Every child is different

February 2007

Dear Dave,

Already? Are you sure? I mean, I guess you’d know but... Yeah, thinking about, I suppose you are halfway to another child but where’s the time gone? Goodness. You’re probably thinking the same thing. No wonder you’re sounding a little panicked. Still, you’ll probably find coping with two easier than you’re expecting. You’ve had plenty of practice with everything like nappies and baths and it won’t take long to get slick again.

That said, not to worry you or anything, but...

Every child is different.

Chances are, some of the things that went smoothly first time round will be more of a bumpy ride this time.

Fraser had terrible trouble sleeping and it got to the point where I had to share the spare bed with him and cuddle him most of the night. Since it was a single bed and neither of us is small, I tended to wake up tired and hunched and then lurch around the house like Quasimodo, gibbering about coffee. After a year of that, it was a case of either leaving him to scream himself to sleep or constructing my own bell tower and just going with the whole tormented mutant look. Thankfully, a couple of nights of hard hearts and stubborn wills sorted things and he’s gone to bed fine ever since.

After our experiences with Fraser, we were keen to do better with Lewis. He got hankies to clutch for comfort (replaceable and easily portable!), he wasn’t allowed to sleep so much during the day, we gave him tooth powder and he was left to get himself to sleep from an earlier age. The plan paid off. He slept twelve hours a night from a year. He didn’t sleep at all during the day by that point but I didn’t care – we had evenings to ourselves and I’d almost entirely lost the desire to go bell-ringing. We smugly believed that we knew what we were doing.

Then Marie arrived.

She never slept well to start with but teething was disastrous. She wouldn’t go to bed until ten or eleven at night and then often woke up and cried for a couple of hours at three in the morning and then got up at eight (if not before). I dreamed of the days when I felt as agile as a hunchback. My limbs seized up and I took on the twisted appearance of a gargoyle. I sprinkled coffee directly onto my Sugar Puffs.

Nothing worked. She had muslin cloths to cuddle but she merely grew to need them and me to get to sleep. She spat out Calpol. I managed to get the tooth powder in her once but only by tipping it out of the sachet and putting it on a spoon. That took her by surprise. The next time, she saw it coming and blew it all in my face. I couldn’t cut down on her daytime sleeping because, well, it wasn’t like she ever really slept then either.

There was no alternative but to go for the screaming again. It was desperate, but we were pretty sure it would work...

On the first night, I had to leave Fraser to yell in the cot for nearly five hours before he gave up and went to sleep. (Going in to check on him made things worse, by the way.) Marie only lasted a minute and half before becoming so upset that she was copiously sick all over herself, her sheets and the carpet. This happened every time we tried. It was more work than cuddling her to sleep. We gave up.

My skin turned hard and grey. If I stood still outside for too long then pigeons started to nest in my hair. Passing stonemasons attempted to kidnap me and stick me to a church.

It was only when she was over two and able to be reasoned with that we had any success. One night, when she’d been up for hours, I put her in her bed, told her to go to sleep and then stayed in the room with her. Every time she gagged, I told her to calm down. Three hours later, it was time to get up, but at least she hadn’t vomited. After a few nights of doing this at bedtime and whenever she woke up during the night, she got the idea.

Life’s been much easier since. I can now walk without creaking. Water no longer pours out my mouth when it rains.

We’ll know what to do next time...

(Yeah, right.)

Keep your wits about you. Try different things. Get some sleep now.

Yours in a woman’s world,


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