The contrariness of motherhood

On the nights when I put Iris to bed, which is most nights, as she prefers me and Betty prefers DH, after finishing her bottle of milk she turns to me and says “Can I have a cuddle?”. Pinned securely into a sleeping bag (a necessity as she is both a stripper and a climber) she turns to face me. Sometimes she doesn’t want to go to sleep or really have a cuddle, she just wants a chat, about the things we have done, the things we are going to do and the important things in her life, like Betty, Grandma and doggies. On the nights like tonight, when she is exhausted, she curls up on my lap, her head on my upper arm, knees tucked into her chest, and her tiny arms wrapped around my waist. These nights actually bode the worst, as infant logic dictates that the more tired they are the more unsettled their sleep will be.

Sometimes this tableau occurs at 7pm, sometimes 8, sometimes 3am. Even at 3am, tired, and anxious about getting up for work soon, I soon succumb to the star nightlight speckled darkness, and bury my face into the nape of her neck. I inhale the smell of sweat and jam sandwiches. I relish the weight of the heavy head in my arms. I feel the rise and fall of the little chest filling with air, and exhaling with faint snores. When I am feeling frustrated at this being our third visit of the night, or desperate to go downstairs and have some grown up time, I tell myself it won’t be long before she no longer wants cuddles, or is too big to curl up on my lap.

As I nuzzle the warm body on my lap I think about its future. I wonder what sort of woman she will become, I worry I am not doing a good enough job for her to reach her potential, I worry about the dangers of the world, and pray she will outlive me in it. I want to cry a little for the future me, who has no 2 year old to snuggle, and for the future Iris, and the time when a mother’s cuddle is no longer enough to make her feel secure.

Eventually, the draw of freedom and personal space force me to relinquish my charge and put her in her cot. Tonight she was out like the proverbial light, but most nights she drowsily clutches Luke, her bear, and turns over with a sleepy “Night night mummy”.

No longer weighed down with a warm infant, I step lightly out of the room and head downstairs where long-awaited freedom awaits. Earlier today, frustrated and exhausted, I wanted my house free of my children, or wished for them to be old enough to be more self-sufficient. Each night I sink on to the sofa with relief that I have survived another day. But for the few minutes after I have released the sleeping toddler from my arms I feel bereft.

Hurricane Iris

No finished projects to report today. Plenty in progress: a sausage dog commissioned by my friend for one of daughter’s friends; a Mei Tai sling for my brother and sister in law; teddies in various states of completion; some fingerless gloves for my mum.

We are all a bit bleary eyed today. The Scots are recovering from, what has been nicknamed, Hurricane Bawbag, and I hope people like the lovely and long suffering Gentle Otter are getting back to normal. We, however, are suffering the after effects of Hurricane Iris. Gorgeous, headstrong and bright; Iris is, like a hurricane, awesome and fascinating to watch yet leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. Instead of upended garden furniture, Iris leaves half eaten toast, Tupperware and wet wipes.

Iris has never been a great sleep. Tough to put down, and easy to wake, she didn’t sleep through until at least 9 months. Even now she will not reliably stay asleep. I think the emergence or a couple of nasty molars is causing her some bother at the moment.

Last night Hurricane Iris struck again, up crying at 2am. Our usual tactic is to leave her and see if she will go off on her own. It was clear this wasn’t going to happen, so I got up and fed her. She seemed in no hurry to go back to sleep. She usually either feeds to sleep or cries to sleep. Very occasionally you can catch her and put her down awake. This wasn’t one of those times. I went back to bed anyway, hoping that she would settle down. Like counting the seconds between lightening and thunder, you can measure how likely Iris is to settle down by counting between the cries. Cry…one…two…cry…one…two…cry…one…two…three…four…cry…this time six. Is it possible she is settling? We relax slightly, hoping now we can go back to sleep. No such luck, looks like we were just in the eye of the storm, where it is momentarily quiet, waiting to come out of the other side. This time it’s DH who braces the storm and tries to work miracles to quell its strength. 40 minutes of cuddles and the storm has finally calmed, or passed on to some other unsuspecting household.

