The 4:00am Wake-up Call

I’m lucky. I have two boys who sleep incredibly well.

When Big Brother was a baby, it took us until he was 7 weeks old to get him trained into sleeping through the night. He’d have his last feed at about 9:00pm, and then sleep through until 6:00am. It worked well. I’d get up for work, feed him, put him back to bed, and then get ready and go, leaving my stay-at-home husband to look after Big Brother when he next awoke.

When Baby came along we tried to do the same thing, but to no avail. It took until he was 10 weeks old, and his schedule is quite different. He has his last feed at 5:30pm, has a bath and goes to bed, and sleeps through until 4:00am.

(Please don’t send hate mail!)

Baby sleeps incredibly well, so it seems like there’s no reason that I shouldn’t sleep well, too. But in reality, I have a 4-year-old, a husband, housework to do, writing commitments to live up to, and everything that goes along with all of those things. I generally get to bed at about 10:00pm. Often, it’s closer to midnight. And I’m really not a morning person. When Baby starts calling for a feed at 4:00am, I’m not ready to get up and start the day.

He starts by whimpering. He does this in his sleep. After a few minutes, he wakes himself up and moves on to calling. This is where he gives short, sharp yells designed to bring me rushing to his side. I have approximately 3 minutes to comply. Then he moves on to the ear-splitting, full-throated, I’m-starving-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-tell-the-neighbours cry that he can sustain indefinitely.

This should be incentive enough to get me out of bed at the calling stage, if not when he’s still whimpering. But every morning, I like there thinking, “I can’t do this. I just can’t do this.” And as we move into winter and the temperature at night plummets, that mantra is louder and louder in my head.

It feels like forever ago that he was born. It was 1:00am on February 3rd, when I was 38 weeks. He was delivered by emergency caesarean after my mild-and-manageable pre-eclempsia turned into life-threatening eclempsia at 9:00pm the night before. They shot me up with magnesium sulfate (Worst. Experience. Ever.), waited for my spasms to stop, then gave me an epidural and cut me open. It wasn’t something I was really prepared for.

But if I wasn’t prepared, Baby was even less so. He stopped breathing in the operating theatre. Twice. They resuscitated him quickly. Twice. And then they rushed him off to ICU.

I saw him for less than a second as the midwives and hospital staff raced him past me. My husband looked at me questioningly, and I said, “Go with him. Don’t let him out of your sight.” Then my family was gone, and I was lying in the operating theatre alone. Sure, the surgeon was still stitching me up, and the anesthesiologist was checking intermittently to make sure that I wasn’t feeling pain, and there were at least half a dozen other medical people in the room, but they were irrelevant. Never had a felt more alone than when I watched my newborn hustled out of the room away from me.

When the surgeon had done her job, I was wheeled into a recovery room. They needed to monitor my blood pressure, and make sure there were no continuing effects from the eclempsia. The midwife asked if there was anything I wanted, and there was. “I just want my baby.”

According to my husband, I repeated that sentence to anyone who would listen. I don’t remember. I was too filled with drugs and grief. But I do remember crying hysterically at about 3:00am, when I found myself awake and alone in a hospital room, a searing pain in my stomach where I was used to feeling my baby kicking. One of the midwives sat with me for nearly an hour. She was sympathetic and understanding. And she gave me this picture:

I hugged that photo to my chest for the rest of the night.

It was ten hours after he was born that I finally got to hold Baby, and those 5 minutes rank right up there as some of the best of my life. Then he was taken away again, and moved from ICU to a nursery. I was still in recovery, and had to wait to get clearance before I could have him with me. That took another 6 hours.

If you’re thinking, “It was only sixteen hours,” then I can only imagine that you’ve never had your newborn taken away by strangers, and wondered if he was going to be alright.

My story is not unique. There are a lot of people who’ve gone through worse. I can’t even imagine how terrible it would be to have your newborn in ICU for days, or weeks, or months. I don’t even want to imagine the trauma of having a stillbirth, or being one of the many young, unwed mothers of the fifties and sixties who had their baby forcibly removed from them and handed over for adoption. But I can tell you that when Baby was put into my arms after 16 hours of waiting, and hoping and crying, I didn’t ever want to be away from him again. I promised myself that I’d do anything to look after him.

