The desperate quest for a lie-in

Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column.

New Statesman
Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column appears weekly in the New Statesman magazine.

“Have you heard of the Fibonacci sequence?”

“The Fibowhat?”

“The Fibonacci sequence. According to which everything in nature has a ratio of 1.61.”

It is 5.37am and baby Moe has been howling for an hour. Daylight is creeping around the edge of the curtains and we are getting ever closer to the agonising point at which we will definitely not get back to sleep before Moe’s elder brother, Larry, wakes up. For some reason, Curly has chosen this moment to try to explain a “concept” of science. Science is not my strong suit and particularly not when it is communicated to me at a senseless hour of the morning by Curly, who invariably doesn’t know what he is talking about, either.

“Isn’t a ratio supposed to have two numbers in it, like 1:4?”

“Fibonacci explains everything, from ears, to snails, to artichokes.”

“Now you’re trying to explain artichokes?” These mad ramblings are a symptom of our sleep-deprived delirium. For the past two months, the nights have been getting gradually worse. When we first brought Moe home, he seemed quite the model baby. I was sure he would be sleeping through the night in record time. But as if to punish me for my smugness, after six months his progress went into rapid reverse. Currently he is waking up every hour from 11pm onwards, every night. I read somewhere that the Japanese “broke” their prisoners during the Second World War by using a very similar approach.

At first, I tried to encourage him to settle himself. When that failed – and as I got more and more exhausted – consistency went out of the window. I have been alternately feeding him, patting him, singing to him, dosing him up with Calpol, putting in my earplugs and trying to ignore him, bringing him into our bed and generally hopping up and down like a grasshopper on Red Bull all night long. Needless to say, this frenetic activity has only made him worse.

Ah! Sweet relief! The crying stops. My throbbing head is bathed in blissful, soothing silence. It’s 6.06am – nearly a full hour before Larry will come thundering down the corridor baying for porridge. I close my eyes and slip into an uneasy dream: green and purple cartoon babies spin at me out of a dark sky, their mouths wide and their tonsils vibrating. They form a cacophonous, whirling spiral, like an ear, a snail or an artichoke . . .

“Mummy!” A voice yanks me back from the deep. I wrench open my eyes to find Larry peering at me, only inches from my face. “Wake up! It’s morning time!”

I sigh. I moan. I shove Curly repeatedly. “Please! Babe! You’ve got to get up! I really, really, really need a lie-in!” He pulls the duvet over his head.

“Don’t worry, Mummy, I’ll get you one.” Larry scampers back to his bedroom and returns with Lionel, his stuffed toy lion. I look at him in confusion. “Here you are!” he exclaims, looking pleased with himself. “You said you needed a lion.”