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The sixth (week) sense


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

The first six weeks with a new child is seen as some kind of milestone.
Even though Éamon is our second child, we had forgotten just how topsy turvy life with a newborn at home can be.
Even when you’re lucky enough to have a hungry, big baby – they tend to go to sleep easier and stay asleep for longer than a smaller baby – there can be no guarantees.
One nap time could be instant and you might get two to three hours. (Time to relax, or, if you’re so inclined, go on a cleaning spree. I’ll let ye work out if it’s myself or my good wife who does the latter.) But then the next nap time might be pretty much non-existent, and by the time Éamon eventually decides to go to sleep, he’s awake just as quickly again for his next feeding time.
He’s not hard work during his time in between naps; he’s happy most of the time to just stay in your arms looking up at you – but you won’t be too productive yourself while he is.
Night time brings its own challenges. Most nights, Éamon seems to know it is different to a nap and sleeps for longer, waking up once for a feed and going back to sleep easily. But other times he will decide he’s a night owl, and when he is awake, believe me, so are you. But these nights are the exception. We hope.
A sympathetic parent of three told me the six-week milestone was when they found that a semblance of normality returned.
I couldn’t believe it then when, the night before and the night of Éamon’s six-week ‘birthday’, he slept longer than he ever did. Right on cue, right on six weeks. Hallelujah!
The relief was something else. We could look forward to proper, regular, guaranteed sleep. No more wondering every night how things might pan out. The hard work was done; we’ve landed on Easy Street.
Except Éamon had other ideas. Two nights in a row was only lulling us into a false sense of security. The next three nights were, arguably, the worst ones yet, with us up at all hours.
These last few nights Éamon has turned into a light sleeper. The slightest noise – the opening of every door, every gust of wind outside – is fraught with danger.
We hope it’s a phase because if Éamon has inverted things and becomes an anti-sleep campaigner from six weeks on, we could be in bother.
The moral of the story is don’t get ahead of yourself. One day at a time. One sleep at a time.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.