My five months of being a sleep bore
Putting the baby and his preschooler brother to bed involves negotiations which are so complex they make Brexit talks look like a doddle
Arthur and Louis: Bounding down the stairs, deals done, two hissing baby monitors in hand, is always a moment so full of hope.
If anyone told me they were feeling tired over the last five months, my expression probably looked like Jon Snow’s if you told the Game of Thrones hero that you’d had a tough winter (without the hipster facial hair of course).
“Really? You wanna know about winter?”
And then drone on and on until we are seven seasons in and winter still hasn’t come.
There is no option of a backstop or transition period. Sleep must be reached before they become overtired monsters (think Boris Johnson after 10 double espressos)
I admit, I became a “sleep bore”. I probably need to apologise to friends, family and acquaintances. I know if you told me anything negative about your life lately, I will have somehow segued into my nocturnal deprivation. “Oh so it rained for your entire week’s holiday? But was your bed comfy? And you slept well?” asks the sleep bore. “Oh well, then you’re very lucky. I haven’t slept more than two hours in a row in months . . . I was awake at 2, 4, 6 . . .”
I wish I had written flashcards after my first baby to advise me on this matter. One card would have big black writing which reads: “Someday, you will sleep again.”
It would explain that, for the first few months, I could try everything to get baby to sleep the night: feed or shush to sleep, put him in my bed or a cot, swaddle or use a sleepsack, send him on a rocket to the moon.
But it won’t happen until he is ready.
But five months in it has happened. Louis has finally slept a six-hour stretch. I still get a tingle when I wake and realise it’s 6am and I haven’t fed him since midnight.
And, as a bonus, we finally have our evenings back.
But to get to these free evenings, there’s just a small matter of putting the baby and his preschooler brother to bed. Getting there involves negotiations which are so complex they make Brexit talks look like a doddle. There is no option of a backstop or transition period. Sleep must be reached before they become overtired monsters (think Boris Johnson after 10 double espressos).
For the toddler, there’s the “go up the stairs – oh I forgot my teddy – down the stairs” accord, the one-leg-on-one-leg-off pyjama pact and finally the “one more story please? Okay then” compromise.
For the baby, there is no blueprint. I haven’t yet found anything in a book which explains how to actually put a baby to sleep. Sure, there is lots of advice on routine, making sure they get daytime naps and vague words like, “settle the baby”.
The how takes a lot of figuring out.
Getting to grips with Louis’s bedtime sleep routine has become part of Operation Mammy Freedom because I fed him to sleep for the first four months. So for this complex manoeuvre, we’ve brought in the big guns: Daddy. It involves giggling, then crying, then patting and shushing. After this comes that point in the negotiations where you can taste victory. The baby makes a fax/dial-up-internet noise and flutters his eyelids. Often, there’s a dreaded moment when he opens his eyes and look like he’s going to pull out of the talks. But then gives in. Sweet triumph.
Bounding down the stairs, deals done, two hissing baby monitors in hand, is always a moment so full of hope. Until I open the kitchen door . . . dirty dinner plates, food squished on the floor, a box of overturned Lego, wet washing waiting to be hung up and a long list of “I’ll do that once the kids are in bed” to dos.
There were many things I innocently wondered before I became a parent. Why did so many people seem to spend their evenings watching television when they could be out for a walk, why were there so few people in their 30s at the theatre, why did once up-to-date people fall behind in the latest technology – like not even updating the software on their phones? When I’m a parent I will be different.
But I’m not.
Once the war zone is fixed, I become a Mombie and collapse, exhausted on the couch. For now, this is the dream, the adventure – no baby lying on my lap to feed, preschooler silence which isn’t suspicious.
And despite my sleep-bore talk of tiredness, I’m like an errant child when it comes to going to bed myself . . . just another 20 minutes . . . pleeeeease.