Dearest Ruth, I hope this letter finds you well. I find myself in the midst of the Battle of Bedtime. It is a testing time both mentally and physically. A true test of my Dad training. The battle has me perplexed, it is constant, repetitive, mystifying, unfathomable and bewildering...this battle of trying to put a baby to sleep.
I have no choice but to battle in the darkness. The darkness is a necessity but not my ally. I've merely adapted to the darkness ensuring we have blackout blinds and blackout curtains. But alas, glimmers of light still trickle into the room making the battle that more challenging.
You see the darkness, the baby was moulded by it, spent nine months in it and needs it to sleep. She didn't see light until she was born, by then it was only blinding. I try to put her to bed knowing that at any moment, a light may disturb her and my heroic and battling efforts of cradling, singing or bouncing her could all be in vain.
I fear this battle will evolve into a great war and that I may not see the light at the end of the tunnel for some time... perhaps when she's 4 years old. I pray she doesn't look to add reinforcements any time soon in the form of a sibling. I feel the fragility of my will and it would surely crack under the weight of two children under the age of two at present.
The Warning Signs of Battle
This battle has thought me valuable new Dad skills. I now have the ability to read early subtle cues that a battle of bedtime is imminent. A yawn isn't always a sure thing, I've been tricked by this far too many times, so you need to look into their eyes. Into the eyes of the enemy, I mean baby.
It is a daunting task as staring into your baby's eyes, to see if they're tired, may elicit a response you didn't wish for. A cry, a wail or even worse a laugh-filled with a giddiness which means a long battle ahead tonight.
She may rub her eyes to indicate a nap is near or her eyelids drop slightly as she looks to block out light and return to her preferred darkness for sleep.
My dearest Ruth, this is when the true battle begins.
Preparing for Battle
I have been caught out far too many times by this miniature master of bedtime warfare. Strategic positioning, preparation and manoeuvres need to be made before engaging her in this battle.
Like trench warfare and digging in as they say. I need to find myself in a good position. I need a spot that is free from direct light but is comfortable and has cushions to support your arms. This is vital as you may not be able to leave your post for hours on end.
On this note, you need rations to fuel your fight. All of which needs to be in arms reach. Also within arms reach you need a bottle, some formula, saline drops and a snot sucker. These items are essential to combat the resistance of a baby drifting off to sleep.
How I do miss the ease of lobbing her on your right boob instead of filling a bottle with formula while it rattles from her ear-shattering screams.
Moving from Vertical to Horizontal
In a brief pause from the chaos of preparing for battle. It's onto the pre-bedtime rituals of a fresh nappy, a fresh vest, a feed and moisturisers scented with lavender to aid in my efforts to further calm her. We both enjoy a moment of zen as we sit up chatting with each other.
I then slowly move her from sitting vertically into lying down horizontally and like a flick of a light switch. The battle is reignited with screams that pierce eardrums within a 5-mile radius.
This is followed by a fierce and frantic barrage of kicks that if you're not prepared for may result in a right foot to your plums and ensuring that we remain a one-child family.
There must be something internally that unleashes a rage from deep inside a baby when they are moved from a standing or sitting position into a position more suitable for 6 hours sleep. They fight the tiredness, the sleepiness with such vigour it's admirable. They know this is the right position to sleep in but hate that you're always right. I only hope that our daughter puts the same high level of effort into fighting sleep and bedtime into other aspects of life as she grows older.
Sound and Bum Warfare
Baby's are craftier than they look. They use everything at their disposal when it comes to the battle of bedtime. The two most powerful weapons in their arsenal. Sound and Bum warfare.
Their ability to reach decibel levels that Mariah Carey would be envious of does test your resolve as a parent. No parent wants to see their baby cry and they know this. They're psychologically messing with you with their screams, and the screams are so loud you can't even hear yourself think.
As P-Diddy says in 'Get Him to the Greek', "she's mind fucking you!"
If this type of warfare fails. They bring in the big guns, the heavy artillery and unleash bum warfare. The horrors that follow and flow out of our little angel through a cacophony of arse sounds and bowel movements, is mentally scarring. I've tried to block out a lot of the memories my love and some are too gruesome for your delicate ears to hear. However, there are some bits that haunt my nightmares. It begins with an eery silence. You do consider have you finally gone deaf from her incessant screaming?
Then you see their face. A look of concentration. A look of... I will end you. Then you hear the rumblings and the explosive violent sound of a poonami. You thank your lucky stars the nappy took the brunt and shielded you. This is followed swiftly by a smell that singes the nostrils.
You've no option but to concede defeat, lift her up and change her nappy. This immediately wakes her up from any potential sleepy haze.
I weep again. It may be sunrise before I feel the gentle caress of laying my head down on my pillow.
The Trojan Horse
These battles are long and test the fortitude of any Dad or parent. One thing you need to be aware of is the Trojan horse. A baby will show signs of being asleep and hence lure you into a false sense of security like the trojan horse tale.
You're tired and weary from battle and the sight of a sleeping baby is a sight for sore sleep-deprived eyes. You then see this as your opportunity to lay them down for the night. However, as soon as their head touches the co-sleeper. Their eyes open wide, they stare briefly into your eyes once more and the battle of bedtime is on like donkey kong.
You've been warned.
We will have a normal bedtime again someday
How I long for the day where we climb into bed not downtrodden by the scars and rigours of battle. That our child might one day put themselves to bed and that we might not see what our room looks like at 4 am or what each other looks like at 4 am for that matter.
Until that day, I bravely battle on through the fights, screams and poo to put our baby to sleep.
Yours with love, and their child's poo on their hand.