A common misconception is that the reason I can help families with solid sleep is because my four children are perfect sleepers. Whilst 12 solid hours a night is now our norm, the truth is the contrary. It is only because I once was where you may be now (wracked with exhaustion that crippled me and polluted my life) that I am able to empower families like yours. My role is something I’ve been fortunate enough to do for over 10 years now, half of them voluntarily, helping families across the globe obtain glorious, life-transforming solid sleep.
Rewind ten years and I was a first-time Mum to a 10 month old baby who I was determined to raise with the highest level of love and attachment possible. I vowed I would see to her every need, night and day. I would never let her cry and I would never let her struggle.
But just like my vision of my perfect pain-relief free natural water birth and blissful breastfeeding experience (I had a traumatic emergency c-section and couldn’t breastfeed at first) the reality of motherhood was brutally different, and it robbed me of what I perceived to be my right to do parenthood the way I imagined it.
My breastfeeding journey did eventually get off the ground, but I soon found myself rushing in and shoving my boob in my baby’s mouth most of the night and day as, frankly, it seemed to work, and I didn’t know what else to do. Rather unsurprisingly, I found myself with a 10 month old baby who was waking for a feed every 2 hours at best, and it was only when I got to a couple of months off her turning a year old that I realised this wasn’t a need and more of a want. It was a want I was desperate to put an end to, if there was a way to do it without causing her any distress. As I was experiencing the full effects of the toxicity of sleep deprivation.
Knowing that any kind of sleep teaching would cause some level of distress, I carried on as I was, frozen into inaction by both fear (of causing her damage through not seeing to her every ‘need’) and exhaustion (I was too tired to summon the energy to do anything that was going to be short-term harder work.)
Beyond exhausted, my body continued to beg me to make a change; my eyes stung, the whites of my eyes were red and my head was clouded by a constant fog of poor memory and confusion. I felt physically sick a lot of the time. I was as run down as I’ve ever been, getting poorly almost double the amount of times I was used to. Mouth ulcers were regular occurrences. I was forgetting everything, was super clumsy and forgetful and I was completely overwhelmed, finding everything too much, however positive and ‘on top of things’ I was trying to be. Even the thought of something as simple as washing or what to wear or cook felt overwhelming.
I was staunchly anti-controlled crying because, to me, crying equated abandonment. My role as a parent was to protect and nourish my children physically and emotionally, and I believed that my children’s psychological security would be compromised with any kind of sleep training.
So I ignored my body‘s plea to change the narrative of night after night, week after week, month after month of broken sleep. Because I’d read the terrifying threats disguised as supportive poems or memes which warned me that ‘they’re only little for so little time’ and not to ‘begrudge their calls for you night and day as they’ll soon be over and you’ll not be needed’. These sentiments plagued me with guilt and froze me into stagnancy, propelling me further into my frenzied despair.
Another factor contributed to me not doing anything and that was having to make the choice on which approach to take. It seemed to me that there were two choices. You either had to be in the camp of a regimented, restrictive routine that seemed to me to dominate your life rather than serving it, missing out on all the lifeline groups that took place at ‘nap time', or you walked around barefoot, co-slept until they were 5 and fed on demand while they dragged your boobs out during a conversation with friends, whilst you jumped bolt upright every time they hiccupped, incase they were psychologically damaged by your absence. I didn’t want either of those things (although I did breastfeed, co slept out of necessity, and often forget my shoes!)
Despite me being ok with putting my body and mind at the back of the list, there was an increasing sense of dread creeping in which refused to go away. It’s thick, tar-like presence in my mind and heart seeped in, urging me to make a change to life as it was. The powerful and overwhelming feeling that tapped me on the shoulder and gripped me round the throat was telling me that I was lying to myself. I was not enjoying the precious years that we’re told are so fleeting. I was not being the mother I knew I could be because of how emotionally drained and at times resentful I was feeling. This felt like such a waste.
The reason I didn’t want to cause my daughter any distress was because I wanted to be as available for her as possible. But sleep deprivation meant that the mother who was available to her was not the one that I envisioned or was proud of. Broken sleep was shattering my sound and competent mind. There were dark times when I feared I was not safe to be in charge of the wonder that was the human I had co-created. I knew change needed to come, but I didn’t know where to turn, who to trust or how on earth to begin. The mound of information towered over me, mocking me. I remained firmly frozen where I was, exhausted, desperate and hopeless.
So life threw a little car crash at me. With my 10 month old baby in the back. We were both unharmed physically, but I knew my exhaustion had caused it, and how lucky we were to be safe. When I frantically googled the role of tiredness in accidents (looking back, I was searching for evidence to justify sleep teaching) I saw that tiredness is responsible for some of the world’s most heinous disasters (Chernobyl, to name one. But there are several - take a look.)
So I talked to the most kind and loving mother on the planet (my own) who told me it was ok. Who gave me permission. She told me I’d ‘needed’ her to stroke my hair as a child until I was 6 years old to get to sleep and how she wished she’d enabled me with the confidence to do it myself sooner.
