, and I’m asleep and he co-slept with the kids, and I got a full night sleep. And he ironically started sleeping better when he was co-sleeping with the…
Carly: It’s a thing.
Leah: Right?
Carly: It seems to really be, like it either really has that impact on your or not.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Like, definitely for me. Like, wow. Although I did have the anxiety issues, but I found with the second and third baby, because I did it from the very beginning, absolutely.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Like, and I’m a… I’m a… I have very high sleep needs. Like, I am way on the high average of adult. And that was, sounds like we’re pretty similar, your husband and I, for that part.
Leah: Yes. So…
Carly: Slept better with the baby close.
Leah: Well, the good news is also, you know, by my fourth child I was able to co-sleep.
Carly: Ah.
Leah: And the first time I fell asleep and woke up – I say this because I feel like people need to hear this progress – basically my anxiety over the years, over the last seven or eight years that I have been together with my husband, and just in the course of probably just a lot of healing of everything that happened to me, you know, including my… my relationship with my ex and anything that precluded that that had not necessarily been resolved or even confronted. In that process – and I think just having a partner that was willing to work with me without judgement and, you know, was flexible and, you know, let’s… let’s just try all of the options that we can do that meet our needs and the baby’s needs. That removed so much anxiety from me also.
Carly: Yeah. And you knew he had your back.
Leah: Yes.
Carly: Like, what was the… what was the harm in trying different things when you knew he had your back?
Leah: Right If it doesn’t work then we won’t do it anymore. You know? And it doesn’t… there doesn’t need to be great aggravation or anything about it. Like, let’s just find our happy medium. But yeah, by the time… actually by the time my son was born. So, by the time my third child was born it was so emotional for me. I… he… my husband said he… he shed a few tears when it happened. I was basically breastfeeding my son, and he was like six weeks old, and I fell asleep. And my husband said he came in the room, and he was like, oh. Because that wasn’t my norm, and it didn’t happen. And so, he said he just got in the bed, like he repositioned us, made sure, you know, the bedding and everything was safe.
Carly: Everyone was safe. Yep.
Leah: And he made a comment to me. And I sort of heard him. He said, Magnus is still here. Are you okay? And I like pushed him off he said. And I was like, stop touching me. Like, I’m sleeping. Leave me alone.
Carly: Busy.
Leah: Right. And I woke up the next morning and I had slept for six hours with my son next to me. He was a very, very fat, well-fed baby at this point. Like, he tripled his weight by the time he was eight weeks old. So, he had no – what I’m about to say is not normal, and like don’t make any judgements off of it. But he, the baby slept too. And so he…
Carly: But that’s why he did.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: So, he had no needs. He had no dietary needs for those six hours. So, we both slept six straight hours and I just bawled when I woke up. I was like, wow. Did I just, like co-sleep? Wow. I didn’t know that was going to be able to happen. Then we started, like started arguing over co-sleeping, because he had started sleeping really well with the kids and I was like, nope. No, thanks. I’ve finally got this. Like, go away.
Carly: My turn, mate.
Leah: Exactly.
Carly: Oh, I love it. That’s a beautiful story. And it’s…
Leah: So, that’s our long-term story, and we… you know, now… now we just gauge it over who… what’s our work schedules. You know? Whoever… whoever is working the earliest in the morning is the one that gets the primary… primary self-sleep. This is the parent. And whoever isn’t is the one who puts the kids to bed. Our kids now all basically sleep on their own. I mean obviously they wake up. There are sleep disruptions. So, we just alternate who’s on for the night, and it just depends on our schedule. So, if one of the kids wakes up and they can’t sleep, then whatever parent is on that night is the one either who’s, you know, going to co-sleep or put them back to sleep or whatever is happening. And can I just say, it happens when your kids are still ten. Like, they’re going to go through puberty again, and their entire sleep cycle’s going to change. So, don’t think… my ten-year-old was the best sleeper. She was like the rock sleeper. And now she’s the one who’s most likely to be like, I can’t sleep, for various reasons in the middle of the night.
Carly: It is a thing though, as they get bigger, hey?
Leah: It is.
Carly: Like the, you know, nightmares or worried about something at school.
Leah: Yep. Yep.
Carly: They didn’t get it all out before bedtime. You know, there’s heaps of little things that come along. But I guess that’s the thing. Like, I don’t know about you, but I still, like I said, I sleep a lot, but I still wake in the night to go have a wee or a drink…
Leah: Of course, or to be thirsty.
