People are usually well-meaning when they ask how your baby is sleeping. There are generally, but not exclusively, three kinds of people who ask:
The (normally babyless) Revellers: will usually ask you for gory details of sleepless nights, and feast on the morbid notion of relentless fatigue, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be getting a full eight hours that night.
The Backhanded Braggers: will usually ask you purely so they can ram down your throat the fact that their baby sleeps for 16 hours straight, changes his own nappies and is already speaking conversational Mandarin.
The Comrades in Arms: will usually ask you how your baby is sleeping to share in solidarity with their own hellish nights. Often identified by purple circles around their eyes, espresso in hand and a general air of parental desperation.
For the most parts, our nights are still scattered with broken sleep. Occasionally now we get a little oasis of a 4 hour stretch and we think that we’ve cracked it, that the 2am and 4am and 4:45am milk parties are now at a finish but alas, 24 hours later we’re half-awake, bleary eyed and wondering if there will ever come a time where we get more than a couple of hours sleep in one go.
Last night was another painful one, though it started deceitfully well.
After waking and grizzling at 2:30am, Pablo managed to stay half asleep through a feed.
Getting cocky, I pushed my luck and changed his nappy as slowly and gently as I could.
Miraculously, he stayed sound asleep. Victory.
I lowered him back into his cot as lightly as resting a balloon on a bed of nails.
I turned to launch the nappy into the bin, before glancing back down at the crib to see two blue eyes staring back at me.
Two blue eyes staring at me with a patient, yet knowing gaze that said ‘As soon as your back touches that mattress, I will scream until I’m the colour of that glass of Shiraz you thought would be a good idea earlier. Make your move, mother.’.
Suddenly I’m in a hostage situation with an eleven week old.
Inevitably, the further I reclined back down to my waiting bed, the whimper that started to creep out of my son’s mouth gradually worsened to a raucous cry.
Sit up; silence. Lay down; intensifying noise.
The hostage-taker was making his demands.
I looked next to me at Sam’s deeply slumbering frame and contemplated moderate ‘accidental’ violence to wake him up. Not so he’d get up or take over or let me go back to sleep, purely for some company.
If Trump ever gets his tiny hands on that big red button and we’re all turned to ash, Sam is going to sleep right through it.
I was in this alone.
That’s an unexpected truth about doing the night feeds solo: you don’t realise how lonely and quiet the world seems when it’s just you and an inconsolable baby.
Another, perhaps slightly more expected truth : you will develop a new and unique hatred for your partner. Not forever, and indeed seldom dangerous to your relationship in the long haul, but in the dark, milk-sodden no-mans-land between 1am and 6am, you will glare at that sleeping soul you once loved so dearly and frankly, hate them a little bit for not waking at every single baby grizzle and snuffle like you do.
(Don’t worry chaps, no hard feelings - between the hours of 8am and 1am.)
Fear not, this disdain usually dissipates by around 7:30am, when the first coffee hit tricks your system into thinking it has more tolerance and energy than it actually does.
Eventually, I got Pablo down to sleep with the help of a dummy and white noise, a godawful, staticky sound that is genuinely used as a method of torture in some countries.
It's a cruel irony that the noise that gets your baby to sleep is only marginally less stressful than the sound of him crying.
We repeated the whole process at 3:45am and 4:50am and 5:30am before giving up and accepting that it just wasn't our night.
Of course, it’s hard; nobody ever said having a new baby is an easy time.
In the early days, I hallucinated with exhaustion. At one point, I saw a soldier crouched down by the bed, as if the cast of Saving Private Ryan saw my floor-drobe as the perfect camouflage, concealed under a H&M maternity top. I talked gibberish and fell asleep sitting up while I was feeding Pablo. It wasn’t easy. Nowadays, it often does still feel that even matchsticks would snap under my eyelids, but for the most part I know that it won’t last forever.
That’s one thing I’d tell expectant mothers; when it feels like you absolutely can’t do it, you still ARE actually doing it. You’re still sitting there feeding or winding or changing or soothing your baby. You absolutely can do it.
Whether it’s boiling frog syndrome or just grit and determination; you just keep going even when it’s tough. In all walks of life, really; just keep swimming.
And try to refrain from accidentally-on-purpose kicking your other half in the nuts while they sleep; chances you’re going to need them on top form to handle some of the seventy four nappy changes that tomorrow will bring.