“In the midnight hour she cried more, more, more!” Thus spoke that great Nostradamus of our time Billy Idol, correctly predicting my four week-old daughter Elsa’s nocturnal feeding habits.
They tell you to expect to be holding your eyelids open with matchsticks but they don’t prepare you for that odd, eerie calm that settles in the wee small hours where time almost seems to stand still during baby meal times. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been pretty lucky with the amount of sleep she gets (ie. some) but it’s recommended that they eat at least every three hours so even on the best nights you’re going to be up on a few occasions.
It seems wrong to be awake and sober at 3am but you deal with twilight feeding, soothing or changing as you would if you’d just rolled in, brim-full of Bacardi Breezers and chowing down on some unidentifiable meat in a stale pitta; that is to say by slumping in front of any old nonsense on the telly.
I would estimate that between us we’ve watched everything that iPlayer, 4OD and Netflix have to offer in the last month. From paranoid documentaries about JFK to American dramas where the teenagers trade pithy dialogue like wisecracking thirty year olds and are all seemingly played by, well, wisecracking thirty year olds.
It’s all a symptom of the paranoia that those public information adverts about falling asleep while holding your baby engender. You realise straight away why this message is so important; it’s flaming knackering having a little ‘un and that’s coming from me who can take the opportunity while Jill has our little greedy guts latched on to her to ‘check the insides of my eyelids’. I’m more than happy to hold Elsa and wind her for as long as it takes but for mums who could be feeding for up to an hour at a time it’s an unbelievable test of sheer resilience and mental strength; a kind of sleep-deprivation Krypton Factor every night without the comforting burr of Gordon Burns’ voice to make it all right again.
The paranoia doesn’t end there; you spend so long trying to soothe the little cherub, to stop their whimpering and whining and yet as soon as they drift off into peaceful, silent slumber you panic about why you can’t hear them any more. For the first couple of weeks I was simultaneously exhausted and on tenterhooks, stomach twisted into knots and unable to sleep waiting for a sound, any sound to emanate from the Moses basket.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never going to really sleep properly again. At first it’s down to the feeding, then as they get older they come to you for comfort after bad dreams and eventually when they enter teenage you’re awake with worry about where they are and who they’re with. Do I really need my kip though? People always harp on about Margaret Thatcher running the country on just four hours slumber a night. Mind you, I don’t know how child friendly that would be; in her case it certainly didn’t work out too well for the minors.
(And yes, I realise that doesn’t quite work written down but I’m still disproportionately pleased with it).