I vowed that the next time I was pregnant I wasn’t going to stuff my face like I did the first time. I guess I lied.
When my baby was 7 weeks old smuggins over here knew NOTHING. “My baby is sleeping through!” I’d crow, skipping through the flat noisily at 11pm. In the daytime I’d put her down in her cot for a nap and walk out merrily, revelling in the silence of my sleeping angel child.
Fast forward to, yep you guessed it, teething and holy God were we in for it. At 5.5 months the appearance of The Teething Monster coincided with us packing up to move house and blithely saying to each other “Shall we use her room for box storage?” “Yes she can come in with us” “Oh yes that’ll be no bother”
So The Teething Monster arrived and my formerly awesome self soother transformed. It happened gradually you see, an extra long hand holding here, a night feed there, until at 7 months we’d been reduced to blithering sleep deprived maniacs at each other’s throats at 4am trying to get her to sleep after the 18th time of her waking up. Every time my husband turned over in bed she’d stir, every time she stirred we’d wake up, if we dared to speak she’d be bolt upright trying to pull herself up and if we left her she’d cry like her world was ending.
It gets worse. Our sale fell through. Yep. It took until she was 11 months old before we finally moved. By that time she was waking up approximately 378 times a night and at the stage where naps would only be considered if we attempted them at exactly the right time of day, precise location, hand holding position and astrological alignment. Our daughter had become a complete and total sleep diva.
My husband and I woke up livid, spent the day livid and went to bed livid. It was a dark, dark time.
Then the move happened and because of the angle of the door, the movers couldn’t get her cot into her new nursery. As soon as they left, knackered beyond belief, hungry, thirsty and still traumatised from another night from hell with baby JLo, I got out my screwdriver and got on my hands and knees. Silently, my husband joined me until (somewhat jubilantly) we placed the cot in the nursery, amid the boxes, and shut the door.
Needless to say, after mini Mariah was deposited in her own room that first night, we simply traipsed blearily 375 times into her room, down to the kitchen (now heartbreakingly 2 floors below) and back to bed, lying tensely waiting for the next cry.
It took 2 more weeks before we were mentally ready to sleep train her. One night after a particularly traumatising 4am conversation involving the word “aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh” we decided. Enough was enough.
We looked it up. We looked at each other and we silently nodded in solidarity. That beautiful little insomniac needed taking down a peg or ten.
Night one. A fresh DVD box set ready, we gave her a bath, warm milk, read her a story, and kissed her goodnight, turned on her dream sheep and got the hell out of there. What followed can only be described as intensely traumatic. There’s a very good reason why the sound of a baby screaming is used as a torture method. That shit is awful. She wailed, she screamed, she stood waiting for me to come back with tears and snot pouring from her little red face, sweat slicking her hair back like a Soprano, eyes wide and scared. It was dreadful. There was so much cortisol and adrenaline flooding my body that if a wild lion had walked in on me at that moment, I could have killed it with my bare hands.
Ten minutes later we suddenly turned to each other – the sound, the terrible, awful, gut wrenching sound…had stopped. Now to how check she was still alive whilst avoiding waking her…in a very old house with very creaky stairs (there was commando crawling involved).
She was asleep. Mission accomplished. That night she woke once, one visit from me and she was back down with not a murmur.
The next day we put her down, endured just 5 minutes of the noise from hell and that was it.
I woke up the next morning at 4am in a cold sweat, I ran into her room mentally rehearsing what I’d learned from my paediatric first aid app and there she was, sleeping peacefully like a soft pink cherub.
The next night just 3 minutes of moderate whinging and another full night’s sleep. Thereafter I’d turn her over after her story, kiss her goodnight and skip downstairs like a pilled up pixie high fiving myself all the way (my poor, traumatised husband conveniently had 3 work Christmas parties that week so missed most of it).
Aaaaaaand breathe. Sleep was once again mine for the taking, I could go to bed without a stomach knotted in dread at how long I’d actually get to sleep before she woke up the first time.
After that first week I would have gone on stage in front of the world and extolled the virtues of the so-called CIO method.
