The baby monitor is showing me a single, serene, green light. My favourite light. The light that denotes successful routine management by me and obedient sleeping by my child.
As someone who lived my professional pre-children life with (mostly) highly-perfected control, how to ‘Manage’ sleep became my number one agenda point when my newborn arrived. I naively expected my baby's sleep patterns to fall beautifully into line like cascading numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. Ahhh...that pre-motherhood naivety.
For the two weeks after we brought him home from hospital, the ONLY place my son would sleep was in his Moses basket. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well, nothing – except that said Moses basket had to be placed on our bed in between us before he would even consider dropping off. This left me and The Husband approximately six inches of mattress each either side. And as if this wasn’t enough, the boy would only settle after being given a sort of Indian head massage from my side of the 12 inch bed. I was torn between admiration that he had the self-confidence to enter the world making such demands from the off, and a sense of bewilderment that my child could be so imperious at less than a week old.
When he was around four months old and still in the sort of non-routine-Routine that would have Gina Ford in a cold sweat, I was invited out to some birthday drinks. The Husband was gallivanting somewhere in Wales on a Stag Do, so I decided to go anyway and just take the boy with me. At around 9pm he took one look at me from his car seat, nestled amongst Mulberrys and Chloes on the floor of the bar, as if to say ‘Why are you nursing that glass of Sauvignon instead of putting me to bed with some warm milk and a story?’ I left immediately and decided from that moment it was time to introduce a proper bedtime routine, like the ones I’d read about.
Surely it couldn’t be that hard – after all, I was in control (wasn’t I?) So the next night I gave him a warm bath, a little massage, read him The Very Hungry Caterpillar, sang him a lullaby in my best X Factor-auditions-style voice, gently laid him in his cot and tiptoed out of the room. Easy.
In spite of my best text-book efforts, the story I’d chosen served only to stir in him a deep feeling of empathy with the caterpillar and so he woke hourly claiming he was STILL hungry. The Husband and I persevered with the nightly routine and yo-yoed up and down the landing for weeks, tiptoeing out of the nursery like a bizarre version of backwards Grandmother’s footsteps.
Battle-scarred from the experiences of our son's sleeping habits, we were armed and dangerous when our second child arrived, and quickly jostled her into a routine of sorts. Which means at least I know she's going to sleep in the day for a couple of hours, allowing me to try and re-discover my brain or just stare blankly at a wall for a bit. But is it me or is there a cruel irony to this napping lark? When I need her to wake up because I’ve planned to do something, she sleeps for three hours leaving me pacing around the house - all surfaces cleaned, two washing loads done and hung up, dishwasher empty, emails answered - feeling like the embodiment of the Power Mum, but with no one to show off to. When I really want her to sleep, she decides she only needs an hour, rudely awaking in the middle of Loose Women.
Talking of which, you’ll have to excuse me, my monitor has replaced its serene green with the flickering Lights of Doom...