Being Mum and Dad

Mummy and Daddy are watching Rio Ferdinand’s documentary Being Mum and Dad. Mummy is ploughing through the Kleenex in floods of tears. Daddy is pretending to be fine until Rio says it’s OK for men to cry. If a footballer says it, it must be true. Rio’s kids are putting memories of their mum in a jar.

“If I die, you must do this with the baby,” sobs Mummy.

“You can’t die,” says Daddy, “I couldn’t cope. In fact, you should probably not leave the house anymore, just to keep safe.”

“Rio’s wife had cancer,” points out Mummy, “you can get that indoors.”

“Oh no!” says Daddy. Mummy starts listing all the things Daddy needs to know and do if she dies… Mummy is proactive in the face of adversity.

“Stop! Stop!” says Daddy. “I cannot remember all these things. You are just not to die.”

There is a pause. Rio is being Mum and Dad and an international superstar footballing legend. He is on a plane to somewhere exotic, looking like a million dollars and phoning to check his kids have done their homework. He talks about how much he has to learn now he is Mum and Dad. Today, Mummy didn’t even manage to get the laundry in before it rained and that was literally the only thing she had to remember to do today. Mummy is not Rio.

“I want to go and cuddle The Baby now,” says Daddy when it finishes.  The Baby is asleep in her cot. Suddenly Mummy is on high alert, for Daddy does not always respect the sanctity of baby sleep and delicate balance of factors which achieve it.

“You will not touch The Baby,” says Mummy, “she is sleeping.” Daddy sulks a little. He thinks about Rio’s wife, who seemed much nicer and more fun than Mummy.

“I will look at The Baby?” says Daddy uncertainly. Mummy considers this for a moment. It was a very sad and moving documentary.

“You may look at The Baby,” says Mummy generously, “but you will not make any noise that will wake The Baby.”

Mummy goes upstairs to brush her teeth and Daddy goes to look at The Baby. Suddenly, Mummy hears an almighty thud. She goes to the nursery to see what has occurred.

Daddy has hit the deck and is lying flat on his stomach in the dark beside the cot. The Baby is stirring.

“Shhhhhhhhhhhh!” hisses Daddy, gesturing at Mummy not to enter.

“What did you do?!” mouths Mummy back. The Baby is rubbing her little eyes as if she might wake up.

“I just looked at her!” says Daddy almost completely inaudibly – quite a skill, Mummy observes.

Mummy looks at The Baby who is mumbling and threatening to wake.

“You looked at her wrong!” says Mummy. Daddy frowns. Until now, Daddy did not know there was a wrong way to look at a sleeping baby. He has much to learn. This must be what Rio was talking about, thinks Mummy.  It takes Daddy several minutes of hiding in the dark before he plucks up the courage to crawl out of the nursery – a very funny sight. Mummy is filled with love and thanks for Daddy and The Baby.

Being Mum and Dad must be the hardest thing in the world, thinks Mummy.

Battles at midnight

It is a mere few weeks before Mummy must return to work, about which Mummy is both unbelievably sad and deliriously happy. She has decided, however, that the current wake-up-three-times-for-a-meal-in-the-night situation is totally incompatible with a 6:00 am start and full working day, so is taking matters into her own hands. Rebel Baby is not delighted about Mummy’s new venture, accustomed as she is to a midnight feast whenever she feels like it. Rebel Baby is going to fight Mummy every step of the way, determined that her love of eating will prevail. But Mummy is the one with the boobs and Mummy will win. Eventually.

Wanting to be fully prepared for her win, Mummy has naturally spent at least a week Googling night-weaning and reading every possible piece of advice on the matter. It seems the advice ranges from “…just stop feeding them in the night – they will quickly understand and immediately comply,” to “…denying a night feed would be to neglect their most basic and essential need, causing untold distress and everlasting brain damage – it is akin to child abuse.” Marvellous.

Mummy decides the 3:00 am feed will be the first to go, as this is when Mummy most despises being dragged from her bed to sit upright in a dimly lit room with tiny, cold hands down her pyjama top. She begins by making sure The Baby has  had an absolutely enormous dinner with extra helpings and pudding, followed by a good long bedtime feed and another one when Mummy goes to bed. So far so good, thinks Mummy.