But, do you know what? Four months later, it’s not the promise I made that drags me out of a nice warm bed at 4:00 in the morning, and propels me down a freezing cold corridor into Baby’s room. It’s not the fear that something’s wrong, or the desperate urge to have him in my arms again. No, it’s something much simpler.

It’s the hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to be rewarded with one of these:



Filed under Life With Kids

132 responses to “The 4:00am Wake-up Call

  1. He looks alot healthier in that last pictures. What a cutie!

  2. Amazing story. I love reading things like this. I don’t have any children yet, but I felt like I was there in your thoughts with you. Great job. 🙂

  3. It’s funny how we all say the same thing in the middle of the night. I can’t do this. I’m going to die. But we all manage. Glad that all turned out well.

  4. Thanks for reminding the human side of medicine. Sometimes we are so caught up in the rush of things, we forget, that there is a lot of things going on that a simple smile or word or sentence could help with. I must say you are lucky to have such fantastic healthcare facilities where despite multiple resuscitation efforts you got your baby back on day 1. I have worked in worse situations and know of horror stories that make the pit of my stomach fall off.

    And yes, congratulations on that beautiful baby! 🙂 Your compelling writing style just made me a subscriber.

  5. ilyahauptman

    Wow! And there I was thinking being a ‘father’ is harder. Or my parents were difficult.
    I’m glad you shared this with us.

    P.S. You are a good mum. Baby’s healthy – what a charmer. 😀

  6. What a sweet smile! When my twin boys were born, they were in a level II nursery for 48 hours. I had them on a Thursday evening and I didn’t get to see, touch or hold them until late Saturday morning. It was the worst time of my life (well maybe second worst). After 37 weeks of them inside to suddenly have them away and to know even know how they felt or smelled or sounded. I was an emotional wreck. But to make it 100 times worse I had a nurse get in my face and basically yell at me. She told me that I was the mother now and I couldn’t be the child crying to see her children. I was beyond shocked and then enraged. All of that is in the past now. 🙂 They will be 3 in about 2 months! Anyway, I wanted to say that reading your story I completely understood how you felt!

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I was so fortunate to have such amazing, supportive medical staff around me during that time. It’s terrible to think that a nurse would treat you so badly at such a traumatic and emotionl time. While 99% of nursing staff are amazing, there are clearly some who should find work that doesn’t involve contact with people! Glad to hear that all went well in the long run, and you and your boys are well.

  7. Consuelo

    that is just so touching…. 😀 worthy to be on FP. 🙂

  8. Pingback: The 4:00am Wake-up Call (via The Happy Logophile) « ameonyq

  9. First of all I should say your baby is very adorable 🙂 love the way he smiles…I am not married but I can still feel the pain you have gone through. I remember my mom saying how I was rescued from double pneumonia when I was 8 months old. I can still find tears on her eyes and hug me tightly. She says “I never want to lose my baby again” 🙂

    • They say that your baby is always your baby, even when they’re all grown up. It’s so sweet to hear that your Mum still doesn’t want to let you go. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I had a similar experience 22 years ago on July 4th. After a planned C-section, my gorgeous so big daughter was wisked away to the NIC Unit (she had swallowed the meconium, and had rapid breathing. She was getting an intravenous antibiotic, I was recuperating a huge hallway away. I cried and moaned to have her, sent my husband down to be with her, and basically felt totally grief-stricken. My husband spent 4 days running back and forth like the great dad/husband he is.My doctor thought because she was 10lbs 4 oz. she was sturdy, and could be occasionally taken off all her tubes and brought to me for bonding, but they wouldn’t do this. So he asked me if I was a good actress. I said why? He said “I think you should scream, holler, throw the biggest fit imaginable, and get them to bring her to you. Don’t hold back…” Wasn’t he a gem? I did not go wild, I was too much a good girl back then, but I loved that he gave me permission. I did my version of this and had many sympathetic staff holding my hand through it. Soon as possible I got in a wheel chair and went to her as often as I could. Although it was heaven, I was just as bereft whenever I left her. I will never forget it, and I had trauma flashbacks of being away from her for maybe a year. She just graduated college, and gets very sad at every separation/ ending/transition in her life. The current one is really tough for her, being away from all the college friends. July 4th is coming, I miss her as she is still living away, but happily. We survived! Enjoy your babies– the time flies!

