It started with a holiday.
The word “holiday”, for me, has never been a synonym of “rest”, mainly because it’s either us visiting my family in France (which requires a ridiculous amount of organisation and my family are not known for being organised), or us going to a festival. Needless to say, with Baby Diva around, there’ll be fewer festivals and more family visits in the near future.
My family loved her. Of course they did. Even if she weren’t extremely sociable, she’s my parents’ first grandchild, my sisters’ first niece.
And she loved them. Between them and managing to see ALL the local friends I’d wanted to see, she has as much social interaction as her wee extrovert soul could wish for and more, so much so that she started almost sleeping through the night. I’d feed her at 9pm and put her to bed, and she’d wake up at 5am and go back to sleep until 9am, it was great. By the end of it, I was smugly congratulating myself on having produced such an easygoing child*.
Then we got home. She slept for most of the car ride back, so obviously that night was going to be difficult. And maybe being back home disturbed her a bit, so I didn’t expect her to go back to being perfect straight away. But I didn’t expect her to take three hours to be put down to sleep, or to start waking up hungry three times a night again and refuse to go back to sleep in her cot, either. And I especially didn’t expect it to last longer than a week.
At first I was understanding. She needed reassurance, I thought, and took her into bed with us for a few nights. My back started to hurt quite a bit, though, maybe curling my body around her was incompatible with the type of scoliosis I have or something, so we decided to start sleep training, as described in my last article. She became clingier during the day, but after about two weeks, she started falling asleep on her own.
Then the Carnaval happened.
Remember the Carnaval? No? We do. And believe me, last year was NOTHING compared to this year. This year we live in the town center. This year the drums were in our street. And one of the drummers lives in the house opposite. There was no confusing the drums with malfunctioning central heating this year; this was obviously a bunch of drummers who were very, very proud to show everyone just how long and hard and LOUD they’d practised their military drumming.
We thought, might as well make the most of it, right? On the Sunday we went out to see what all the fuss was about.
It was like walking into hell. By “hell” I mean a windy, rainy fairground-themed nightclub with the shittiest of shitty music, open to a huge, packed crowd of very loud children and their drunk parents, all jumping around throwing confetti and silly string at each other and bumping into the pram–
“Take us home,” I begged my partner through clenched teeth, barely resisting the urge to impale a boistrous teenager with my umbrella. The music was so loud and repetitive I couldn’t focus. He guided me in a roundabout way through some of the quieter side streets until we got home. Baby Diva was lying in her pram, eyes wide open, making no noise whatsoever, but when I took her out she stayed snuggled in my arms for forty minutes straight and I let her.
The Carnaval lasted four days. On the Monday we had to go and do the food shopping – I won’t go into the horror of getting to and from the mini-mart around (and, inevitably, through) the parade, instead I’ll just leave this photo here.
On the Monday night they came tramping round our street at midnight, just as we’d managed to get the baby down to sleep, and stuck around playing and drumming in front of our neighbour’s house – and, consequently, ours – for twenty long minutes. Even when they left, we could hear the drums on and off all night until 6am. On Tuesday night there were fireworks – but, to be fair, the fireworks were the least of our worries.
On Tuesday, Baby Diva was due for some vaccinations. Everything was going fine – she’d been weighed and measured and we were waiting for our appointment along with all the other parents, when she started getting grumpy, and I thought it’d be best to feed her before we got in. We went to the breastfeeding corner, sat down, and that’s when, instead of latching on, my lovely, smiley baby who hardly ever cried, arched her back away from the breast and started SCREAMING at the top of her lungs.
It was so sudden, at first I thought I’d somehow hurt her sitting down. Ten minutes later she hadn’t stopped, and we were starting to panic. One of the nurses came in and suggested a bunch of benign causes that, to us, couldn’t explain her sudden screaming. One of the mums came in, offered us a pipette of homeopathic teething stuff (I don’t believe in homeopathy but we took it anyway – placebo effect is better than nothing), and when that didn’t work, she kindly took the baby out of our arms and tried to calm her down with the experience of a third-time mother, to no avail. We went in to see the doctor, who examined her as best she could, did the vaccinations as fast as possible – which didn’t help the crying – and sent us out saying it was “probably colic”, but that we shouldn’t hesitate to contact the hospital if she was still crying tonight.
As soon as we got out, however, she stopped. I’m not sure how I’d managed to get her into the sling, but I felt her relax a little. We relaxed a little, too, and wondered what on earth could have caused such tears. She’d never done it before, so why now? Surely, she didn’t actually remember the place from the last time she’d gotten vaccinated…?