The know-it-all baby website tells Mummy that when The Baby wakes up, she should replace a breastfeed with water in a bottle. This will momentarily satisfy The Baby without providing energy, meaning she eats more the next day which will last her through the night. A wonderfully simple and logical solution, thinks Mummy. In order to trick The Baby into taking the cold, hard bottle of water over a soft, warm drink of milk, Mummy should find a nice soft comforter for The Baby and make it smell of her, so she can leave The Baby with it in the cot and minimise sleep disruption.  So – and only because it is what the website told her to do, not because she is weird – Mummy spends the next twenty four hours with a stuffed rabbit down her bra to ensure it collects enough residual boob sweat, hobnob crumbs and stale baby-sick to become a convincing substitute for actual Mummy. The poor rabbit emerges from its ordeal looking rather worse for wear and wondering what on earth it did to Mummy to be chosen for such an unpleasant role.

3:00 am comes and The Baby is awake. Mummy stealthily tiptoes into the nursery, armed with the bottle and Boob-sweat Bunny. The bunny is well-received: RB snuggles willingly into its soft fur, stroking the ear against her cheek. So far so good, thinks Mummy. But she is not satisfied, and continues to stir. Now, she is sleepily searching for food, smacking her greedy little lips and making disgruntled sucking noises into the air. Mummy gently slips in the teat of the bottle….

NOT OK! NOT OK! Rebel Baby’s eyes shoot open angrily and she stares directly at Mummy, swiping away the bottle with one decisive stroke. “Rah!” shouts Rebel Baby, clearly insulted by the attempt.

“Try the bottle darling,” coos Mummy, making a futile attempt to persuade it into her mouth.

“Raaaaah!” shouts Rebel Baby, expertly batting it away. She points at Mummy’s boobs with her stretchy, reachy fingers. “Raaaah!” she shouts quite purposefully. “Raaaah! Raaaah! Raaaah!” There is no mistaking her meaning as she grabs at Mummy, opening and closing her mouth, her angry eyebrows furrowed in disbelief at Mummy’s stupidity.

“Just a little bit of water?” cajoles Mummy sleepily, wishing now that she had come up with a Plan B as Plan A seems to be failing monumentally. Eventually, after giving in and taking The Baby out of the cot, Mummy persuades her – very much against her will – to accept the water. RB then spends the next hour letting Mummy know, from the next room, that the water was entirely unsatisfactory and that RB has not forgotten about it. When The Baby eventually falls asleep, Mummy is unnecessarily awake for the next two hours, mulling over a better approach and Googling alternative strategies. The Baby, meanwhile, is snoozing away happily in the knowledge that her point was well made.

Just to be sure Mummy has got the message, Rebel Baby wakes up at the crack of dawn, scowling and demanding milk. Mummy is too weak to refuse. If sleep deprivation is a form of torture, Rebel Baby is the Gestapo.  She is still clutching Boob-sweat Bunny though, so maybe it’s a start…

How to get your Daddy up (by RB)

Daddies don’t like getting up, especially when they have been partying until the wee hours. It is important to help them get up so they can give you breakfast and play with you. Use these tried-and-tested methods for guaranteed success:

  1. Grab his face. Any part of the face will do, but eyes are especially effective.
  2. Suck your thumb and then put it in his ear. Wiggle it round lots if you can.
  3. Dribble a bit on his head. If that doesn’t work, just go ahead and lick it.
  4. Break wind on his pillow. Repeatedly.
  5. If none of this works, resort to high-pitched squealing and pulling out chunks of beard.

Repeat these steps with increasing enthusiasm until your Daddy at least opens one eye.  Well done! He has seen you! Launch yourself onto his face with a belly-flop – he will pick you up for sure, Daddy loves you! Now it’s time to play!

 

Special case

‘Keep your baby’s head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders. Place your baby in the “feet to foot” position (with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket)’ says know-it-all baby website. This, it tells Mummy, will reduce the risk of SIDS and ensure safe snoozing for the little one. Naturally Mummy obliges, not wanting to put her precious darling in any mortal danger.

Not one to be outsmarted by a well-tucked blanket, Rebel Baby manages to rotate her entire body in order to achieve her desired sleeping position and ensure she is living life on the edge.

At least she’s asleep, thinks Mummy after checking she is breathing, and tiptoes out of the room.

