A night with Harvey
On our summer holidays we had a baby.
And with the joy of Georgia’s arrival managing the night has reached a new level of complexity. For parents of young families this is one of the great challenges of life.
Night feeds, bad dreams, wet beds and sleep walking have been part and parcel of the night shift in our house for more than a decade now. Yet of the four children easily the busiest at night, at least for now, has been Harvey.
Harvey has a smile that cannot be refused. The sparkle, the sheer delight, the innocence all combine to melt the heart.
Which is a good thing, because after a sleepless night of wailing and crying it is only this which would save Harvey’s skin.
While his elder brother and sister were sleeping through by two months, Harvey, at the six month mark, thought he was a baby owl.
During the day his cries competed with the bustle of the morning rush.
But at 3.00am the world was all his. The virgin silence of the dead of night was the perfect canvas for his kaleidoscope of mournful and tear-soaked bellows. With his comatosed parents groggily watching on, this was Harvey’s centre stage.
A typical night used to ensue thus.
11.30pm: A random cry resulting from some infantile nightmare woke Rachel and me with a start. By the time Rachel reached the cot Harvey was already back to sleep. We were not.
1.30am: An air pocket – the result of urgent gulping at the 10.00pm feed – wedged at the bottom of Harvey’s oesophagus caused crying long and unrestrained. The possibility of waking not only his parents but his elder siblings seemed to egg him on. After ten minutes of cooing in his ear and administering a special motherly rub to his back, Rachel’s efforts were rewarded with a loud belch and a contented sigh.
2.45am: Howling began again. I staggered to the cot and hopefully suggested: “there, there”. Rachel was more forthright.
“He’s hungry you idiot. Bring him to me.”
I do as I’m told.
After an eternity the snorts and grunts of a feeding machine were replaced by snoring. Rachel took him back to the cot, returned to bed, and promptly fell asleep.
Then I would be the only person awake – possibly the only person in the whole world awake. I had never been more awake.
I turned on my bedside light and started to read.
“Richard, what on earth are you doing”, said Rachel.
“Can’t sleep”, said I.
“Don’t care”, said Rachel. “Turn the bloody light off.”
I do as I’m told.
4.00am: An agonising cry to wake the dead.
“What is it”, I enquired.
“Constipation”, responded the all knowing mother.
This time the wailing woke our three year old daughter.
“Dadda why is it so noisy?”
I soothed Bella. Rachel tended to Harvey. Having quietened her I returned to bed but Harvey was still going. Eventually Rachel came back to bed and announced that it was my turn to try with Harvey.
“Hold up his legs”, she said.
I do as I’m told.
After a few futile minutes of leg holding I picked him up and took him back to our bed.
“Bad move”, advised Rachel.
The noise stopped but was then replaced by a restless flapping of his arms. Harvey’s right hand managed to alternately slap my cheek then grasp my nose. There was no chance of sleep and now the agitator was right between Rachel and me.
It was a bad move.
Finally, Rachel took charge once more and induced sleep.
5.15am: We were exhausted. In 45 minutes Isabella would wake and our day would start. So this time we fell asleep and grabbed the remaining ¾ of an hour for dear life.
Having dealt with Isabella and got her breakfast the clock ticked past 7.00am.
Grumpy and fatigued and even a little angry we got him up and changed his nappy. Bit by bit this little bugger would drive us to the grave.
And then he smiled: his enchanting, captivating smile.
The grumpiness disappeared like magic. Harvey weaved his spell. All was forgiven. And Harvey was undoubtedly the master of his domain.
Two years on and Harvey’s nocturnal activities have quietened down. The question now is Georgia. And in a year of national challenges, elections state and federal, for Rachel and me this is unquestionably one of the biggest issues of them all.
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