It had to come eventually, didn’t it?
So the Little Berry turns six months old this week. It seems she is a bit of a shit sleeper. Or, that her sleeping habits make me feel like shit. It’s the way our culture works, right? Good babies sleep like the dead. Bad babies are the ones that continue to call for you at night, to drag on your breast, arch their backs, to wail at an ungodly frequency. But we pretend (is it pretend?) that we love the closeness. The intimacy of those moments in the deep dark, just you and your baby. But it’s not intimate. It’s exhausting and messy and wet and heavy and did I mention exhausting. But the alternative is just admitting you hate it. Which just makes you feel more miserable. And the next step after that is that you have to ‘change’.
“Just stop feeding at night. She’s old enough to go six or seven hours without a feed,” says the sleep expert.
Except the sleep expert doesn’t hear that wail. After six months of crappy, interrupted sleep, it’s simply unfathomable to let that cry go on when it rings out in the dead of night, inches from my head. My bed feels poisoned by that cry. I can’t make love to my husband in that bed. It is a place for crying and feeding and wet nappies and scrambling for lights (but not too much light, shit, wrong button, shit, shit).
No, I am wired to respond and so it feels, that like a puppet on a string I rise to vainly pat and shoosh against the flood of angry sobs before giving in and again, feeding, with the quiet monologue still playing “just change it, ” as I have a little cry, quietly because maybe after this she’ll sleep.
Every time, it feels like giving in. Although it isn’t supposed to, is it? Aren’t I just responding the needs of my baby? Isn’t this a good thing? Schedules and routines are a Western construct! Babies have such tiny tummies, they need to feed at night! The thought flutters by, that surely the tummy is in proportion to the rest of the body? It’s not like the tiny tummy has to hold food for a giant?
In my twenties, girlfriends clocked insane hours at their top tier law firms and merchant banks. The lack of sleep was part of the glamour. But there ain’t no five figure bonuses in this job. Just a feeling of being sleepless, a failure and alone.