Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Perchance to Dream (Chance would be a fine thing)

There’s a hushed silence the first time you bring your newborn baby in through the front door.  No matter who’s with you there is just a moment when you can’t really believe what has just happened, you have brought your baby home.  The silence doesn’t last long of course, soon enough everything returns to bustle and movement and noise, but for a brief moment everything is wonderful and the future stretches out in front of you full of possibility and joy. 

It is at this point that it hits you.  You are the proud owner of one unused child, although it quickly becomes clear that the transaction hasn’t quite worked out the way you thought it had and you’re looking for the receipt to find out exactly who it was who did the purchasing. 
There were a few signs early on which suggested that we weren’t going to be having it all our own way.  We were exceptionally well blessed to have had support available when we brought N home with us.  My wife’s mother came and stayed for the first four nights and she was brilliant.  (Seriously, this is something I recommend for anyone having their first child.  If you have anyone who is available and happy to help, then the support of someone who has been there before in the first few days is invaluable.) 

Those first nights were a clue.  Our daughter, it turned out, is not one of life’s sleepers, you know, the sort of people who seem able to drop into a somnolent state at any time in any place, she isn’t like that at all. Sleep for N is like the enemy.  It is to be resisted at all times, with one eye kept open to watch for it in case it sneaks up on her.  She’s also very conscious that there are others in the house and she seems to see it as her duty to prevent them from falling into the terror that is a restful sleep as well.  She accomplishes this by wailing at the top of her voice until someone comes to rescue her.  Often one person isn’t enough and she will carry on until she has reassured herself that everyone is safe from the sleep blight.  At which point, duty performed, she will allow herself a brief doze to recharge the batteries before resuming her station.  She’s like a guard dog against sleep.  The eye of Sauron sleeps more regularly than she does.

Obviously you do not expect your newborn to sleep through the night, or at least you don’t if you have done even the most cursory background reading, or asked even the most basic of questions of others.  I would be lying if I said I had given it much thought.  I had heard horror stories, but presumed they were the exception rather than the rule.  And perhaps they are, in which case I can honestly say we have a quite exceptional daughter.

Our daughter was born on a Monday, and by Thursday I was already dreading the nights, Monday and Tuesday nights had been punctuated by her cries coming at intervals of 2-3 hours on average, Wednesday night had not been any better.  By Thursday I was a shambling wreck, consuming coffee by the gallon and wondering if going back in to work to catch up on some sleep was really that bad.  Thursday night was just as bad, but by this point I was getting used to it and had revised my expectations of sleep down from 6 hours to 3.   On Friday my wife’s mum went back home and we were left by ourselves over night for the first time with our daughter.  We did everything that we had done the previous nights, and thought that we had it sussed.  N had other ideas.  Whether she sensed that Grandma wasn’t around, or had decided that there was something she wanted to listen to on the radio at 3 in the morning, or something completely different, she just would not go to sleep.  I have never had a more harrowing experience, not so much a dark night of the soul as a long night of the cries.  The crying went on from the time we put her to bed, through the cuddles and rocks from both my wife and I, until in the end we had to call a friend who came over at around 2 in the morning and managed to calm the situation down. 

That night was the worst night we have ever had with her, so in a way you could say that she peaked a bit early. Now she will reliably only wake up once, if at all, during the night, so it feels like we are through the worst of it.  So, for any of you just going through what we did, look forward, because it will get better.  For us it was 10 months before she would even contemplate sleeping through, for others it will be sooner and for some it will be a lot longer.  When you’re in it, it feels like it will never end and every night is something to be feared as it approaches, but just remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s just the searchlight of your wife come to bring you back because it’s your turn to get up.

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