The short answer is no, she didn’t. She started crying again the next time I tried to feed her, after only five mouthfuls of milk. It lasted forty-five minutes, and she only fell asleep when I put her back in the carry scarf and stood in front of the bedroom window, commenting on the (mercifully empty) street below.
She started again that evening. This time it lasted two or three hours, I forget how long, most of which was spent in the sling, watching the fireworks, walking up and down, hushing and patting and singing and kissing and stroking her face. When I felt my back going under the weight of her, I took the sling off and put her to bed with me and asked my partner – who is as useless with her at night as I am in the morning – to ring the hospital.
They said it was constipation. They gave him the address of a late night chemist and told him to get glycerin suppositories. By the time he got back, she was finally asleep, and I didn’t dare wake her. I gave her the suppository the next morning, and she did the massivest poo I’ve ever seen a baby that young do, and that was that.
By this time, however, my back was well and truly done in. I was in constant pain, I could barely even hold the baby to breastfeed her, never mind pick her up. I tried to tough it out (never a good idea, but I was too tired to think straight), but the following night was so bad I couldn’t wait any longer, so I rang around and found – miraculously – an osteopath with a free spot that afternoon. At this point my partner, who had been doing everything but breastfeeding her in my stead, was having dizzy spells he was so tired. And Baby Diva, who wasn’t used to me not playing with her, or us being quite this tired, was still grumbly and wanted to be constantly held.
The osteopath was great, but he said I should have gone two weeks ago, and he gave me another appointment next week. As consolation he also told me to bring the kid along and he’d look at her for free, see if there was some underlying cause to the sudden constipation. My back, although not entirely fixed, is better enough that I can take care of my daughter more or less as usual. But still she was grumbling, and not eating well at all, and her sleep schedule was out of wack too – the next two nights, she fell asleep around 6pm, but instead of waking up from the nap around 7pm as usual, she’d just keep sleeping, waking up to eat twice, around 10 and then 3am, at which point she’d decide it was time to get up, and start growling amiably at the ceiling. It was the only time of day (well, night) during which she was happy to play on her own – the rest of the time, she wanted us.
Yesterday we went to see a friend whose child is 7 months older than ours who, seeing the desperation in our eyes, suggested we take her back to the baby clinic and ask them to weigh and examine her now she was no longer screaming. By this time we were becoming paranoid. What if she had tonsilitis, and we couldn’t see it because her tongue is always in the way when I try to look? What if she had that weird reflux I’d read about that only affects the bottom of the oesophagus and so might go undiagnosed for months? What if I had, indeed, hurt her sitting down, and whatever injury she’d been enduring all this time was preventing her from eating properly?
We tried to explain this to the doctor. I felt our explainations – which were mostly on the basis of “SHE’S JUST NOT HERSELF!!” while Baby Diva smiled charmingly at the doctor – were ridiculously inadequate. The doctor listened patiently, and when we’d finished, she pointed out that babies did change during their development, that perhaps she was on the brink of a milestone and frustrated it wasn’t happening faster, or maybe – possibly – she was simply picking up on how tired and stressed out we were. She suggested I pump some milk so that her daddy could take a shift during the night.
As we left, I knew what was coming, and had no conviction with which to stop it. My partner suggested we put her in her own room – at least for part of the night.
“Which part?” I asked, because no way was I going all the way up there at 3am to breastfeed when I could be doing in my warm bed.
“After the 3am feed, I’ll take her up,” he promised.
And he did.
We put the babyphone on, of course, but we turned it down so that we’d only hear if she cried. Our house is old, though, and we could still just about hear her chatting away to the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling of her bedroom. Hers. Her room. It was bittersweet. But Christ, did I sleep like the dead until 8am this morning, when my partner brought her back in for her morning feed. We caught up then, she fell asleep for twenty minutes next to me, and then woke up and we sang nursery rhymes and played this game I made up where I kiss her and then present my cheek and say “GIMME KISS” and she licks it and coos affectionately in my ear and then we do it all again.
And honestly, she was a little bit growly today, but a lot easier than before. Maybe the doctor was right and we’d just accumulated so much sleep debt that it was affecting even her. We’ll see how the next few nights pan out. But for now, it’s late, and I’m going to bed. As you can probably tell from all this rambling, I still have quite a big sleep debt to catch up on.
*Don’t get me wrong, at no point whatsoever did I honestly think it was anything but luck. I do occasionally like to pretend, however.