In hindsight, the party was a terrible idea.
For one thing, it started at 7pm, which is her new bedtime as of this week. Secondly, it was in a barn in the middle of nowhere that had been rented out specially, which meant there would be no warm, dark, quiet room to put her to bed in. And finally: it was a BIG party. In my last post I mentioned that one of the things I love about Baby Diva right now is that I (along with her dad, whom I self-centeredly forgot about) am her favourite person and other people are starting to scare her a bit. And while that is adorable, it is also inconvenient in certain circumstances, such as at parties.
However, your honour, I do have several points to make in our defence:
- It was a good friend of mine’s 30th birthday party. She came to mine with her child, I wanted to go to her’s. And she and her partner always throw really good parties.
- When we got the invite, Baby Diva was still going to bed around 8 – 9pm-ish.
- The couple whose party it was have a baby themselves, and up until the last few days (too late to get Baby Diva used to a potential babysitter), we were under the impression that said baby would be present and therefore that there would be a warm, dark, quiet room to put the babies in.
- Baby Diva is having a growth spurt, meaning we couldn’t have left her with a babysitter anyway without me having to pump a shit-ton of milk in very little time.
- I took the babywearing wrap (YES I HAVE FINALLY DISCOVERED WHAT THEY’RE CALLED IN ENGLISH) thinking, Baby Diva used to sleep anywhere. Surely, all snuggled up against me, she’ll fall asleep eventually. Right?
Wrong. Newborns sleep anywhere, any time, around the clock. Baby Diva is no longer a newborn. Baby Diva is a baby, with a regular-ish sleep schedule and proper sleep cycles and seriously what the hell were we thinking.
It started out ok. She’d slept well during the day, up until about half five, and when I started putting her coat on her at half six, she seemed excited. Maybe she’ll be ok, I thought. We won’t be staying more than an hour anyway.
We picked up a friend, arrived about 30 meters from barn only to be blocked by massive tire-shredding holes in the road, got lost trying to find another way round, rang the guy who was organising it, and finally arrived, to find Baby Diva asleep.
Never mind, for we have that wonder of technological wonders, a carseat that also fits onto the pram, so we took her out and wheeled her indoors to greet the dozen or so people who were already there.
Which is when she woke up.
Never mind, she looked happy and curious enough, so we got her out and (cautiously) passed her around a bit, and lo! she didn’t cry, there were lots of pretty lights and colours to look at and people cooing over her and probably she was starting to recognize the people who were holding her, so it all seemed to be going fine, except for one crucial thing:
Where is the birthday girl, we asked?
Weeell, since this was supposed to be a surprise party, Birthday Girl wasn’t there yet. She would theoretically turn up in half an hour, but it might be in an hour, or maybe two.
I should have guessed this might be an issue, because the first time I organised a surprise party, the birthday boy turned up nearly 2hrs late. The second time I did it, he (different birthday boy) turned up half an hour early and we were all still rushing around decorating and half the guests weren’t even there yet. And this was despite me enlisting their friends to try to distract them for just the right amount of time.
So we had approximately twenty minutes to resign ourselves to the idea of messing with the kid’s shiny new sleep schedule only to leave before the party even started, when – luckily for us – Birthday Girl turned up right on time, and next time I organise a surprise party I’m hiring her partner to help because I want to know how he did it.
By this time there were about 30 people. Baby Diva was beginning to look a bit overwhelmed, but at first she seemed happy enough when Birthday Girl (who she knows) carried her around to greet everyone. When her little mouth turned down and she started whimpering, I took her back and put her in the wrap (OF COURSE IT’S CALLED A WRAP, WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT), which calmed her down.
I may have been a bit overzealous on the knotting of it, because she ended up a bit too high. She was comfy and everything, but I couldn’t tuck her wee head inside the wrap (WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME IT WAS CALLED A WRAP) to sleep. After a while I tried to re-do the knot, but it ended up too tight again, and there wasn’t much space, so I just took her outside to calm down a bit instead.
She was doing the archy-back thing where she cranes her neck around trying to see what’s going on behind her. She wasn’t crying, but she wasn’t smiling either. I knew these warning signs. I didn’t want to ignore them, but I didn’t want to give up so soon either, so I went back inside and loosened the wrap (GOOGLE WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME) with her in it, and finally, she had space to tuck in and fall asleep, if she wanted to.
She didn’t want to. Too many people, colours, twinkly lights, who’d be able to sleep in all that?
A newborn, that’s who. A newborn like tiny baby we met, also cradled in her mother’s wrap (OMG IT’S SO OBVIOUS), fast asleep.
