After ten days of bunged up nose, cough, night-waking baby and thus sleepless nights, L’Homme realised I was close to extinction and banished me to the sofa downstairs. He announced he would be dealing with Léonie that night and that she was going to have to learn how to go back to sleep on her own without a mouthful of nipple and a tummy refilled with breastmilk. Good luck, I thought as I snuggled up on the sofa, my head propped up at 90° so I could breath, the room wafting in eucalyptus oil fumes. I shoved a couple of earplugs in my ears and shut the door. I slept for an hour and a half, waking up to a vision of L’Homme standing over me, cradling an excited baby. It wasn’t a vision. It was a real life flesh and blood, knickers-in-a-twist man. “Je ne comprends pas!” he said. He’d spent an hour singing to Léonie and rolling her back onto her back, to no avail. She stubbornly rolls back onto her tummy and starts doing push-ups. Real push-ups. Her hands and toes are the only thing touching the mattress and she stays there for about seven seconds before coming down for a rest and pushing back up again. She does this all day and all night. She is clearly in training for a triathlon. Either that or some hardcore crawling. Muscling up her limbs and testing out the all fours position has become an obsession. Only occasionally does she put her knees down like a real crawling baby and I think, ah, that must be a break from those terrible push-ups, but a few seconds later and she’ll be back on her toes and hands. She just can’t stop. A little live-wire. When I told my sister about this she laughed and said, “Just like her mum.”
Anyway, L’Homme couldn’t get her back to sleep so I gave her a feed which she was so happy about that she drifted back off to sleep. I carried her upstairs and put her back in her cot. “Mais si on continue comme ça, elle va toujours vouloir téter pour dormir” L’Homme said, pissed off with himself for having woken me up already. “Yeah, I know” I replied, “but I’m too exhausted to do anything else”. I went back down to my sofa and fell asleep snuffling through my blocked nose.
The next I knew is was 03h15 and I could hear Léonie crying. Loudly. I tiptoed upstairs but L’Homme’s voice stopped me before I could open the door to our room. He was in what will be Léonie’s room – lying on a mattress, furious with Léonie, with himself and with the entire world. She had woken up at 2 a.m. and he had spent yet another hour cooing and singing to her. She couldn’t care less; she wanted Mummy and milk and she wasn’t going to accept anything less. “Well?” I said, “Shall I go and feed her?” “NON!” said L’Homme. He was determined that his Master Plan should at least see the night out. I forced myself to go back downstairs to my sofa, despite my entire body craving to pick Léonie up, cuddle and feed her back to sleep. Lying in the living room, I nearly drowned in milk as my breasts tried desperately to awaken me to the fact I should be soothing my baby. But not only was I wiped out with fatigue and a poorly spinning head, I also feared the Wrath of L’Homme standing guard at Léonie’s door. In the end I dozed off, uncomfortably.
I awoke with light streaming through the shutters. It was 8 a.m. The house was silent. I felt rough. I had been bitten all over. I scratched my way into the kitchen and blew ten tons of green stuff out of my nose. I felt marginally better. And then I started coughing and felt a lot worse. I did some menial task-work around the house and drank water until I could feel it sloshing about inside. Tommy woke at half past eight, I heard his footsteps as he raced over to the fan in his room and switched it off. I intercepted him in the hallway before he could go into our room and wake Léonie and L’Homme, and we quietly ate breakfast cereals together outside on the terrace (“Mummy, me wait for my bunny clock coming on, me so nice.”) Half an hour later and the other half of the family emerged – L’Homme looking like he’d spent a night on the floor of a dungeon, and Léonie perky and smiley as ever. We thought this was a triumph – we had started the Ferber method of sleep training and our baby seemed perfectly fine about it the next morning. Hoorah! Another night or two to go and all would be resolved – our baby would sleep throught the night and we too! Life would be full of joy and blossom and dancing bunnies with frosting on the top.
Erm, that was a few nights ago. Since then I have turned my back on the crying-it-out school of thought and will never try it again. It may work for other babies – for ours IT DOESN’T. All it has done is turn me into a guilty, nervous wreck, L’Homme into an exhausted husk of a daddy, and Léonie into a baby now terrified of her cot and wanting to spend all day in my arms. Oh, and all night. It may be that this is the wrong time to try anything where sleep and nights are concerned; it’s still BLOODY HOT – the bedrooms hit 28°C at the worst and despite our fans (the whirring, air-stirring ones, not the teeming mass queuing at the front door for autographs) on non-stop, you wake up in a sweat, your mouth parched, your head dizzy. Léonie might well be waking up thirsty, crying for Mummy’s all-hours refreshment bar. Or it might well be the recent phenomenon of twelve-poos-a-day she’s going through (I am not exaggerating – I counted them yesterday), which go on throughout the night hours. Or it might be the scorpion I found in her bed the night before last. Yes, a scorpion. A baby one, but a scorpion nonetheless. That’s the south of France in the summer for you. I hope it banishes your idyllic visions of lavender and stone wall villages and markets lush with fruit and old French people in peasant headscarves and berets … we have those too, but we also have an uglier side : scorching drought, tourists in slow, wide camper vans and scorpions.
I now pick Léonie up as soon as she cries out in the night, give her a feed and a cuddle and let her fall asleep in my arms. This is probably the road to Many Future Sleep Problems but for the moment I don’t care.