Saturday mornings

It is a Saturday and therefore Daddy is having a lie-in.  There is not enough milk for Mummy to have a cup of tea and give Big Bro breakfast, so naturally Mummy has been a martyr and allowed him to eat, but is not at all happy about it.

Mummy had a lie-in once. It was the last week in December 2016. The Baby had been up almost hourly for several nights and, as Daddy was off work and Mummy was half-dead, Daddy saw fit to do the manly thing and step up.

“I will take the baby,” announced Daddy, “and you can have a lie-in.”

“Oh thank you, thank you,” sobbed Mummy and Daddy felt like a superhero.

“First you must feed the baby,” Daddy announced. So Mummy fed the baby, then Daddy stayed in bed playing with The Baby for as long as humanly possible so that Mummy couldn’t use her lie-in to get actual sleep, and fully appreciated what a noble act Daddy was undertaking. She did her best to ignore The Baby who kicked her in the head and pulled her hair, not understanding the sanctity of a lie-in. Before long, Big Bro came in and climbed all over the bed and kneed Mummy in the stomach and fiddled with small pieces of Lego, distributing them amongst the folds of the duvet so that Mummy dared not move a muscle for fear of plastic bricks lodging in her underwear.

“Ah, isn’t this lovely!” said Daddy.

“Hmph…” said Mummy, rolling over and trying very hard to imagine it was a dream. Eventually, she huffed and puffed enough at Daddy for the message to get through.

“Right!” announced Daddy ceremoniously with a big sigh, lest the magnitude of his grand gesture be misunderstood. “I suppose I will get up with the children.” And lo, with great song and dance, Daddy got up with The Baby and went downstairs. Mummy stayed very very still… the Lego remained an ever-present threat.

Mummy tried very hard to sleep and enjoy her lovely lie-in. But Daddy and the children clattered and crashed and banged as they got their breakfast, and clattered and crashed and banged around the living room. The tellybox went on full blast, for Daddy could not be expected to entertain two children without the assistance of technology. Up and down the stairs went Big Bro with feet like an elephant, slowly transporting every single toy from his bedroom to the living room, one at a time.

Soon Daddy was back, because The Baby was whining. “I think she might be hungry,” said Daddy.

“No,” said Mummy, “I just fed her. She probably wants you to play with her.”

“OK,” said Daddy, and went downstairs to not play with The Baby.

Soon, Daddy was back. “I am putting her down for a nap,” said Daddy, “as she is getting whiny.”

“It is not time,” said Mummy, “she won’t sleep.”

“She is tired,” said Daddy, “she needs a nap.” So Daddy put The Baby down in the room next to Mummy, and The Baby screamed and screamed because she was not tired – she just wanted someone to play with her.

Eventually, Mummy went to get up and Daddy rushed up the stairs to make a point. “No no!” said Daddy, “I will get her, you have a lie-in.” And Daddy took The Baby back downstairs. Then Daddy went to have a shower and left Big Bro in charge of playing with The Baby. But Big Bro has the memory of a goldfish so within thirty seconds, The Baby was screaming blue murder and Big Bro was on the other side of the room playing with Lego. Mummy came downstairs.

She surveyed the carnage that was the living room, turned the tellybox off, sent Big Bro to put some clothes on and brush his teeth, cleared up the kitchen where last night’s clean washing up had been spattered with the morning’s breakfast debris and grease was slowly congealing in the frying pan and all over the cooker from the fried egg sandwich Daddy made himself. She made a cup of tea and – because she is an absolute saint – made one for Daddy too. Daddy was obviously going to need the rest of the day off because he had got up with the children.

That was Mummy’s forty five minute lie-in. It was a magical day.

This morning, Daddy is asleep in bed and Mummy has been up with both children for two hours. They have both had breakfast, Mummy has washed up and put things away. The children are dressed, Big Bro has done is homework and The Baby is down for her nap. It is only fair that Daddy has a lie-in really, as he definitely stirred when Mummy got up to feed The Baby in the night, so is understandably very tired and needs his energy for going to watch football and drink beer this afternoon.

Also, Mummy can wear concealer and Daddy can’t. Poor Daddy.

Black tea. Bleurgh.

In my day…

It started before The Baby was even born, when Mummy was pregnant and pretending not to feel sick all the time.

