x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sleep advice for my baby that I wish I'd heeded

Married Life: If only this sleep-deprived mother had listened when her boss advised her to try out a sleep-training class.

I used to stride into work in the mornings triumphant, eager to boast about what a good a daughter I had.

“She’s such a good baby,” I’d proclaim. With time, my incredulity about having such a good child, when I had always expected a holy terror, lessened. As the days and weeks went by, I would take a measure of obnoxious pride in the fact that I had such a good baby.

“She doesn’t give me any trouble with sleep at all,” I’d say loudly, to anyone who’d listen. “No, really. I don’t get what the fuss is about. My baby is just so good.”

And, for a while, she really was as good as all that. She’d fall asleep while nursing, sigh gently as I’d tuck her into her basket and utter nary a peep. Meanwhile, Mr T and I were practically falling all over ourselves to high-five one another. “She’s such a good baby,” we’d agree.

A sleep trainer was in town not too long ago: Rachel Waddilove, the author of Sleep Solutions – Quiet Nights for You and Your Child.

“You should go,” said my boss. “Take a few hours off. Go see what she has to say. She’ll help you with Baby A’s sleep.”

“But Baby A is so good,” was my retort. I was a little miffed that my boss hadn’t been listening as I sang my baby’s praises; had she not heard me go on and on about how good Baby A’s sleep habits were, compared to my nightmarish expectations?

“She has no sleep problems at all! What do I need to go to a sleep trainer for?”

“For later,” said my all-knowing boss. “You know this isn’t going to last, right?”

I wish I’d listened. When once I used to stride to my desk, purposefully and fresh-faced, I now shuffle, bleary-eyed and grumpy, ready to pick a fight with my own shadow. I can’t remember the last time I had more than two hours of continuous sleep. I cannot fathom how I have not yet keeled over from exhaustion. The dark circles under my eyes rival those of Lindsay Lohan without any make-up on.

What kills me is that it’s only now, after Baby A has passed her seven-month milestone, that the question constantly pops up, like a blister that chafes against a too-tight shoe. “Has Her Dictatorship started sleeping through the night?” Why, no, she hasn’t, and don’t you dare tell me she’s supposed to. Why are they asking now? Why didn’t they ask me when she was three months old, snoring in her basket, oblivious to the blaring television set? Why now, after she has decided to wake up every hour on the hour, demanding I rock her – me, not her father; he’s just summoned when it’s play time, giggling time and general fun time – rock her and sway with her and sing to her until she is tricked into falling asleep once again, before her subconscious nudges her and screams, “HOLD ON. I am no longer cradled in the arms of That Woman who is supposed to serve me! Time to let out an Earth-shattering wail and summon my minions.” Mr T and I, of course, hop to it.

Recently, the same boss I paid no heed to not that long ago told me that she heard of a couple who forked over US$2,000 – that’s more than Dh7,000 – to hire a sleep trainer for three nights, to help them with their baby’s sleep issues. Apparently, it worked.

I’m hoping against hope that Ms Waddilove, or perhaps one of her counterparts, will be visiting the UAE soon, because, truth be told, I miss my good baby.


Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor


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