Carly: Like, I’m 39. So…
Leah: It’s ridiculous that we don’t… that we think that children shouldn’t be able to do that. And, you know, most people when you ask them, you don’t even have to like, berate them or anything, you just ask them, so, how many times did you get up last night after you went to sleep? And most people will go, ding. And it sort of hits them.
Carly: Yeah. And it takes such a weight off, waiting for that whole 'sleep through the night' milestone.
Leah: Absolutely.
Carly: It’s like… I don’t even, like it’s not even a thing. Like, it may never happen and, you know what? We’ll all be okay.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Like, that’s not the thing I’ll be waiting for. That is brilliant. I just… I just love that the actual transformation to… of having a partner who is fully there for you…
Leah: Yes.
Carly: … and your family, and being able to recognise where the other parent’s at and be able to show that kind of flexibility with each other. And it’s just that real trust and faith in the relationship that makes such a huge difference for you guys.
Leah: Huge difference. Yeah.
Carly: That is massive.
Leah: Absolutely.
Carly: Now, I’m just looking at time and I can’t believe it. We’re already up for another episode. I feel like we have at least another episode, if not two in us.
Leah: Yes. Definitely.
Carly: But before you finish up, would you have one more tip for us that we could share with our listeners?
Leah: Um, this tip is actually for the non-birthing partners. And that is that - this is not anecdotal, although the anecdotes, you know, in my practice certainly support it – from a research standpoint the long-term success in ability for us to predict how prevalent depression will be in the birthing parent is greatly influenced by the rate of engagement of the partner. And I don’t say that in a blaming way. I’m sure some people hear it that way. I’m saying it… there are so many men especially who once the baby is born feel like they have no power over those first two years. You know what I mean? There’s a huge sense, I constantly hear like feelings of helplessness, of not knowing what to do, feeling like you don’t know how to make a positive impact. Partners make an enormous impact, and it’s a cascading impact because you’re impacting, you know, your… your partner, who’s just given birth, who needs to recover, and god knows how many other things depending on what commitments they have in their life. Right? And come into their own, whatever decisions they’re making, whether you’re pumping, you know, bottle-feeding, breastfeeding, whatever you’re doing. None of those things will be pleasant for anyone unless there is an equal level of compassion and empathy and engagement from the partner. And partners have 100% control over that. You know. They do.
Carly: Do you reckon, like, is there a term – you might know – is patrescence a thing? Like a term that’s used?
Leah: It is a new thing, that I’ve heard people like using it.
Carly: Because I’m just thinking about it.
Leah: But yes.
Carly: Because I know when I was in matrescence, I really struggled with my husband’s finding his feet.
Leah: Absolutely.
Carly: Because I had no freaking clue where I was.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Let alone being able to help him sort out his shit.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: And so it was a really, really messy time in our relationship.
Leah: Absolutely.
Carly: Whereas I know… yeah, whereas I found the second and third baby – and it sounds like maybe this is why you and your second husband also had some luck, because you’d already kind of been there and started your matrescence.
Leah: Right.
Carly: And he’d started patrescence.
Leah: Yes.
Carly: That there was this actual recognition that, hang on a sec, alright, I can… you can find your roles… but you had already started to find yourself to know what would feel right for you. Do you think that would be…?
Leah: Yes. That… that made a huge difference, and it’s a privilege everyone doesn’t have. But I don’t know if privilege is the right… that’s not the right way to describe it…
Carly: Yeah, it’s hard isn’t it because it’s like…
Leah: … because it came out of divorce. So…
Carly: Yes. But it’s also that whole like, isn’t it, like it’s rough that you have to be kind of lucky to be able to be in that kind of relationship.
Leah: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah.
Carly: But, actually in reality, if we are honest, it is absolutely lucky right now for people to be...
Leah: It is, unfortunately. Relatively speaking it is. It should not be at all. It should be the default. But statistically and realistically and relatively speaking. Absolutely.
Carly: Yes. And talking practically.
Leah: Yeah.
Carly: Like, there is a lot of work to be done in this space. But I guess once again that comes back to our talk, like when we were talking last episode, where it’s giving yourselves time and space to also grow and learn as well, especially if you are actually in a worthwhile relationship.
Leah: Correct.
Carly: I’m not talking about relationships that are toxic and unhealthy.
Leah: Right.
Carly: But in a worthwhile relationship. Like my husband and I, we were in a really healthy relationship, but wow did we become…
Leah: And it can still be complete hell.