“In my day,” said Knitting Nanna, “we didn’t have all these rules about what pregnant ladies can’t eat. You could smoke and drink, and doctors prescribed Guinness. In my day, we only had to avoid green potatoes, and the babies all turned out perfectly healthy!” Mummy muses that healthy is not a word she would ever associate with Daddy, the product of this practice, and lover of beer and kebabs. Thankfully, Mummy does not like Guinness. Or green potatoes.

Mummy should have realised this was merely the start of things to come. It seems that everyone who has ever had a baby has had it on a different day, and on that day the rules were different from all all the other days. This confuses Mummy greatly, as she cannot always remember what day is it today, let alone which piece of advice belongs to which day.

“In my day,” says Grandma, who has had three babies and can’t always remember which was which, “it was very important to have the baby weighed every five minutes. You must take the baby to the clinic all the time, because it is impossible to know how she is doing unless you know exactly how much she weighs.”

“But Mrs Health Visitor said don’t come back for a month,” explains Mummy.

“Take her anyway,” says Grandma, “just to be sure.”

“I’m amazed you are sitting her up,” says Terribly Old Great Granny. “In my day, you couldn’t sit then up ’til they were eight months old and you only fed then at 10:00, 2:00 and 6:00.” Mummy wonders what happened if they were hungry at 3:00, as Rebel Baby would almost certainly choose to be hungry at rebelliously different times…

“Leave them to cry at the bottom of the garden!” says Terribly Old Great Grandad, “It ne’er did ’em any harm!”

Mummy looks at the size of her garden and thinks that the neighbours would not thank her for that. She wonders if it would be OK to leave her at the bottom of someone else’s garden.

“We weaned you at three months, on freeze-dried cheese and tomato instant baby food,” says Grandad nostalgically. Mummy suspects this was much more convenient than the home-made organic vegetable purées in the recipe book Mrs Health Visitor so kindly provided, and makes a mental note to check if this is still available.

In twenty or thirty years, muses Mummy, I wonder what I will be telling the baby about? There must be things we are doing now which will seem ridiculous to her in the future. 

Mummy doesn’t know, but she suspects that Ewan the Musical Womb Sheep may be one of them.

Least convincing fake-sleeping face EVER.

 

The best laid plans

It is widely accepted that babies make it pretty difficult to have a proper social life due to their incessant need to eat, sleep and generally take up all of your time and attention. This evening however, Daddy has arranged to go out for the evening with Mummy and The Baby. This is the second such excursion Daddy has planned.  He has learned from the first, where RB stayed up until nearly midnight roaring at the top of her lungs and laughing at herself for no apparent reason whatsoever. This time, Daddy has purchased a travel cot and arranged a nice quiet evening playing board games with nice quiet friends, who also have little people asleep in the house and will be calm and civil. Mummy is to come with The Baby and pretend to understand the complicated board games that Daddy likes to play whilst sipping pink wine under the table (for beer is the acceptable drink at such events) and willing The Baby to sleep in her newly acquired bed.

Mummy insists that Daddy puts the travel cot up at home to check it works properly. Not wanting to waste more than a minute of his precious evening on such a task, Daddy has got a Super Duper Instant Idiot-proof Pop-up Travel Cot, which promises to take less than a minute to put up and down.

He opens the bag and… Pop! Out it leaps with encouraging success, one self-contained little baby-tent in which RB can snooze the night away.

So far so good, thinks Mummy. Now all Daddy has to do it put it away again.

This does not prove so easy. The instructions tell Daddy to simply ‘twist and collapse,’ but Daddy spends a good twenty minutes twisting forwards, backwards, inside out and back to front with little joy. He looks at the travel cot and looks at the bag it must go in, and assumes that some sort of shift in the fabric of time and space has occurred, as there is no feasible way that it could have fitted into the same bag only moments before.

After immeasurably more twisting and grunting, eventually Daddy does something right and magically the travel cot is transformed into a tiny little package which slips neatly into the case. Daddy has no idea how this happened. It seems the travel cot has supernatural powers.

Mummy and Daddy arrive at the nice quiet friends’ house with RB already in her pyjamas, for they are thoughtful and organised, and the whole evening will go without a hitch.  Daddy pops up the travel cot in less than a minute and Mummy sits down in a nice quiet corner to feed the baby into a sleepy stupor and pop her into her lovely comfy new bed.

