Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Night Shift

Oh, hello twenty past four in the morning.  What a joy it is to be in your company.  Thank you insomnia, you are really spoiling me tonight.

I can’t sleep.  I’ve finally succumbed to Richard’s recent dose of man flu even though I’ve had a bottle of Vicks First Defence jammed up my nostril since he first started sniffling about a week ago and I feel ill.  I’ve tossed and turned all night, finally fell asleep at 1.30ish, then woke from a curious dream which involved Harry Potter and a large tub of potato salad and (I suspect) may have been mildly erotic in tone at 3am. Since then, I have been wide awake and listening to the nocturnal shufflings of my son. 

Insomnia is a cruel trick of nature at any time, but when I’m only too aware that in a couple of hours, Rory is going to wake up full of beans and begin his daytime reign of terror, it becomes pure evil.  Also, I am hungry and, as ever when I can’t sleep, my subconscience is seeing fit to play some truly appalling music on a loop.  Usually it’s the lesser known works of Roxette.  Often something by M People makes an appearance.  If it’s a particularly bad night, Cotton Eye Joe will feature heavily.  Tonight has been sponsored by Jimmy Nail and his bastarding Crocodile Shoes, and I swear to God, if I ever bump into the man, I will find something large and hedgehog shaped and shove it up his rectum with a mallet in revenge.

It is also entirely unfair that insomnia has chosen to visit me recently because until as little as 6 weeks ago, Rory was a Bad Sleeper.  Only those of you who have had a child who is a Bad Sleeper will understand the misery of which I speak here.  We thought we weren’t doing too badly at first.  He was your usual newborn nightmare, but by two months of age he usually slept for one good five hour stretch between feeds every night, which was entirely bearable.  Then when he was three months old, two things happened at the same time: He got his first cold and we went to my friend’s wedding and had to stay in a hotel for two nights. (Incidentally, never agree to be a bridesmaid for your tiny size 6 friend three months after having a baby no matter how much you love her. I was still carrying baby weight and looked exactly like a liver sausage in a frock, plus I kept having to whack a breast out to feed Rory, who then did a bit of sick on my bridesmaid dress).  This entirely threw his routine and that was it; he became The Child Who Refused to Sleep.

When I say he wouldn’t sleep, I mean it.  He really wouldn’t sleep.  He screamed the place down from around 2pm every day up until midnight when he’d finally fall asleep (but only on one of us - the screaming would continue indefinitely should we dare to put him down in his cot).  Then we’d try to put him down and 15 minutes later, the screaming would begin again, stopping the minute he was picked up.  We tried controlled crying, we tried the Baby Whisperer ‘pick up, put down’ nonsense, we doused him in lavender oil, we tried everything and nothing worked.  Eventually, we worked out that he would sleep for 3 hour stretches in his car seat, but you can’t leave a child unattended in a car seat, so we did shifts sitting up with him, changing over with a sarcastic and embittered high five at 2am and 5am.  This continued for months, and even when things got slightly better and he would sleep for a couple of hours in his cot at a time, we were still up and down 2 or 3 times a night, often for a couple of hours at a time up until he was 18 months old, at which point he generally settled for just the one period of being awake and infuriating every night.

Unless you’ve been there, you cannot possibly understand the mental state this exhaustion puts you in.  Whilst sitting up at 3 in the morning, all sorts of miserable thoughts flood your brain.  You remember every single mistake you have ever made, every humiliating thing you’ve ever done and every unpleasant experience of your life.  With nothing to do (too dark to read, nothing on TV apart from Bullseye and a documentary about clocks, nothing left to look at on the internet), you become convinced that you are the only person in the world leading this miserable existence.  You are certain that everyone you have every known – everyone, mark my words – is either blissfully asleep, out having the kind of social life that is now lost to you forever or having particularly good sex, which you are quite indignant about, because these days you can’t understand why anyone would ever want to do that when the option of sleeping is available to them.

Every day, you are shaky and a bit vague.  Your eyes are wild, your hair is a disgrace, you can’t even concentrate on 60 Minute Makeover.  You think only of sleep and how to get it, you exist on caffeine and sugar, and to make matters even worse, you have to look after a baby who hates you, AND who won’t even sleep during the day.  Yes, that is correct, I had given birth to the Margaret Thatcher of babies.  He survived on the absolute minimum of sleep and still managed to plot untold horrors during his waking hours.  Everyone else seemed to have a baby who slept during the night, sat and poked agreeably at a few toys during the day in between having a nice drink and going back to sleep and occasionally babbled at them a bit.  Mine was awake constantly with a malevolent grin on his face, working out how to crawl, pull himself up and walk at a stupidly early age and stealing eggs from the fridge and cracking them on the blazing hot radiator at 7 months old, leading to many a fun filled hour poking scrambled eggs out of the back of it with a coat hanger for his exhausted and broken mother.

He is now two years and two months old and has stopped sleeping during the day (again, none of his friends have done this. They still have a delightful 3 hour snooze every afternoon).  He goes to sleep at 8.30ish at night and is generally awake at somewhere around 6am.  He is still eternally buoyant and full of machiavellian genius and I still feel as though I’ve been smacked in the face with a frying pan.  By my reckoning, it will be years before I catch up on all that lost sleep, and if Jimmy Nail doesn’t do one soon, that’s never going to happen.


  1. I'm only 6 months in but this is already so spot on I fear for the future! How do people have 2 of the little monsters without being committed?!

  2. Look forward to when he's a teenager and won't get out of bed 'til lunchtime?

  3. Oh god I remember the days. I have a friend whose fondest memory of the first year of her child's life is the night she left her and went to sleep in a travelodge!
    Love your blog by the way, it is hilarious.

  4. All my fantasies since giving birth have involved going to a hotel room on my own, crawling between the crisp, white hotel sheets on the bed and sleeping for a very long time with nobody there to wake me up. the day I actually do this will be a happy day indeed.

  5. This is hilarious.. and is also putting me off having kids for a while :)

  6. Do you think Durex will employ me to boost their sales?

  7. The radiator scrambled-eggs had me very near wee myself. I am incredibly awfully hideous when even slightly sleep deprived... I suspect producing a sprog may not be the best option for me. Either that or I need to ensure sprog-father has had suitable self-defence lessons.