  11. amazingly emotional. great read!!!

  12. Your little man is just the cutest thing. What a charming smile!

    I hope the sleeping habits get better for you 😀

  13. I loved your story. Both of my births were textbook easy but yours made me cry all the same. Thanks for sharing. Also, I love your writing!

  14. Congrats on FP. Your writing is, clearly, quite remarkable. You seem to be more deserving of the title that we share. I love words and I have a deep appreciation for words even just from reading. I know the feeling of those wake-up calls, although, I am pretty sure I have Never experienced those full nights of sleep. Never. Good for you. Enjoy them. Keep writing.

  15. mychildcan

    I have to admit – first up – i was crying by the end of your story! Master Four was asking me what was wrong! 🙂 Master Four was a 4am baby for a while too – but luckily, back then, it was just me and him, and i could go to bed at 7pm, and get a decent sleep before our pre-dawn wake up. Now number two has come along, and she is a great sleeper, and i really can’t complain. These days, i get up at 5am out of choice – but i’m in bed around 9 most nights. It’s the only time during the day i get to myself.

    Great blog, have signed up to keep watching it!


  16. i can completely understand where you are coming from. my wife had a c-section and while i was holding her hand i could see the doctor start to get nervous and move with a sense of urgency. i saw my sons leg come out of her stomach and it was grey. like duct tape grey. i didnt want to upset her so i had to keep it together. they got him out and the cord was wrapped around his neck and he wasnt getting air for a time. his whole body was grey as they worked on him to try and get the fluid out of his lungs. it was the longes 90 seconds of my life. he didnt cry and wasnt moving but i couldnt let my wife know that. pretending like what i was seeing wasnt happening is one of the most difficult things ive ever done. then after what seemed like an eternity he finally cried… and boy so did i. by the time i pulled myself together the mask i was wearing was covered in snot(sorry for being a bit vulgar). i just wanted to share my story and let you know that i completely understand being frustrated but it being all worth it.

  17. Pingback: Monday’s Top 5 | The Happy Logophile

  18. Having my first child (son) in phototherapy for his jaundice a day after birth and not being able to cuddle him much without the nurses telling me that the longer he stays under his sun lamp the quicker we both go home, that was traumatic so i did nothing but huggle him once he came out and we went home but its nothing in comparison to what some of you ladies or your relatives have gone through, after losing two babies at 14-16 weeks and the first of two angels having to be delivered and not going home with any baby (il let you imagine how awfully traumatic that was) when i was pregnant with our daughter we basically did as much as we could to keep me wrapped in cotton wool and all went fine, great consultant and she was induced 2 weeks earlier than her edd, im so posessive of her and she is so brave over things it winds me up yet her father is so laid back.

    glad to see your son is a handsome smiler, smiles from your children are priceless and make everything so worth while.

  19. Sharon McElwrath

    Such a sweet post. And as a mother of a one year old I completely understand, but lady, you are lucky! My daughter didn’t start sleeping through the night till about a month ago and she STILL wakes up once a night sometimes. But for me it’s knowing that I’m comforting her when she needs me the most, yes I do look forward to those smiles (which by the way, that is an adorable picture of your little man) but when I gather her into my arms I think that it won’t be long till she doesn’t need me to rush to her bed at 2:00 am and I just want to take every precious moment that I can get! Then again she is my first….probably by my second I will be waiting till the last second as well 🙂