Rebel Baby, however, has had a sneaky nap in the car on the way over and is very well rested indeed. All she needs now is a quick feed for some energy and she’s ready for a good night out.

“The Baby is wide awake and lively,” says Mummy. “I will look after The Baby while you play your complicated board game and drink beer.”

“No, no,” say Daddy and the nice quiet friends, “you must play as well, and The Baby will be OK.” Daddy looks at the game and sees and evening of fun; Mummy sees an evening of choking hazards.

So Mummy and The Baby join in the complicated board game. Mummy has no idea what is going on but understands there is a lot of strategy involved, which is one of Daddy’s very favourite things. Rebel Baby likes knocking over the shiny game pieces and licking the playing cards, which makes Daddy twitchy, for the game pieces are Sacred and Important.  It is very difficult for Mummy to hold the baby whilst also drinking pink wine under the table, but she concentrates very hard and just about manages it. The Super Duper Instant Idiot-proof Pop-up Travel Cot rests, redundant, in a dark corner.

As the game goes on, it becomes more intense and The Men are having lots of complicated discussions about their very important strategies for world domination. Rebel Baby has taken to making fake choking noises until her face goes a bit purple and then laughing at herself, which is enough to give Mummy an actual heart attack. The nice quiet friends have found her some baby toys to stop her licking the playing cards, so now Mummy has a wriggly, choke-laughing baby, lots of Sacred and Important game pieces and a pile of baby toys in the way of access to her pink wine.

“Isn’t it lovely to get out and relax!” says Daddy, as he plots his next genius move.

“Oh yes, absolutely!” pants Mummy as she extracts her playing pieces from a dribbly fist and picks up Sophie la Giraffe for the gazillionth time.

“Please go to sleep,” Mummy wills The Baby, trying again and again to persuade her into the peaceful haven that is the expensive new travel cot. But no, The Baby is wide awake.

The game takes so long that Mummy ends up pacing the room with The Baby while The Men negotiate their complicated battle plans. Every now and then someone tells Mummy it is her turn, and she goes and rearranges some ponies on the map to keep them happy. It is getting very late, and The Baby has transitioned from lively and wired to increasingly deranged but still refusing to sleep.

“I think I need to get her home soon…” ventures Mummy.

“Yes, yes,” says Daddy, “I am going to conquer the world any minute now and the game will be over. It is your turn.”

Mummy and The Baby go over and move some ponies…. Mummy has won!!!

“Pah hahahahahaha!! I have won!!!” crows Mummy, for she is a modest and humble winner. Daddy is scratching is head and trying to work out how Mummy must be wrong. But Mummy is not wrong – she has conquered the world! Daddy has no idea how this happened. It seems Mummy has supernatural powers.

“Ho… hum… very good,” mumble Daddy and the lovely friends.  Mummy is smiling very much indeed, for Mummy loves to win. It has been a very good night out.

It is finally time to get The Baby home to bed, before she absolutely loses it. And as if defeat were not bad enough, Daddy must now wrestle the Super Duper Instant Idiot-proof Pop-up Travel Cot back into its bag in less than a minute.

“Maybe next time it would be better if you stayed at home with The Baby,” says Daddy on the way to the car.

Sleep training, take 3

6:30 pm

Daddy has come back from work and announced he is off to the pub.

“Someone at work did something that was a bit good so we must all go out for beers to celebrate,” he says.

For once, the baby is asleep so Mummy doesn’t even have cause to be grumpy about this.

“I am going to have a noisy shower in the bathroom right by where the baby is sleeping as I must look and smell beautiful for our celebratory beers,” says Daddy.

7:00 pm 

Daddy’s beers have been cancelled and the baby is awake, so Daddy has two reasons to be sad.

Mummy only has one… she found out what happened to Redbeard.

“What is The Strategy tonight?” asks Daddy.

“Ah!” says Mummy, “I have improved The Strategy today! I sneak off only as far as our bedroom and I wait there until she is definitely completely and utterly asleep, and I can comfort her when needed but she can’t see me.”

“Ah!” says Daddy, “Is this because your increased proximity to the baby allows you to be more in tune to her every need, and allows her to sense your presence is reassuringly close despite not being immediately there, thus enabling her to feel more at ease in her sleep environment?”

“No,” says Mummy, “it is because my legs hurt.”

