Tears happen with babies. They just do. Especially puppies and humans it seems to me – but that might be my own biases showing. Actually, orphan kittens have reduced me to tears on occasion and my childhood kittens (Rum and Coke) drove my Mum to unusual crying when they climbed and shredded a chiffon dress. It was the first time I can remember seeing her cry in fact. No matter the species every one I know raising an infant hits a wall at some point. Sometimes many points. That wall has multiple potential causes:
- Exhaustion (seriously – why can’t babies sleep when we sleep??)
- Worry (are you being a great adult? Or even are you being a vaguely competent adult? did you do the right thing having/getting this infant?)
- Stress (what is that infant doing? Is that normal? Am I reacting right to that thing?)
- Imagination (what if you screw up more than any human ever has in the history of baby raising?)
- Fear (what if something is wrong with your baby and you can’t fix it – or worse what if you make that problem occur?)
and on and on and on – the cause of the meltdown isn’t as important as knowing you are SO NOT alone .
Today I supported a human with two tiny human twins and another with a lovely, gorgeous carefully bred and chosen puppy. They both had found themselves exhausted and melting down, My true and visceral empathy made them feel better – and the reminder that they are human and learning still probably helped a little – but not nearly as much as I’d like.
Why do we fall into these metaphoric wells of despair?
Well the exhaustion piece is a huge contributing factor. Humans are not horses, Napping for 20 minutes multiple times a day most often while standing simply doesn’t fulfill our requirement for 7-9 solid hours of uninterrupted sleep. Any of you who have raised a baby or puppy – or borrowed one – are now laughing hysterically. I hear you. So hear me out OK?
A lack of sleep is not good for our bodies or our minds.
The body tries to compensate for a lack of energy by seeking food to give us that energy which can lead to odd eating patterns, food choices and unhealthy weight gain.
I often discuss the impact of a lack of sleep on learning and memory. Good deep sleep gives us a chance to lay down new neural pathways and allow our brains to absorb new information and then be able to access it. Memory is negatively impacted by a lack of sleep. Our brains literally just aren’t right without sleep! We want and NEED to have our minds in fine working order when dealing with baby stresses.
Impulsivity is a common side effect of sleeplessness. Overreacting, jumping to conclusions and other emotional roller coasters occur as normal inhibitions get overwhelmed by a lack of sleep. In a fascinating twist our decision making ability is also impaired. I realized this on a personal level many years ago when hand raising a tiny orphan puppy. I went grocery shopping and literally could not choose between two different cans of corn. (spoiler alert – I left the store without any corn!) To an outsider it would have looked like corn made me cry. How totally ridiculous. How completely human.
There are other negative impacts of course – getting sick more easily, struggling to see correctly or use motor skills, impaired judgement … you know them – you’ve lived them at some point. But you may be at a point where you don’t even realize how sleep deprived you are.
If you are struggling with overwhelm find a way to catch up a little on sleep – just one decent night is all you need often to get more back together – considering finding a puppy sitter for night or taking a morning off work so you can all go back to bed. If you are last to bed, up through the night and up early perhaps someone else can do the last potty break for you? Don’t be afraid to get creative – or to ask for help!!l Puppy loaner programs can work well too!
There is more to dealing with overwhelm than sleep of course, many of which I have discussed here or in podcasts: self care, more self care , splitting things into tiny little achievable pieces , process and use the feedback you are getting if it’s helpful (sometimes deciding that involves a good hard look at yourself!).
Get yourself a copy of the FDSA puppy book – it’s full of great strategies, tips, timing ideas … it will remind you that puppies are their own unique form of wonderful. Yah wonderful – that’s the word I wanted. The incomparable Hannah Branigan has told me she has yet to have a puppy she hasn’t at least once, in passing, dreamed of leaving for someone else to care for. I agreed with her. You are SO not alone!
Some other final thoughts
Focus on THIS moment … live in the present – all too soon that puppy will grow up and you’ll miss puppy breath and woofs and wags …
Stop judging yourself – you are doing the best you can with what you have. If you have a rotten no good do over day – that’s part of the journey and is quite all right.
Send that joy thief comparison packing – really – I mean it. This baby isn’t that baby and the litter mate isn’t your puppy either. It’s YOUR journey – with THIS puppy – that matters!
Get a plan in place, get some grounding techniques that work for you mastered…. take a minute or ten when you need them. Lean on your supports – a sympathetic friend, family or Facebook group.
Love your puppy, love yourself – let your future dreams inspire you not terrify you. You will have good days, rotten days, great days and everything in between. When you can – make the most of them, when you can’t take care of you!
(When the blog moved my drafts popped up – this was last edited in 2017! Time to hit publish!!)