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To Sleep Perchance Would Be A Fine Thing

Gusto: the best sleeper in the house

Before May Blossom was born, I had a relatively untroubled relationship with sleep. I liked it a lot. I found it easy to do. It was a useful way to pass the time, and a nap was a surefire way to regain energy and ideas when I had the luxury of working from home or studying full-time. When I was pregnant, it started to get a bit more difficult. As the months went by, I became more and more uncomfortable as the ligaments in my body gave way like overstretched rubber bands, leaving my joints (especially my hips) unsupported and aching at night.

It was when I was around eight months pregnant that I started to want to smack people who told me I should get lots of sleep before the baby came. Sleep isn’t like fat. You can’t store it in your upper arms, ready to get you through the lean times.

I didn’t realise then that in the coming months there would be weeks when I would wake up every day feeling like I had been drinking martinis until three in the morning and then been thrown out of Baron’s nightclub in Kings Cross for vomiting not quite into the toilet. (Not that I know how that feels. Obviously.)

May Blossom is a baby who falls into the unfortunate category of Bad Sleepers. When you have a baby, that’s the first thing everyone asks you (or in our case the second thing, after ‘Is your baby wearing a wig?’). They say, ‘Is she a good sleeper?’ Until she was three months old I could, with a fair degree of honesty, answer yes. She would sleep for chunks of five to eight hours at night, usually from eight or nine to two or three am.

Then, when she was four months old, we flew four hours west, stayed three days, flew four hours east, stayed a week, flew four hours west, stayed a week, flew four hours east, stayed two nights, flew fourteen hours even further east, stayed seven nights, then flew fourteen hours west again. That, my friends, is a foolproof way to turn a Good Sleeper into a Bad Sleeper. I might trademark it.

That was eight months ago. I don’t think any of us ever really recovered. Since that time, I have gone through phases where we do whatever works, and phases where we Work on Sleep,  which means I spend hours every day patting and shushing May Blossom in her cot. We have gone through periods of breastfeeding to sleep for every sleep, never breastfeeding to sleep, rocking, shushing, singing songs from ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou?’. We have tried a small amount of letting her cry, which categorically does not work with this kid. We have been to day stays at sleep schools, had home visits from sleep school nurses and had a catastrophic week-long stay at a Prison for Sleep Idiots. I have read books about sleep, articles about sleep and the entire Internet.

The upshot of all this is that sometimes May Blossom sleeps well and sometimes she doesn’t. She sleeps part of each night in her cot and part of it in bed with H and me. Some naps she takes in her cot and some naps she has on our bed, lying beside me while I type. Sometimes she falls asleep in the stroller and now, finally, after a year, she sometimes falls asleep in the car.

I know that we all feel better when we have slept well, but that I am not up for letting her cry herself to sleep, which is apparently how babies can be taught to learn to resettle themselves when they wake in the night. I am immensely lucky in having my parents and one brother living within shouting distance, so on days like today, when there has been very little sleep the night before, H can take May Blossom over there for breakfast before dragging himself in to work, letting me sleep in for a couple of hours. I realise this is a huge luxury.

Something needs to change around here, sleepwise, but right now I don’t know what to do or how to do it. We can’t stay up for two hours in the middle of the night watching episodes of Peppa Pig on the laptop in bed, even if we did learn that you can make giant bubbles using a tennis racquet dipped in a bucket of dishwashing liquid. Do we do something or do we wait it out? Babies, eh? Who understands the little blighters?

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