8:00 pm

Mummy takes a box of earplugs round to the Lovely Neighbour as an apology gift.

“Oh no, I can’t hear her at all!” lies the Lovely Neighbour. Mummy knows this is a lie because Mummy can hear the Lovely Neighbour’s light switch through the walls, and is quite sure the light switch is considerably quieter than the screaming baby. The Lovely Neighbour insists she is telling the truth but willingly accepts the ear plugs which indicates she is not. Mummy apologises profusely again, and the Lovely Neighbour starts apologising for her own children, who are grown up and do not try to scream the street down at 3:00 am. How marvellously British we are, thinks Mummy.

8:45 pm

THE BABY HAS BEEN ASLEEP FOR NEARLY TWO HOURS! Mummy and Daddy keep checking the baby monitor to make sure it is not broken. Which is not necessary, because the baby monitor is not necessary, because The Baby can easily be heard without a monitor. From three streets away. But when Mummy was buying things for the new baby, it was the only thing which vaguely resembled technology and therefore Daddy considered it essential.

Mummy is fully aware that The Baby is probably only asleep because of the accumulated levels of sleep deprivation, and is tanking herself up now so she can resurrect her nightly performance tomorrow, renewed and refreshed. But Mummy doesn’t care.

Sleep when the baby sleeps, say the know-it-all baby websites. Foolishly though, Mummy and Daddy stay up late relishing the peace and quiet. It is rare and welcome opportunity to engage in adult conversation, to cook and enjoy dinner for two and listen to music, to rekindle their relationship and remember a sense of themselves, not the baby-serving zombies they have become.

Naturally, they order a takeaway and spend the next three hours on separate sofas behind laptops, watching Grey’s Anatomy.

 

Sleep training, take 2

Following Daddy’s great announcement yesterday, Mummy has renewed her efforts to master sleep training. She has spent the day scouring know-it-all websites and baby books, which range from stating the blooming obvious – “Your baby won’t sleep well if they are hungry or uncomfortable” – to advice which Mummy is convinced the authors just wrote for a laugh, to really wind her up: “Sleep begets sleep; make sure they have enough sleep in the day and they will sleep easily at night.”

It seems that a lot of money is to be made from the business of getting babies off to sleep. No doubt due to her monotonous search history, the great wonder that is Google is now advertising to Mummy every product under the sun which promises to do the job for you. Mummy is especially impressed by Ewan the Musical Womb Sheep, who apparently makes womb-like noises to the baby, thus tricking it into remembering a time before it was born and happily drifting off. It is unlikely Ewan will work on Rebel Baby, who considered the womb her very own party house and didn’t sleep there either.

Wanting to be thorough in her research, Mummy has also consulted with equally sleep-deprived friends, one of whom has gone to the lengths of employing a professional sleep consultant. She has emailed Mummy the detailed professional advice about exactly what Mummy needs to do to guarantee the Little One pops off into a peaceful slumber right on cue this evening. Mummy has read through it twice and used thee different coloured highlighters, so that no crumb of wisdom is left untried.

6:00 pm

Daddy is home from work.

“I have spent all day reading every book under the sun about exactly and precisely how to get the baby to sleep,” says Mummy, “and I have even got some advice from a professional sleep consultant.”

“That is not a real job,” says Daddy.

“It is too a real job,” says Mummy, “and they have much wisdom on getting babies to sleep.”

“OK,” says Daddy, “what’s the new strategy?”

“Same as yesterday,” says Mummy.

8:00 pm 

Mummy and Daddy have been taking it in turns to comfort The Baby, who seems unnaturally wide awake. All the walking up and down the stairs is doing wonders for Mummy’s thighs. All the crying is slowly shutting down Mummy’s brain. Mummy dreams of the supermodel legs she will have at the end of sleep training, and wonders if she still has her black dress with a slit up the side. Maybe she will be able to wear it.

9:00 pm

Rebel Baby is teasing Mummy by pretending to sleep until Mummy gets up to leave the room. Mummy wonders if she could fashion a large cardboard cut-out of herself to prop up at the end of the bed while she goes downstairs to drink wine and watch the end of Sherlock.  Mummy really wants to know what happens to Redbeard.