All sorted. Life was good again. Job done. Thank you and goodnight.
Except 2 weeks later she got a bug.
Then it was Christmas.
So here I sit after 3 weeks of Sleep Diva’s return, back on day 1 of training. This time I invested in a video monitor which is currently sitting on my lap finally displaying a sleeping baby. This time was worse than the first time with an hour and 50 minutes of repeating the scream-lie her down-shh-exit cycle and I fear the older she gets the harder it will be to re-train her. For now though, it’s finally quiet.
But if a wild lion walks in now, it’s dead meat.
I am, yet again, watching “One Born Every Minute” (for those who haven’t seen it, this is a British TV programme about women giving birth – very graphic). Every time I watch it I think “WOW those women and nurses are AMAZING”. Every time I watch it I cry. And every time I watch it I think “Did I REALLY do that too”?
I’m so proud of myself for giving birth, and am in awe of every woman that has too.
That is all.
Was anyone else not just slightly amazed by how many people there are not at work on a weekday? I had no idea until I joined them and now I love being part of this new group (might be a problem when I go back to work). Walking the pram round the park you get to observe so many different interactions that it’s a bit like your very own reality TV show or nature programme. There’s the fitness fanatic, the random drunk, the exhibitionists, the grandmother,
the teenage truants and the next messiah (no, really, we were lucky enough to sit next to him on a bus to Lewisham – what are the chances!) I find it endlessly entertaining to imagine what they are like, particularly if (being frankly a bit nosy) you catch a bit of conversation. Then of course there are the other mums, so many, why did I not notice how much breeding had been going on round here before? There’s that slightly awkward corridor moment when you’re approaching another mum along a path, when to make eye contact and smile without looking a bit manic or unfriendly, seeing if you can get a glimpse if the baby and being unable to help yourself comparing it to your own.
Another massive benefit of the daytime community is actually getting to know my neighbours. In the last few months I think I’ve spoken to my new neighbours more than in the previous ten years living in London. Having a baby has suddenly opened up a whole other world and friendships that I might never otherwise have made and I’m loving it.
I woke up (was woken up) this morning full of good intentions to get a list of things done before the weekend. The baby was cheerful, it looked like it might even be sunny – good times!
Starting upstairs I got to work changing the bed and was frankly feeling pretty virtuous. However the baby is teething and within minutes he was lodging a complaint about his lack of attention. Propped up on a pillow he began his low monotonous grumbling. With only a fitted bed sheet to put on I thought I was home and dry but apparently every one of the sheets we have had shrunk in a magical Alice in Wonderland type way. After numerous attempts in an increasingly hot room at pulling the mattress up to stretch the sheet onto the last corner just to have the other side ping off and with the baby protests getting louder, I stood up and something pinged in my back. I may be alone here but it’s amazing how trying to complete even a simple task with an unhappy baby turns me irrational, emotional and uncoordinated. Finally I realised it was time to admit defeat before I started getting angry with the baby. Leaving the bedroom looking like a ghost massacre I took the baby downstairs. Now writing this I can see that I made the rookie error of starting anything without a very large cup of coffee. Re-fuelled and with a to do list revised to ‘make the bed’ I’m off to try again, wish me luck.
Can’t quite believe that I’m somebody’s mum. When you think how important your mum is in your life…good or bad, present or absent, caring or hard, your mum is your mum. And now I’m that to little James. Mind blowing.
I hope…well I’m not sure really…I suppose I just want to be able to look back in 40 years time and say “Yes, I did him proud.”
My husband lovingly asked me the other day “darling, I love you, but when did you turn into such an insufferable ball-breaker?” and I admit, I totally have. It’s mainly to do with tidiness – I felt it coming on whilst I was pregnant, I think that was the first time I noticed how messy my husband is. We went on holiday when I was 7 months pregnant – we’d get to a hotel room and I’d turn my back for a second and the room would look like the bags had exploded!
