Let me explain.
When my cousin and his family visited over the weekend, they needed a babysitter while they went to a close friend’s party. Faced with the prospect of a night with an absolutely adorable baby girl I’d only seen in photos up til now, I immediately volunteered. How could anyone turn down that baby-fat face with the big eyes and heart-melting smile? They’d be nearby if anything came up. What could go wrong?
Little Millie was a bit restless in the car as we drove in. She was hungry for a feed, so that was fair enough. My cousin’s wife assured me that she was generally a very good sleeper, who, once put down for the night, stayed down til morning. It should be an easy night, she said. Just kick back, watch TV, and treat the place as your own.
Sure enough, once Millie was fed, she dozed right off. My cousin and his wife headed off to the party, and I promised to text if anything came up. Genius that I was, I forgot to check that I had the correct number.
The night started off calmly enough–I ordered dinner, made myself a cup of tea, then settled into the couch with a novel. I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed that Millie was asleep for the night, as it meant I wouldn’t see much more of her. A small part of me hoped she’d wake up. I won’t be making that mistake again.
About twenty or so minutes later, I heard some whimpering from the bed where Millie was sleeping. I popped my head in, but she was still asleep, so I left her be and went back to reading. Ten minutes later, there was more whimpering, which quickly evolved into full-fledged crying. I picked her up and bounced her a bit (she had that divine just-bathed talcum-powder baby smell), and she eventually settled. When it seemed like she was dozing off again, I laid her back on the bed–and which she burst into raucous wailing. Oh dear.
A quick check of her diapers showed them to be blessedly dry, and poop-free, so that clearly wasn’t the issue. She’d just been fed not long ago. So I carried her again, and murmured vaguely comforting noises, and hummed a lullaby or two. Again, she settled, and again, when I put her down, she put her lungs to good use. So I picked her up and walked around the apartment for a while. By this point, my arms were getting tired, so I sat down and cradled her. Nope. That set off another round of tears. I tried holding her upright and letting her rest on my chest while I sat–still no good. The only thing that could calm her was standing up and carrying her upright.
I fired off a quick text to my cousin’s wife, then went back to bouts of letting her cry as I rested my arms (and hoping the rooms around us weren’t occupied) interspersed with long periods of carrying her around and switching her weight from arm to arm. With no reply and no savior appearing at the door (having the wrong number generally precludes any kind of help showing up), all I could do was continue pacing and hoping she’d cry herself out. Parents, feel free to re-live your past traumas now.
Luckily, Millie settled when my dinner came, and my gosh, the smile on that girl! How could anyone be annoyed with her? Just as I started eating, however, the whimpering started up again. And I knew by that point exactly what was going to happen next. I could have cried, myself. But just before it ramped up to maximum volume, there was the sound of a key in the door, and my cousin and his wife came back in. I have never been so grateful to see anyone in my life.
I hastily handed Millie back to her mother, and she settled instantly. It turned out all she’d wanted was another feed. I’ve since glumly concluded that that night was some form of divine retribution, as according to my own mum, I did the same thing to her for two years straight–and it wasn’t something that could be fixed with a feed, either.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Millie. She’s an absolute angel most of the time, from what I’ve seen. It’s just that, given the events that transpired, I can’t imagine looking after a fussy baby night after night, praying they’ll stop crying and go to sleep before my sore arms gave way. Which, given my own outstanding example, seems like it might be a hereditary thing.
And let’s not even talk about how my other baby, Ducati, who loves waking me up at 4am in the morning to play. I get walked on, my blanket and carpets get scratched, and much as I love his nuzzling I’d much prefer it happen when I don’t have to wake up in 2–3 hours for work.
To all the parents of the world–I admire you, and all you do, very much. I think you are incredible people to be able to care for your children day after day, and year after year. I simply don’t think I’ll be joining your ranks any time soon. I’ll hold on to my freedom (and my sleep) for just a little while longer.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.