Carly: It really was.
Leah: It’ll be some of the worst hell your relationship goes through.
Carly: We… we were so poles apart for so long because we were so… well, me particularly, went so inwards, there was nothing left. So, I think that’s really important, like you say. And I think for people listening along, especially if you’re still in the thick of your early days parenting, go easy with each other.
Leah: Absolutely.
Carly: But do understand that you will make an amazing team, eventually.
Leah: Right.
Carly: Give yourselves some time to find your feet and find what feels right for both of you.
Leah: Yes.
Carly: Play to your strengths. So, that’s… that is an amazing…
Leah: Play to your strengths and just lean… lean into compassion. I feel like among the attachment parenting community, I joke but perhaps this isn’t a joke, like as a reproductive sociologist now who, I no longer only counsel, I very rarely only counsel one partner. I do collective counselling, and that’s why I call my practice family doula. Because I have found that the only way that long-term progress takes hold is when I am supporting both people who are responsible for taking care of that child, for this exact reason. So…
Carly: And it helps get people on the same page.
Leah: 100%.
Carly: Because we all bring… yeah. The things we bring to parenthood, it can be poles apart. And you don’t know what you don’t know before you had that baby.
Leah: That’s right.
Carly: You’ve no idea what your points of difference are going to be.
Leah: Right. So, I try to insert… I insert in the interactions compassion and practicality and some rationality if the need is there because I model it. Do you know what I mean? And like, it’s very intentional. You… you model that behaviour. And sometimes you’ll be with the partner, and they’ll tell me later like, I’ve never seen them soften on this subject until you interacted with them, and then I realised, like, they just want to be understood. Like, they’re not necessarily trying to oppose me, but they feel judged. You know? Or they… they feel exiled, or whatever else is happening.
Carly: Not heard.
Leah: Right. When we look at what we… what we as advocates are suggesting that we practice in attachment parenting, like we sort of need to practice attachment partnering. Like… and it’s not going to come naturally to you. I think that’s the most important part. Like, it’s not going to feel natural. You’re going to have to look at this person in your mind, in your brain, during conversations where you want to be like, what the hell is the matter with you? Like, if that’s what you want to come out of your mouth. And sometimes maybe that still will.
Carly: Yeah.
Leah: Like, in certain conversations it still might. But it needs to be followed up with the concept of curiosity. Like, come from a place of wanting to understand. Truly. Maybe something is wrong with them. Like, physically or otherwise. But don’t come from a place of criticism, come from a place of 'I desire to understand', you know, what the challenges are between us so that I can fix them. Because that’s how you approach your kids. And so this is not infantilisation. This is not looking at your children and being like, they’re smaller than me. They are so cute. This is… once we learn to respect children as individual adults from us, it makes more sense what I’m saying in practising mutual compassion across all the relationships in your household. Do you know what I mean?
Carly: I was about to say compassion.
Leah: Yes.
Carly: That’s what we’re going for there, isn’t it? Perfect. Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s really powerful stuff. I’m so glad you brought the partners into that. Now, we’re all out of time for this episode. But I feel like we’re going to have to get you back again. Do you think you might have another episode with us later on, Leah?
Leah: Yes.
Carly: Not today. Not Sunday.
Leah: We could do it. Not today. Not today. Later on, definitely. Yes.
Carly: But it’s… it’s been an absolute delight listening, and just such wise words, but also I love the reality of it. You can… you can feel the warmth and the compassion that went into your story for yourself and all members of your family. So, thank you so much for that.
Leah: Oh, thank you.
Carly: It was wonderful. Alright. So, thank you so much, and I’ll drop all of your information into show notes for people if they’re looking out for the Fam Doulala, so that we can keep these conversations going. Remember, please do share it around and comment and mention as much as you can, because as Leah said in our first episode, these kind of conversations are not algorithm friendly necessarily, so the organic growth and stretch is not really there. So, let’s play our part because these conversations are so important to families around the world. So, thank you for coming on Leah. It’s been a pleasure.
Leah: Absolutely. Look forward to doing it again.
Carly: Thank you.

Carly Grubb:
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. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. If you'd like even more from the show you can join us as a patron on Patreon and you can find a link for that in our show notes if listening is not really your jam we also make sure we put full episode transcripts on our little sparklers website for you to also enjoy and fully captioned YouTube videos as well on our Little Sparklers channel so thanks again for listening today we really enjoy bringing this podcast to you.

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