Well, I’m in the fog. The almost-six-months-down fog. The post-euphoric-new-born stage and pre-solids-or-routine stage that inevitably hits you. I vaguely remember knowing this crash would come, and yet it’s arrival is still a surprise. It makes me bitter and angry in the wee hours when at 3am you’re mid-way through gruelling 20-minute cycles of feed, soothe, settle, wake. At 3am I’m cursing everything. Why do we have the noisiest floor boards in the world? No reader, that’s actually a serious question – why? Can she possibly have wind? What if I put her on her side? But then what if she stops breathing? How will I get through tomorrow? Hang on – is she definitely still breathing? (Sits up abruptly to listen for breathing only to wake baby. Again)
Today’s proving… challenging. She slept till 8am, but then I was up at 7.15am to start the day shift and bid farewell to a sympathetic husband. And I appreciate the sympathy – and particularly his stocking up on biscuits for later – but at 3am you want the other person to feel your pain. A thought flickered through my head that I should march down stairs to the spare room / husband refuge to shout ‘I can not TAKE this any more – Here! You try this for five minutes, because I don’t think you are GETTING THIS’. But at 3am one also needs to be the essence of restraint. When Mammy starts stomping around the house like the four-year-old… well, we’re all goosed.
In the small hours of the morning, resentment fills. You resent the fact you didn’t go to bed at 9pm, that you promised to meet a friend the next morning – you even resent the fact that you thought it a good idea to have this baby in the first place. It’s a genuinely dark, frustrating and lonely time.
Back to this morning, where porridge was made and all were dressed, a snack for playschool pulled together, faces half cat-licked with a cloth, coats and hats put on. That was on top of the more pressing issues of sorting out a fight over a pair of Ben10 sunglasses, fisticuffs over an old slice of apple followed by violent love-filled mauling of the baby. Sprinkled with some time spent sellotaping lego to the fireplace, explaining what a Ninja is (I made this up) and singing Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo in the voice of Louis Armstrong (it’s a particular talent, I won’t lie).
Did I mention our heating’s on the blink?
Nights like these cause the hangover from hell – you end up with that nagging headache and fuggy, tired feeling served up with a large dollop of fear and loathing. And everything your day presents is D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T.
To top all of this off, even on my third baby I feel I’m learning everything from scratch. Almost five years later I’m still googling sleep solutions, reading up on weaning methods and recipes and ‘What’s Apping’ pals for tips on how to put the baby to sleep without feeding, to ease the toddler’s teething – oh, and keep my sanity in tact.
Sitting on my kitchen stool, coffee in hand, two biscuits in, I tried to flick through my bank of accumulated baby-rearing knowledge. Why, third-time-round, can’t I crack this lark? I decided there are really only two things I know to be true.
Firstly – you will forget everything. Everything! What happens at what stage, how you managed it, the tricks you relied upon. Every-thing. If you haven’t already written it down (kudos to Dr. Spock and Gina Ford) it will vanish into thin air. Some time ago I came across the notebook I kept to record my first-born’s feeding patterns – the times, the side, the duration… it read like an episode of Luther, absolutely terrifying. The thing is, you don’t want to remember the detail because those hours spent in the dark can be pretty grim and it’s best to emerge with a slightly rosy view of it all. So when your bestie has a new baby you can genuinely and earnestly confirm it’s a ‘wonderful’ time for them all.
Secondly – this is a phase. It is all a phase and this time will come and this time will go. It keeps you hanging on in the knowledge that you will sleep again. It shatters your heart to think that today is another step away from one of the best phases of your life – sleep-deprived warts and all.
Will any of this information help you at that breaking-point you reach at 3am? I can’t say it will. But it’s been enough food for thought this morning to keep me soldiering on and attempting to draw joy from it all where I can.