9:30 pm

Daddy brings up a cup of tea for Mummy. He has managed to reduce his comforting duties by convincing The Baby that she only wants Mummy. It is clear now to Mummy this is a ploy Daddy has been covertly working on for several weeks, and the fruits of his labour are beginning to pay off. Mummy makes a mental note to ensure the baby’s first words are “Daddy, now!” and get her own back. Mummy still doesn’t know what has happened to Redbeard.

10:00 pm

It strikes Mummy that sleep-training when The Baby is so poorly is a futile mission and perhaps it should be aborted until the baby is well. Then Mummy remembers the week Daddy decided it was time to potty train Big Bro, who then developed acute D & V. But this was irrelevant to Daddy, because Daddy had decided. The fact that all the clothes and bed sheets were being laundered daily and the child barely got off the potty all day did not matter, because there was a schedule and targets to be met. And also because Daddy was staying at his mother’s, so the cleaning was not his problem.

10:30 pm 

Mummy is so, so tired. It strikes her there is no point having supermodel legs if they are disfigured from being cramped into a kneeling position at the side of the cot, with a hunched back from bending over. Daddy has turned the TV up to drown out the crying… he had better not be watching the end of Sherlock without Mummy.

Mummy had ruled out the ‘Cry it out’ method due to living in a terraced house and quite liking her neighbours, but it strikes Mummy that The Baby no longer seems to care whether she is there or not and has taken to crying indiscriminately. Mummy may as well not be there, for all the good she is doing. She may as well just leave The Baby, the stubborn, ungrateful little thing… at least for a few minutes so Mummy can find out what happened to Redbeard.

10:31 pm

Mummy didn’t mean that! Of course she won’t leave her darling precious baby in her time of great distress and sickness! Mummy is here, and it will all be OK! If only she would just stop screaming…

10:32pm

Mummy decides if she can just stop the screaming, The Strategy can be resumed. And also, Mummy has pins and needles in her soon-to-be-shapely legs, and cramp in her foot. She will just take the baby next door and sit on the bed with her for a few minutes while she calms down, and have a fresh start. She is also worried about the neighbours putting in a formal complaint for disturbance of the peace.

Mummy tiptoes next door with one snot-encrusted, menthol-infused Rebel Baby in her arms, still fighting sleep. They sit down on the bed for just a few moments, and peace is restored. It is very important Daddy does not find out that Mummy has broken The Strategy, after all the grief she gave him yesterday.

11:30 pm

Mummy fell asleep and has been found out! Daddy was getting impatient wanting to watch the end of Sherlock and came up to investigate the silence, and Mummy was asleep with The Baby on the bed!

“What are you doing?!” demands Daddy, incredulous. “This is not The Strategy!”

“No, no, I’m sorry!” wails Mummy, “I was just… and I couldn’t… and… legs… and… what happened to Redbeard?”

Daddy takes The Baby and puts her back in the cot. But The Baby does not want to go back in the cot, she wants to sleep on the bed with Mummy. Mummy is absolutely definitely not ever going to tell Daddy about the time he went away for work and Mummy accidentally fell asleep with The Baby in bed, and RB slept quite happily on Daddy’s side all night and Mummy didn’t have to get up once, not even to feed her. That did not happen.

12:00 pm

Daddy has given in too now, and has resorted to walking around the nursery with Rebel Baby, who only wants to be upright… probably because of all the phlegm. But phlegm will not stop Daddy, for he has a schedule.

12:05 pm

Rebel Baby has fallen asleep. Upright. On Daddy’s chest. Daddy has declared himself to be a Sleep God for achieving this where Mummy had failed. It is all Daddy’s skill and not at all to do with the fact Rebel Baby has been awake for hours and hours and has cried out all her options on Mummy.

Now Daddy is stuck. Ha!

Mummy is going to bed… she will have to find out what happened to Redbeard tomorrow night.

 

Sleep training, take 1

6:00 pm

Daddy has come home from work and decreed with great importance that it is time to start ‘sleep training.’

“What do you mean?” asks Mummy.

“Training her to go to sleep,” says Daddy, “so she has a proper bedtime and doesn’t keep waking up again.”

What a genius Daddy is to think of this marvellous idea. All this time, Mummy had obviously been training the baby to stay awake and encouraging her to cry in the night. Thank goodness Daddy has thought of getting her to sleep, that seems a much better approach.

“Good idea,” says Mummy, “how do you propose we achieve this?”