  20. my oldest soon was emergency c section GA so i was not awake for delivery in one way im glad as i never saw him born not breathing then stop breathing but i did not see him till he was three days old as i had a triple transfusion over three days and as im a wheelchair user i could bearly stick my had throw the hole in the incubator i could not hold him till he was about 6 days old. everyone saw my baby before me my mum dad and sister this left me with postnatal depression but point of this is that i didnt bond with my oldest until one day i was taking care of him and he was crying and crying i got to him picked up said mums her looked at him and very first time ever he smiled at that moment the rush of love finely arrived a gummy smile healed me in away nothing could not tablets or counselling had but that gummy smile cracked it. it took three years for me to even consider another baby but six weks before oldest 4th birthday at 35wks i had my second boy both very loved at 5years old kierren-jack and 14 months kai-rhys

    • Thank you for sharing your story. It would be really difficult to know that everyone else had met your baby before you’d even had a chance to hold him. I really sympathis with your situation. PND is also something that people are often reluctant to talk about, and it’s always nice to hear about someone who got through the other side of it. I’m glad to hear that all is going well for you and your boys now.

  21. Your son is beautiful. So sorry you both went through so much prior, during and after his delivery. And, wow! Sleeping through the night at 7 and 10wks old! How did you do it?!?!? I’m seriously curious. I have an almost 5mth old that still tends to get up in the middle of the night…

    • Thank you. 🙂 As for how we managed to get them to sleep through the night… luck? Good sleeping genes? There are some strategies that we used, certainly, but I really have no way of knowing how effective any or all of them were, and whether they’d work for anyone else as well as they worked for us.

      I originally wrote about the strategies we used here, but the comment was ridiculously long, so I will write a full post in answer to your question. (You’re not the only one to have asked.) Stay tuned…

  22. February 3? Wow, what a coincidence. My first child is due on February 3rd next year, although will probably be earlier. I’m living in Japan, and my fiancee (Japanese) and I will be experiencing a lot over the next few months before the birth. It’s traditional here for the mother to stay in the hospital for 3 days while the baby is separated from the mother. Not sure why that’s done, but Japan does have one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
    My question is, why would anyone send hate mail?

    • Just a joke because we’re lucky enough to have babies that sleep well. It’s something so many parents struggle with, and some parents still aren’t getting a full night’s sleep by the time their children are 2 or 3 years old. 🙂

      I can’t imagine being separated from my baby for 3 days, but differet cultures do things different ways. Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth experience.

  23. May

    I always like babies. They are angels. No, I should say they are gifts from God! I am glad it turned out a beautiful and great boy! Wow! It’s a miracle, isn’t it! Thank you so much for your sharing! God Bless!

  24. I know what it’s like to try to get out of bed when you’re so tired and sleepy,to attend to a crying baby.Hope your bub starts to sleep longer soon!

  25. Thanks for that sincere, touching post:)

  26. I have a daughter who was rushed into NICU as soon as she was born and it was 2 days before we held her. I know exactly how you felt for those 16 hours. She’s now 12 and very clingy — likes to hug and be near my husband and I. I’ve always wondered if it’s because they took her away that she became so clingy. She’s not clingy to the point of incapacitation, but definitely just likes to be near us. Great post!

    • Thanks very much. 🙂

      That’s really interesting about your daughter. Baby is already so much clingier than Big Brother ever was. There are days when every time he can’t see me, he starts crying and needs to be picked up and comforted. I’ve wondered whether the early separation had any influence on this, or whether he’s just more of a “Mummy’s Boy” than his brother. It would be interesting to know if other babies who were separated from their mothers for a period of time at birth have grown up to be more clingy than their siblings who weren’t.

  27. What an amazing post. My first child was born via emergency csection 17 months ago and not a day goes by that I don’t cherish the smiles and laughter he brings me. Congrats on being FP

  28. Pingback: Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 12 | The Happy Logophile

  29. realanonymousgirl2011

    How sweet! I am blessed with a good sleeper too. She slept through the night by 8 weeks. I don’t think I’ve gotten up since then. She usually sleeps around 9:30 and doesn’t get up til 8/9am.

    • Fabulous! That’s about what Big Brother was like, but sadly Baby is a 5:30pm – 4:00am sleeper. Although he’s just started sleeping through until about 5:00am, so the extra hour is lovely. 🙂

  30. Pingback: Preparing for Parenthood | The Happy Logophile

Speak to me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s