I REMEMBER when waking up on a Saturday morning with a headache and sick in my hair used to mean I’d had a good night out… But those days are gone. Life with our firstborn meant that instead of a trip to the pub on a Friday night my husband James and I would spend half the evening trying to get our baby Isla to sleep and the other half doing nothing. And I mean literally NOTHING.
THE RISKS… For the first 18 months of Isla’s life, a typical Friday night for us meant watching television with the subtitles on, (but nothing too funny should we accidentally laugh out loud), talking only in whispers, eating dinner with plastic cutlery (to prevent any knife and fork scraping sounds), no walking (floorboards are too creaky), no talking, and if you must go to the toilet do NOT under any circumstances flush the chain… All in an attempt to keep our light sleeping and lively baby, Isla, to stay asleep. Even in this quiet ‘paradise’ we would sit on edge waiting for the inevitable moan, gurgle or cry that would mean another trip upstairs to sing, shush, rock or feed her back to sleep.
THIS is not quite how I had pictured parenthood. I had visions of getting the baby tucked up in bed by 7pm and then opening a bottle of wine while James and I blissfully shared stories about our new bundle of joy – happy in our baby bubble. After all, they say (the writers of the many baby books and websites I read) that babies will sleep at least 16 hours a day, right? Wrong. Our little handful did not want to go to bed at night and she fought sleep during the day. In fact, if she had her way she would have stayed awake all the time.
And it was not just us. There were other victims out there experiencing the same thing. A friend of mine works nights and he would climb out of the window when he had to leave for work late to avoid closing their noisy front door – a major Baby Waking Risk. And that is what we do. Once baby is finally asleep we must risk assess ALL actions. A relaxing evening bath? Risks: tap running, splashing, extractor fan. Too risky. Ordering a takeaway. Risks: Opening and closing the front door, the delivery person may have a loud voice. Too risky. Friends over for the evening. Unless they are happy to climb in the window, not use the toilet and sit with us in silence then there is NO chance. In the end, once Isla was in bed I would tiptoe down the stairs with bare feet and sit in a kind of sombre silence, praying for a few minutes of respite. But no matter how hard we tried there was always the unexpected, unpreventable noise. A knock at the door, a laugh, a sneeze, a cough. All massive Potential Threats to the Peace. Or, the most evil of all. The telephone. If, god forbid, it ever rang, we would look each other with fear in our eyes, then glare at the phone. “Who the hell is calling at this time?” I would whisper through gritted teeth and shake my head in disgust, cursing the caller for daring to ring at such an unreasonable hour…usually just before realising it is barely 8pm.
ANOTHER BABY LATER…
Now 21 months later not much has changed. We have moved to a bigger house, where the bedrooms are further away from the living area so there are less Baby Waking Risks. But at the same time we have a second baby to worry about so Potential Threats to the Peace are greater. Isla finally goes to bed before 9pm most nights but now of course we have baby two so we are back in phase one of the baby bedtime battle. We still use subtitles, speaking loudly is not really a problem as by the time we have put the babies to bed we are too knackered to talk; and we live in a bungalow without creaky floorboards so walking is now permitted.
As for takeaways, telephones, films and friends for dinner that will all just have to wait. But that’s ok. I have come to accept that for the next year or so I won’t have the time or energy for anything much other than caring for the girls. Anyway, what with one hyper toddler and a new baby, our house is a very noisy place so I have learnt to appreciate the very, very quiet nights….