He just sheds everywhere, it’s like he walks through the door and things just drop off him, making a mess. His evening route through the house is as follows: front door – shoes kicked off and left wherever they land, kitchen – contents of pockets including half screwed up receipts, keys, wallet, a few coins and about 3 half finished packs of chewing gum, emptied onto the kitchen counter. Glass of squash made and half drunk (by bed time this will be joined by 5 other half drunk glasses of squash left in various locations around the place). Hallway coat room – suit jacket possibly hung up, possibly draped over the Hoover, bedroom – suit trousers on the bed, socks and belt on the floor. Tshirt pulled from the bottom or middle of the pile (not the top, never the top), rest of tshirts that fell out whilst chosen tshirt was being extracted just shoved back into the wardrobe. Bottoms the same. Bathroom – shirt on the laundry basket (not in). Back to kitchen – yoghurt opened, lid licked and left on the counter…it continues all night. Then we go to bed (with a fresh glass of squash).
Now I love my husband more than anything, he’s my best friend – but seriously, he’s about as tidy as a teenager! And I should know, I used to be just as bad, in his grooms speech he even mentioned the “floordrobe” (my old penchant for leaving my clothes all over the floor). My bedroom as a teenager was horrendous, I used to have spaces on the floor that I used as stepping stones to the bed – my mum just stopped even asking me to tidy it in the end, it was terrible. Now I can’t go to bed without wiping the worktops and arranging the bathroom curtains just so. What the hell has happened to me?
During the “insufferable ball-breaker” conversation, my point was that I don’t want him to come home and ask me the question “what have you been doing all day?” Meaning “less lunchy lunchy more cleany cleany”, so to avoid that, I started cleaning and tidying as soon as he left (starting with the bathroom chaos – I think he must get out of the shower soaking wet and skip round the room, picking up towels randomly and splashing everything in sight).
He ended up hitting the nail on the head. He said it’s because keeping the house is now my job (albeit temporarily) and I’m pretty wholehearted when it comes to work, so I put all my energy into my new job and make sure I do it well. Which, he said, I am. He also said that he pitied my colleagues. I chose to ignore the last part.
I was kicking myself for having trained my baby to sleep like a log in her own cot with minimal fuss. To sleep, she won’t be held, she won’t be sitting up, she won’t even be stroked. All she needs is to lie down in her cot and have her dream sheep on. Sure it’s inconvenient when I’m out to lunch, but as I lie here on the bed next to her waiting for her to go to sleep in an unfamiliar house, I can’t help but be a little but grateful for the fact that I get to have a little 15 minute escape from whatever I’m doing and to have a little lie down myself.
1. Mummies are not allowed to be poorly. If you tell anyone that you and/or your baby are ill, the stock response is “oh poor Hannah” (don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to take it away from her). Your feeding/cleaning/changing duties do not stop. You do not get a lie in. You do not have time to have a hot bath.
2. Mummies are supposed to know the answer. “What does she want”? is the question my husband asks most. “Where is the xxxx”? Is the next one.
3. Parenting books are rubbish. I flicked through one the other day which I had devoured when I was pregnant, thinking it was the Bible of Babies. I laughed out loud at the advice. One bit said “by now your baby will be sleeping through”. The author obviously hadn’t met Hannah. And in fact has never been a mother.
4. You might not be able to establish the routine you wanted. Before I had her, I was ambivalent about whether or not I would breastfeed, and when she came out I decided I definitely did want to. I was helped with oodles of breastmilk (lucky me) which for whatever reason is no longer there. So I’m topping up with formula and frankly it’s really nice to be able to drink from time to time, and to go out without having to get your boobs out to placate a hungry baby.
5. I’m fascinated by poo. Sometimes she goes twice a day, sometimes once every 5 days. I have names for the different sorts. I have names for the different colours. I’d better not carry on with this bit.
6. Having a routine is great when you can stick to it. Pros – I know when she will go to bed and when she is likely to get up, when she is likely to feed etc etc and can work my life around it. She seems happier and is easier to manage. Cons – you are tied to the routine. If she leaves it, I know about it all day for the next 48 hours. So I can’t go out after 8pm….