Counting sheep

I’m not big on Sundays. I get that Sunday school night feeling. It’s anxiety about not. Not that my job it particularly anxiety-inducing, it’s just I have been away for a few days (four in my case as I work part-time) and I dread going into to see what missives await me in my inbox. That’s just half my week, the rest is likely to be spent stopping my children from killing each other, or me them (accidentally you understand…).


Suffice to say I never sleep very well on a Sunday night, worse than usual anyway. So if tonight I’m struggling to sleep I’m going to watch this somniferous (I just looked it up, don’t say I don’t educate you – it means sleep inducing) video that I found on the tangleknot blog.




I tell you no lie. I am currently squatting behind the desk chair in the baby’s room. She is quiet in her cot but not sound enough asleep that I can risk opening the door to get out. I am very uncomfortable. This is ridiculous.

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one

I went back to work today. I could tell you what I do but I’d have to kill you. Actually, you’d probably just die of boredom. Anyway, back to work, part time, after ten months. I’ve been having work nightmares for a few weeks now. Last night it was that I accidentally took the baby into but when I tried to call DH to come and get her I couldn’t remember my home phone number and couldn’t work how to use the phone. It proved to be strangely prophetical, well, apart from taking the baby in. It was fine though, felt like I’d never been away, which was sad and a relief in equal measures.

In anticipation though, Iris picked this time to launch Phase 2 of Operation Teething Nightmare. Yesterday she was hot, crabby and very clingy, and early this morning she was awake between 4 and 5am, it’s like she knew…

Sleep has never been great with darling child number 2. For 3 months she would only sleep on me. I eventually managed to get her to sleep in the baby hammock, though she would only go down after 11pm. Even up until 9 months she was waking 2 or 3 times a night. “You need to put your foot down” people would helpfully say. “Have you tried XYZ?”. I’ve had a non-sleeping baby for 9 months – yes, I’ve tried everything! Yet somehow, without really changing anything, she started sleeping though. She’s still a bugger to get down though. She is still up now at 9pm, but I’m letting her off as it was my first day back to work. Trying to get her down at night is like fricking Mission Impossible, it goes something like this (click here to set the mood – warning audio!):

Step 1 Start feeding baby, at least 40 minutes in anticipation of sleep time
Step 2 Spend 20 minutes being kicked getting teeny tiny baby pinches
Step 3 Baby appears to be asleep, don’t be fooled, it’s only been 20 minutes
Step 4 Baby starts vigorously feeding again
Step 5 Baby appears to be asleep once again
Step 6 Do the arm test: lift arm and see if it drops. If test fails you will have to go back to Step 4
Step 7 Try to remove sleeping baby from breast. If this fails you will have to go back to Step 4
Step 8 Nope, too soon, she’s rooting around again. Go back to Step 4
Step 9 Try to remove sleeping baby again, good baby still sleeping
Step 10 Stand up with sleeping baby
Step 11 Wait for 3 seconds to ensure baby still asleep
Step 12 Lower baby gently into cot, taking care not to let any part of the baby slip causing a startle reflex
Step 13 Hang over cot with hands still on the baby, contorting body into unnatural position
Step 14 Gently remove hands, hovering over baby for immediate replacement if necessary
Step 15 Sleep established, prepare for exit
Step 16 Oh no! Her eyes are open, replace hands, avert eyes, DO NOT LOOK HER IN THE EYES!
Step 17 Eyes shut, stand up and move away from the cot, baby stirs
Step 18 Stand still, do NOT move a muscle, do not attract her attention
Step 19 Tip toe towards the door. Wish thighs didn’t rub together, how can they make so much noise when I walk?
Step 20 Side step a ball, and step over crinkly book, phew, that was close
Step 21 Ow ow ow, fucking Peppa Pig toy, muffle cry of pain
Step 22 Head back towards door, crap, stirring again, duck down behind the chair, stay still
Step 23 Open door gently. Why, why does DH keep his guitar behind the door of the baby’s room?
Step 24 Crawl out on hands and knees, hoping the crack of knee caps doesn’t wake her – why is my body so noisy?
Step 25 Back out into the hall, stand up again
Step 26 Downstairs for wine and Hagan Daaz until she wakes up in an hour and I have to repeat from Step 1

Mission accomplished!