PLEASE GO TO FUCKING SLEEP / by Charlotte Marriner

[I should preface this whole ranty tirade with the fact that this all happened two weeks ago now. Two weeks that felt like two years. Two years of under-eye bags and glazed expressions, where the days of the week rolled into one another and I woke up every day with a head thick with jumbled, interrupted dreams and a confused hum in the background. Sod waterboarding. I have no idea why torturers haven’t made effective use of The Eternally Sleepless Baby. Said baby, however, has now just spent the last three (three!) nights in a row sleeping beautifully and I have literally sprung out of bed every day feeling refreshed and aliiiive again. Though I don’t want to jinx it by saying that. Ah fuck. I definitely jinxed it didn’t I…]

 

It’s stab-yourself-in-the-eye ironic when, at three in the morning, the words to When You’re Happy And You Know It, sung in Elmo’s ball-clenchingly, helium high voice, are stuck on repeat in your head as you try and soothe your baby back to sleep for the fourth time already that night. Teething slash sleep regression slash classic baby stuff has descended upon our house; which means the lovely, happy baby I used to have has morphed into a raging, dribbling lunatic who no longer conforms to any kind of reasonable sleep pattern. My baby is broken. Unlike the dodgy watch I bought in Brighton with the smiley panda face, I can’t just take her in to be fixed. We have to ride it out together, like a fuckoff big, angry wave charging towards the beach. A wave which is a hundred feet high and full of killer sharks with gnashing teeth. (Which is ironic, as she is still very much toothless, and is instead being plagued by three, teeny tiny, white dots. If the bad bit – when the tooth actually cuts through her poor little gums – is yet to come, we’re screwed.)

 

Edie used to be a champion napper. Her morning naps were like clockwork; 45 minutes snoozing sweetly in the sitting room, an hour and a half after first waking, while I wafted around the kitchen leisurely eating my breakfast before taking a shower. And that was the short one. Unless we were out and about, afternoons were usually spent quietly snoring in the corner while I nursed a pint of Earl Grey and binged on First Dates and Escape to the Country. (Yes. Yes I am making the most of my maternity leave thank you very much.) Naps for days! Just liker her father! The housework got done. (Sort of.) The blogs got written. My underarms were clean. Everyone was a winner. She was even getting pretty good at nights. Sure, she’d wake up the odd time, but by and large I was getting in solid fix to six-hour chunks of sleep every night.

 

But then one night she just… woke up. And wouldn’t go back to sleep again. I shushed and rocked and bobbed and jiggled. And nothing. Those bright little eyes stared stubbornly back at me and after half an hour of trying to shake her to sleep as gently as I could muster, I succumbed and shoved her on the boob. If in doubt, feed her into a sleepy coma! Trying to ignore the “you’re making a rod for your own back” whine in the back of my mind, I let Edie guzzle until she passed out in a milky heap on my lap. I gently, gently placed her down in her basket and tiptoed back into bed before – shit. Kicking the basket. Is the baby awa – yes, yes she is. Right. More boob it is! Waiting until she collapsed again I placed her back in her basket and counted her gentle snore for a few minutes before closing my eyes. Job done. Angry growling and slurpy fist sucking woke me as I slowly came to in the darkness. Jeez, winter is coming in fast. It’s like the bloody middle of the night still! I checked the clock on my bedside table to confirm that it was most definitely still the middle of the night, and not morning as I’d assumed. To be precise, half an hour after I’d put her back to sleep. Fucking bollocks. I groaned loudly, wondering if the snoring lump next to me would sense his wife’s distress and pain and come swiftly to my sleep-deprived aid. Nope. I picked up the hungriest baby in the world and set about jiggling again. We did this little dance for the next three or four hours – up, jiggle, boob, down – until she finally fancied more than half an hour of sleep and slept for about two sweet hours. When Carlo woke the next morning I was sat bolt upright in bed, hair a la Something About Mary, eyes little piggy dots on top of puffy wrinkles, mouth open and dribbly. Not to worry, a day on the sofa doing nothing would sort me right out and she didn’t tend to sleep that badly for a prolonged period of time. Tonight would be better.

 

Only it wasn’t; it was very slightly worse.

 

The evenings got longer and shitter, my heart sinking as bedtime rolled around and I knew I’d be spending the majority of it bobbing up and down like a yo yo. I devoured sleep books and suggestions from friends, but babies need to be introduced to change slowly, so I couldn’t exactly just fling her into her nursery and be done with it. At least when the weekend finally came I had Carlo’s help; a fellow soldier in the trenches who could tough out the enemy’s wailing and be employed to do some serious rocking/shushing while I hid under the covers in shifts. The second week rolled around and I began to fantasise about running away to the closest hotel and closing all the curtains, turning off my phone and burying deep under the covers. I started to categorise my Top Best Sleeps Of All Time and would loll on the sofa, zoning out to old lie-ins, replaying them over and over again like some weird, sleep masturbator. Remember when I slept until two in the afternoon on a Sunday and got all upset because I’d wasted the day? HA! Boo hoo. Fucking selfish wanker with my ‘too much sleep’ problems.

 

And then Edie had her last round of immunisations at the end of the week. They’re never pleasant, but the last two had been hiccup-free so I wasn’t expecting any drama. She was a little cross and grizzly that day (fair enough, she’d been turned into a pin cushion earlier) but fell asleep easily enough at her usual time that night. She woke me at 1 that morning with a banshee wail and a forehead you could fry an egg on, before being Exorcist sick all over herself and me. Usually when she wakes up in the night I sigh and swear under my breath. This was horrible. This was suddenly wide-awake and trying not to panic as your baby starts breathing rapidly, crying desperately and turning into a miniature fireball while you struggle with the bastard Calpol syringe. This was that simultaneous stomach sink and panic rise. We stayed up with her all night, her limp little body plastered to one of us at all times. We cleaned up the seemingly endless tide of vomit and mopped her sweaty brow, gently rocking her as the fever bashed her relentlessly and left her mewling and moaning. Fever made her eyes glazed and quiet, stealing their little twinkle and leaving her stoned and empty. If she wasn’t shrieking and wailing she was quietly creaking and groaning. Babies don’t understand being ill. She was confused and frightened and all I wanted to do was swap with her. That night, I was never so happy to get so little sleep. The next morning was still tough, but something about the simple light of day made the whole situation less nightmarish. By late morning, we got a watery smile. By early evening, we got a symphony of giggles. We had our baby back.

 

As I said at the beginning, the last three nights have been dreamy – she’s been sleeping like a pro. But that one, sleepless night, where she frantically clawed at the air and threw up and up and up, has made me realise I’d take a million restless nights, where she wakes up noisy and starving, over that awful one.