It was then that I decided to make up my own method of sleep teaching. I was uncomfortable with the rigidity and harshness of the mainstream ‘sleep training’ methods, so I created my own simple, sensible, responsive and most importantly loving way to free us from the shackles of sleep associations.
It paid off. Just 2 days later, and with more tears before I made the change than during it, the baby who woke ‘needing ’ a feed every two hours was sleeping soundly and peacefully for 12 hours at night and 4.5 hours in the day. She was waking from sleep happy and refreshed and would chat to herself in the cot for half an hour after waking if I let her (I didn’t - I was too keen to see her after a lovely nap myself.) Her appetite soared, alongside her immunity and her sparkle in her eyes, and with it my calm, contentment, happiness, energy and focus soared.
Witnessing how speedily and dramatically it changed my life, I felt compelled to help others in my former situation. I realised that the magic wasn’t in the method (however good it was.) The ‘magic’ was in the support and empowerment my Mum gave me.
I wanted to share that ‘magic’ with others so I spent five years volunteering my time completely free of charge, helping families in need in my local area. For five years I would drive to strangers’ houses, stay overnight helping them through the night and then drive home at the crack of dawn to breastfeed my own babies. Every time I helped another mother, I felt as if I was reaching a hand down to the old me, the one weeping on the dirty kitchen floor, and pulling her up to standing. It was an incredible feeling. I felt super-charged. Like I’d been put on this earth to help other women like me.
Word spread about my 100% success rate. Almost 11 years later, CALM & BRIGHT supports families from various demographics across the globe via its 5-strong team of Sleep Supporters. Eve and Gemma (Eve’s sister, C&B Director and Award-Winning Paediatric Nurse, read Gemma’s story here) and their team of highly qualified women (who have all themselves been sleep deprived) enable and empower families wherever in the world they are called to help. We have had the honour of helping clients in Hawaii, Kenya, New York, the French Alps and Singapore, to name a few of the places our hand of support has reached.
If you would like to see which of our sleep plans are best suited to your family, please click on the golden ‘Assess Me’ button so that we can tell you which of our support options will best help your family join us in the experience of long-term solid sleep and the transformation to life that it brings.
When my Sister Eve embarked on this journey and started Calm & Bright she had a vision. She wanted to provide the kind of ‘rescue’ that she herself had been so desperate for just a few weeks earlier. She wanted to help, support and encourage exhausted, sleep-deprived families like her own because she had been on her knees and guided her own way out of it.
After witnessing my big sister struggle through sleep deprivation, watching her come out the other side was incredible. When I went on to have my own children, Eve was there to love me as a sister but also to offer a hand for me to hold through the unknown territory of sleep deprivation and to help me get through some of the darkest, toughest moments of my life, because she knew how; she knew another way.
I vividly remember Eve calling me and telling me how she wanted to help other Mums with sleep but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realised how incredibly dedicated she was to this cause. Eve had created a method that came from a place of love, that included loving boundaries but also offered reassurance, a method that she had used on her own babies and it worked. It also worked on the families she volunteered her help with for five whole years. Putting her own babies to bed then driving to other Mums houses so she could support and help them, she showed them a different way, a way which encompassed love and kindness and safe boundaries. Her kindness knew no bounds. It also worked wonders for her nephews and brought me out of complete despair after having Louis, my second son.
When Louis turned six months old and I was ready to return to my job as a Paediatric Nurse, I got a call from Eve saying she needed to make Calm & Bright a business. She had been offering her time for free, with the clear objective of helping other families, but as word spread and the demand for her voluntary service increased, she knew she needed to adapt and change the way she worked in response to what lay before her.
I knew that if anyone could make this a business she could. I had experienced first hand all of the good that this little baby sleep business was going to bring. Just a few months later we had a conversation about me joining her at Calm & Bright as a Sleep Supporter. I loved the idea of helping others with sleep and working with Eve but I didn’t think for one minute that the gratification I got from my job as a Paediatric Nurse would rival the feelings I got when helping families with sleep. I mean I was saving lives as a nurse for goodness sake. How could anything compare?
I came on board and after I completed my first support and it was such a huge success, I remember getting off the phone and being in floods of tears and having to call Eve. You see I was still saving lives, just in a different capacity.
Fast forward five years and I’m now Director of Calm & Bright alongside my part time job as a Paediatric Nurse, a position I’ve held for thirteen years. I’m also wife to my very gorgeous husband James and Mum to my three boys.
Whenever I look at my second son Louis I think of how old Calm & Bright is as a business because he was born when Calm & Bright was born. He is my best sleeper of the three boys so what a wonderful reminder of the changes Calm & Bright makes. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have this job along side my sister and my best friend. Here is our vision and your space, a space where we aim to support you and to lift you up. We welcome you with open arms, and four ears to listen. We want you to know that you’re always welcome here. Come as you are.