Last time I had a new baby at home he could not cry. The 9 weeks of being ventilated had stretched his larynx and it was too wide for him to create noise. We were told he would “grow into” his throat, and in time he did start making lots of noise although I suspect this was the start of Nathan’s expressive language delay as he never really babbled as a baby.
Somehow, Nathan was still able to wake me up at night – prem babies are often quite noisy breathers, and the sound of his breathing changing used to wake me up. That and the utter paranoia about him stopping breathing, or dislodging his oxygen tubes and going blue – it’s amazing I slept at all really.
Not so with little brother Samuel. He came out crying, and he had a great pair of lungs.
I was prepared for a noisy baby, for a newborn who cries for milk, cries to be winded, cries to be cuddled, wrapped up, cooled down, rocked to sleep. At least I thought I was. The reality is somewhat different.
Samuel has his “niggly” cry. It means “I’m waking up” or “I might be having a wee” or “I feel a bit peckish”. If I can work out what he wants and fix it quickly I can avoid the upgrade to “real crying” which is reserved for situations where he definitely wants something NOW mummy. That cry is the one that wakes me in the night, when his niggly cry lasts about 2 seconds before he decides he is HUNGRY now now now. Its the sort of cry that leaves you wondering if the neighbours are awake too. Leaves you in awe of Nathan who can actually sleep through it.
Unfortunately for Samuel, horrible mummy insists on changing his nappy sometimes. Especially those times when he is crying because his nappy is wet/dirty, or in the middle of the night before a feed because the last thing I want is to be woken again in 30 minutes time just as i’ve got his tummy full and his eyes closed. Samuel is not a fan of having his bum in the cold fresh air. He usually complains loudly, even though he was just complaining about having a wet nappy 2 seconds ago.
And that’s when it happens. In the middle of the night, when I’m the only one awake, when I’m at the end of my tether because I’ve had 8 hours sleep in the last 3 days. When I’m trying to soothe a baby who needs a nappy change but wants milk NOW too. When he feels that rush of air on his bum, and he cranks it up one extra notch. The sort of screaming where my let down reflex kicks in and reminds me that I should be feeding the baby by dripping milk all over the place whilst i’m in the middle of fighting wriggly legs and trying to contain the poo explosion. The sort of screaming where you wonder if anyone in the whole square is asleep any more. The sort where you gaze over at your snoring husband with a mixture of awe that he’s still unconscious and a sleep deprived psychotic edge that is tempting you to make sure he never wakes up again unless he gets up right now to help out.
It reminds me of that bit in Spinal Tap where Nigel Tufnel is explaining about the amps. “These lungs go up to eleven. Look, right across the board… eleven, eleven, eleven, and…”
“Oh, I see. And most babies go up to ten?”
“Does that mean he’s louder? Is he any louder?”
“Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most babies, you know, will be crying at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your screams. Where can you go from there? Where?”
“I don’t know.”
“Nowhere. Exactly. What I do is, if I need that extra push over the cliff, you know what I do?”
“Put it up to eleven.”
“Eleven. Exactly. One louder.”
“Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?”
“[pause] These go to eleven.”