And I thought, stupidly, that maybe seeing another baby asleep in her wrap (“BABYWEARING SCARF” I MEAN WHY NOT JUST WRITE THIS WHOLE ARTICLE IN FRENCH AND THEN FEED IT INTO GOOGLE TRANSLATE WHILE WE’RE AT IT) would make Baby Diva want to sleep. Also, the Law of New Mothers dictated that we gravitate towards each other to trade horrible childbirth stories and compare birth weights (that child was 6 weeks old and she wasn’t yet as heavy as Baby Diva had been at birth, isn’t that amazing?).
Still Baby Diva did not sleep.
I found Daddy Diva and the friend we were driving back and told them we needed to leave soon, it was past 8pm already and Baby Diva was refusing to sleep or even snuggle up in the wrap (AM I LOSING MY MOTHER TONGUE). We started packing up and saying goodbye, and if you’ve ever been to France then you know that kissing people hello and goodbye is mandatory is social situations unless you’re visibly ill.
Well Belgium is only slightly more easy-going on this rule, and there were about 50 people at this point, so we just went round the people we knew (and we knew quite a few) and the ones we’d talked to, and then I went to say goodbye to the other mother with the baby in her wrap (GAAAAAAAAAAH) and somehow twenty minutes passed without me noticing.
I’m not sure exactly what time it was when we finally got to the car. Sometime between half eight and nine, probably. Baby Diva was quiet. She had bags under her eyes. It was, very clearly, nighttime. Nighttime is sleepy time, as we keep telling her. Why wasn’t she at home, in bed? What were we doing?
I took her out of the wrap (GNNNNNN) and folded it while her dad put her in the car and our friend got in front. I got in the back. In fifteen minutes we’d be home.
Five minutes in, Baby Diva started whimpering. I gave her the dodie, but it seemed to annoy her more, so I stroked her cheek and sang her a lullaby. It worked.
Until it didn’t. Two minutes later, she started crying in earnest. With horror, I realised I hadn’t fed her once during the party, the last time she’d eaten had been around half six, and she was in the middle of a growth spurt. She must be starving, poor thing! I sang some more, verses punctuated by murmured reassurances and apologies for being such a mean, neglectful mummy. Our friend had us drop her off at walking distance from her flat, so we wouldn’t have to turn around or anything, and Daddy Diva dropped us off before going to park the car. I fumbled with the keys, hushing her – “We’re home, look, I’ll feed you now” – got in, put her in her playpen just long enough to take my coat off, which she did not like, and by the time I picked her up and got a boob out, it was too late.
This has happened before: she gets hungry at a time when technically she shouldn’t be hungry, usually at night when she’s also tired, and I take a while to realise that’s what the problem is, and by the time I do, she’s so upset she can’t eat because it’s not coming fast enough. The only solution (other than to give her a bottle, which I try to avoid) is to keep comforting her with my boob next to her cheek so that when she finally calms down enough, she can just turn her head and feed.
Last night, it didn’t work. It’s worth mentioning that Baby Diva is definitely a tension increaser, and usually we never let her get to the state of hysterical, newborn-like screaming she was in last night, her poor little body racked with sobs. On the rare occasions when she has been like this, usually it’s because she’s ill. Sometimes we don’t know why, and we feel frustrated. But last night both of us knew exactly what we’d done wrong, and all we could do was hold her and sing, and tell her how sorry we were, and that we’d never, ever do it again.
In the end, my partner figured out that she wanted to be put in her cot with her dodie and lovey. She stopped crying, but would start again after brief attempts to fall asleep, her face snuggled into the bear comforter. I went downstairs and expressed as much milk as I could in five minutes – about 50ml, all that crying made it easier – went back up, and bottle fed it to her in her cot, with the lovey over her eyes. She finished it, took the dodie, and fell asleep. I watched her for another five minutes, but apart from the odd gasping sob, she was finally calm. She slept until 2am.
I didn’t wait for her to cry to feed her, last night. She ate twice, and after the second feeding I put her up in her own room, which is darker than ours, so she’d sleep in in the morning. Both of us needed it. I could have slept all day. I felt like I had a hangover even though I scrupulously avoided drinking. I’m only just emerging now.
Moral: four-and-a-half month olds are no longer newborns, and cannot deal with you messing with their sleep schedule. Don’t do it. The sleep schedule is sacrosanct and must be respected. We are duly humbled. Learn from our mistakes. You might think you’re only staying at the party for an hour, tops, but you’re not. If you really want to go, pump some milk and get that kid a babysitter. Otherwise, just don’t.