Baby. Cot. Back.

2.38am
Her little blue eyes had turned black.
In the dark, I could see them wide open and staring at me.
Her legs had finally stopped jerking, her tiny fists rested loosely up next to her ears, and her breathing had slowed.
Even the hiccup hangover from crying had stopped.
I stared back at her, sending imploring messages to her eyelids.
‘Close, close, close,’ I thought.
Behind me, Learner Dad was face down on a mattress he’d desperately dragged into the nursery.
I heard snoring.
It seemed my message had gone to the wrong eyelids.
She watched me as I stood up, my creaking knees excruciatingly loud in the silence.
I backed out of the room, breaking the rules by maintaining eye contact.
She moved her hand slightly.
But she had nothing left.
I slipped out the door and back in to bed.

1.14am
“It’s not working, what’s your plan B?” Learner Dad asked, turning his head but keeping his hands firmly pressed on his wriggling daughter.
“I don’t have one, this is it,” I spat back.
“She’s not going to sleep. What if she’s up all night?”
“I’m not pulling the pin now!” I said. “What a waste this all will have been.”
“Why is she still bloody awake? I don’t get it.”
“She’s waiting to be picked up, that’s why!” I was as exasperated as him.
Fairy Floss watched with amusement as her father and I exchanged heated words above her.
“You go to bed,” I hissed, knowing every angry word we uttered was undoing all our good work.
He left the room.
I couldn’t believe it.
Now I’d have to see this through all by myse…
Oh wait, he was back.
With a mattress.
He sighed loudly as he tried to clear space for it, bumping furniture, knocking things over, before it landed with a huge ‘thwack’ on the floor.
We both looked at Floss.
She threw back her head and began to cry.

12.22am
“It says on Google it could take an hour and a half,” I sang to Learner Dad, to the tune of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.
“That could take us to 1am,” was his ‘how I wonder what you are’.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have decided-to-do-this so late at night,” I sang back. “I’m just over it, she’s a li-ttle shi-it.”
We both smiled.
It’d be ok, she couldn’t stay awake much longer.

11.46pm
“Right, change of tactic, don’t pick her up,” I instructed Learner Dad as I entered the nursery.
At eight months old, Fairy Floss was sending me grey.
She’d spent her whole little life either feeding to sleep, or being rocked.
She was our last baby.
We wanted to enjoy her, to do what came instinctively, what felt right.
I loved watching her little eyes roll back in her head as she suckled to sleep.
And Learner Dad took pride in the fact that all he had to do was pick her up and she’d nod off.
But evenings had become a nightmare of hourly wakes.
Which meant hourly cuddles, or feeds, or both.
It wasn’t improving.
“Just let her cry it out,” my mum had said.
“Mum, we’re told not to do it that way these days,” I’d answered.
“Didn’t do you kids any harm.”
Another reason we’d rushed to her every time she cried was because her big brother, Lil Fatty, was slumbering next door.
And he was a light sleeper.
We had actually hatched a plan prior to this – to let her cry it out, but with one of us sitting beside her, so she’d not be alone or scared.
We’d made a couple of half-hearted attempts but tiredness – and TV shows – had been our excuse to jump ship.
We’d never seen it through.
After the usual three or four wakes on this particular night, I’d finally gone to bed at 11pm.
I was drifting beautifully down into deep sleep when her little cry drifted down after me, circling me round the neck and hoisting me back up.
I’d had enough.
And so, at a quarter to midnight, I told Learner Dad to start patting her padded bum while I pulled out my phone for advice – and assurance.

9.13pm
“You’re such a little ratbag, yes you are,” I said, tickling Fairy Floss’ ribs. “Why won’t you stay in bed?”
Her four tiny teeth grinned back at me, before she turned to munch down on my boob.
“Up again?” Learner Dad groaned, coming in to the lounge room.
“Yep. Why are you surprised?”
She’d dramatically turned her head at the sound of her father’s voice, dragging her teeth along my nipple as she did.
“Here, you take her, she likes being rocked by daddy,” I said, passing her over.
Within seconds, our dear little baby was lightly snoring.
“Something feels different about her,” Learner Dad said, gazing down at his little girl. “I’ve got a really good feeling about tonight.”

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Driven to despair

Li’l Fatty rubbed his eyes and put his head on my shoulder.
After a busy morning laughing, bathing, playing and pooing (unfortunately in that order), he was exhausted.
It was time for his morning sleep.
I carried him into the kitchen to look for his dummy.
And then I saw it.
Sitting on the bench, completely out of place at this time of day – Master Seven’s lunchbox.
I desperately tried to call Learner Dad but he wasn’t answering.
I knew he’d be covering the cricket that day anyway and could hardly leave just to deliver his son’s lunchbox.
“Bugger it,” I muttered, grabbing the lunchbox and keys and heading for the car.
“You stay awake,” I ordered Li’l Fatty as I strapped him in.
Every parent knows how important this is.
Keeping your baby awake until you get home for his proper nap.
Should he or she drop off for even five minutes, he or she’ll wake believing sleep time’s over and spend the rest of the day cranky as hell.
We got Master Seven’s lunchbox to school without issue but, by the time we were headed home again, Li’l Fatty was struggling.
“Peekaboo!” I yelled, swinging my head round to look at him.
He smiled tiredly.
So I did it again.
After about five ‘peekaboos’, I checked myself.
What the hell was I doing?
I was playing this game while driving.
How long would my baby stay awake if I crashed head on into a garbage truck?
So I pressed the buttons to open both front windows and cranked the music up.
But it only made him more sleepy.
I was losing him.
I began singing hysterically – The Wiggles, Metallica, One Direction, whatever it took.
Pulled over at a red light, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
I looked over to see a woman in the driver’s seat of the car next to me.
She was waving her arms about like mad and I could hear her yelling as she glanced desperately in the rearview mirror.
I glanced behind her.
Yep, there was a car seat.
She was trying to keep her baby awake too.
As the light turned green, we two mothers lurched forward, doing our crazy driving dances and singing our stupid desperate songs.
Risking our lives and the lives of others on the road, all to keep our babies from dropping off.
I got Li’l Fatty home just in time.
Straight on the boob and out for the count.
What if I’d failed, you ask?
If he’d fallen asleep in the car?
Well that’s easy.
I would have accepted defeat.
And then driven to Launceston.