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Like most first timers I didn’t fully appreciate the extent of sleep deprivation brought on by having a newborn until I was well and truly in the abyss. Only when I had experienced that sinking feeling in the depths of the night when the baby stirs and you realise it’s been three whole hours since they last fed but it seems like only seconds, did I understand how it can mess with your mind. Lack of sleep makes you feel permanently tipsy. You can’t tell if you’re laughing or crying, you start putting the remote in the fridge and leave the house in mismatched shoes. Every waking moment is spent thinking about how to get more sleep. It becomes an obsession. You’ll stop at nothing for a few more precious minutes.
In the run up to number one’s arrival we visited some friends who had offered to lend us lots of baby gear. For the finale they produced a bizarre-looking contraption they’d used to help their colicky baby get to sleep. You had to attach it to the bottom of the cot, plug it in and then it vibrated vigorously. “That’s so kind of you,” we told them, “but we think we’ll leave it.” We didn’t want to be rude and say it out loud, but we were both thinking how drastic it was. “You’ll be back!” they said, raising their eyebrows. “I don’t think so,” we said to each other later. Oh, how smug we were. Oh, how right they were.
Before we reached that particular low point though we had a beautiful love affair with white noise. This was old school white noise, before apps were abundant. Our newborn had been sleeping like a dream for the first three weeks of his existence. So much so we were wondering what all the fuss was about. This was a doddle. Then he screamed solidly for 24 hours, like he was mocking us. We leafed frantically through the baby books that I had purchased. Each one told us something different. Burp it, feed it, rock it, leave it – we tried everything until finally the husband had a eureka moment and pointed my hairdryer at him like a gun, switching it on to maximum power. The…