Sleepless in Manchester

Many of the stories I wrote as a child ended with the words: “and so they went home, tired but happy”, or “and so she went to bed, tired but happy”. Each adventure seemed to leave its heroine tired but happy.

These days the story of my life revolves around one little heroine, and an adventure it is indeed. Its latest chapter is a fable with a moral: woe betide the woman who boasts about, or even commits to paper/laptop that her baby is sleeping well. Thy smugness will bite thee on the bum.

My clockwork baby, who as I reported breezily last time, would wake once a night for a feed and be back snoring lightly within 20 minutes, has been treating us to an array of nocturnal tricks and antics in the last few nights. I think it’s partly the heat, partly the light streaming round the edges of the curtains, partly the ruddy birds making a racket. Partly that Leila is a wee baby who has no concept of time, or of lie-ins. This morning was a cracker: up at 4.45am blowing raspberries and wanting to play. Soothing whispers, edged with pleading, didn’t work. A comforting hand on her tummy didn’t work. Rocking her in the pram while I lay on the sofa and both us dribbled, one through tiredness and one through habit, didn’t work. So I stayed up with her til 6am when I was relieved to hand her over to her Daddy and crawl back into bed.

The last few nights have, on and off, each followed their own path of sleeplessness.Although I manage to tot up a decent number of hours sleep a night, the broken-ness of the sleep weighs me down. The tiredness is thick, tangible, I could almost bite it. It pulls at my eyelids and swirls treacle-like around my head and face. I feel like I’m about to sneeze, all the time. It’s not the fraught, anxious tiredness of the over-stretched worker. It’s actually quite seductive, if only I were able to be seduced and sink into sleep.

Luckily there are two other babies within a few houses of ours, almost exactly the same age as Leila, with two accompanying tired mothers. These babies have also abandoned their sleepy ways and are leading their parents a merry night-time dance. We meet, us three, to recite blearily numbers which should not be spoken with the suffix “AM” unless in reference to a great party: 1.30, 2.45, 3.40. As my mum cheerfully tells me, you’re never too tired to remember exactly when you were woken and how many hours sleep you racked up.The babies- all peachy and fresh, adding insult to injury, no purple-smudged undereye shadows for these three-  riverdance on their playmats and grab handfuls of each others faces. We cradle mugs of tea (oh tea, tea, glorious healing tea!), mainline cake- the vice of breastfeeding mothers- and swap reassurances about four month sleep regressions, and how we know someone whose baby wakes every hour, we’re lucky really, and how it will pass, like all things this too shall pass.

And the babies laugh at how clever they are, to wake their Mummies up at night, or maybe at the glint of light on a mug of tea (easily amused, these babies). And the mums agree that we wouldn’t change it for the world. And we head home, tired but happy.

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3 Responses to “Sleepless in Manchester”


  1. 1 Thursday June 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    My sister swore by black-out curtains with her two babies.

  2. 2 welshpurpletree June 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for reminding me so well of the sleepless/broken nights. I’ve got about 5 weeks until baby number 3 is born, I guess I’ll be remembering very quickly just what they’re like then

  3. 3 gillian June 10, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    across the pond in the middle of the USA, living with a 4 month old and experiencing the exact same thing 🙂


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