“Hmmm…” says Daddy, “what is her routine?”

Mummy thinks back to previous conversations with Daddy about The Baby’s routine and scratches her head.

“It is a flexible routine,” says Mummy.

“Ah,” says Daddy after a moment’s contemplation. “I see. What we need is a strategy.”

Daddy is a big fan of strategies, for Daddy has a logical job which involves doing lots of things on computers, like checking Facebook and playing Football Manager. On computers, cause and effect are necessarily linked, and there is no such thing as a random outcome. Mummy knows that it is not so with babies, but she knows this will be hard for Daddy to understand.

“Good idea,” says Mummy.

“Right,” says Daddy, who clearly feels progress is being made. “What will be the strategy?”

Mummy had foolishly assumed Daddy had a strategy in mind when he broached this topic of conversation, but clearly it is not so. As Mummy has already told Daddy about the exact strategies she has been using for no less than five months, she decides not to reinvent the wheel. Mummy has spent many sleepless nights sitting next to Daddy in bed while he snores so peacefully, Googling how to get babies to sleep on her phone with one hand while feeding the baby with the other, so she knows that consistency is key. She tells Daddy again everything she is already doing, but this time she uses lots of words she knows Daddy will like such as intervention, implementation, responsive, procedure, sequence, approach, action…

“Very good, very good,” says Daddy. “This strategy will surely work.”

7:00 pm

Mummy has put The Baby to bed at the scheduled hour by actioning the agreed Bedtime Sequence. The Baby is asleep.

“The strategy is going well!” observes Daddy.

The Baby always goes to sleep at 7:00, thinks Mummy.

7:15 pm

The Baby is stirring.

“We will allow her to implement the Self-soothe Procedure,” says Daddy.

“OK,” says Mummy.

7:30pm

The Self-soothe Procedure has been unsuccessful. Maybe Mummy should have been more explicit when she briefed The Baby in the required outcomes? The Baby is crying now, which makes Daddy twitchy.

“It is time to respond with the Comfort Intervention,” says Daddy.

“OK,” says Mummy, “but don’t just let her suck your finger, it doesn’t help. Please follow the agreed protocol.”

Mummy doesn’t like Daddy’s finger-sucking strategy… partly because it is only effective in the short term, partly because The Baby becomes obsessed with sucking everyone’s fingers all the time, and partly because it causes Daddy to shout up the stairs “Just give her the finger!” which Mummy suspects may alarm the neighbours enough for a phone call to social services.

Daddy goes upstairs to implement the Comfort Intervention. Soon the baby is comforted and the crying stops in record time. Daddy comes back downstairs and announces he has earned a cup of tea which Mummy must make, for his superb execution of the Comfort Intervention.

“That was quick,” observes Mummy.

“It only took one finger,” boasts Daddy.

7:35 pm

The Baby is awake again and is starting to cry.

“Is she hungry?” asks Daddy. Mummy only fed The Baby at 7:00, so the baby cannot be hungry.

“I think she is hungry,” says Daddy, “I will make her a bottle.”

7:45 pm

The Baby is not hungry. The mere suggestion of it seems to make her very angry.

7:47 pm, 7:50 pm, 7:55 pm…

Mummy executes the Comfort Intervention, following the agreed protocol. The Baby is gradually getting calmer each time and the crying has become intermittent. Mummy has walked up and down the stairs a lot which must at least be good for her thighs.

“I think she’s nearly there,” says Mummy.

“I will do the next one,” says Daddy, “for I am a modern man so I must do helping, as long as it’s not cleaning or laundry, the football’s not on, I haven’t just opened a beer and I’m not too tired.”

“OK,” says Mummy.

8:00 pm

Daddy goes upstairs to implement the Comfort Intervention. He has been thoroughly briefed on the agreed protocol and understands that under no circumstances is he to just put his finger in her mouth until she falls asleep. Convinced that this will be the last one, Mummy pours an optimistic glass of wine and begins to prepare dinner. It is a good feeling.

8:05 pm

Daddy reappears with The Baby.

“She was smiling at me!” he wails defensively. “She looked wide awake and she wanted to come down and play!”

Rebel Baby looks like the cat that got the cream. She laughs at Mummy and rolls off to play happily in her baby gym.

“We need a new strategy,” says Daddy.