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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 03.26.02
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Abby has her own bed now

Wailing, screeching, much thrashing about. Not just another game of full-contact Pictionary in the Murray house. The shrieks are coming from the baby's room where, for the past week, we have been trying to get Abby to sleep without the aid of Mom and Dad's gentle touch. And she is very, VERY unhappy about it.

Deb and I have had to take this route - letting the baby cry herself to sleep - because the alternative had become too oppressive. For a while there, especially during the 4 a.m. deliriums, I was convinced Abby was trying to kill us. At very least, she was trying to make us lose our minds through sleep deprivation, causing us to hallucinate while operating heavy machinery or asphyxiate after falling asleep in a bowl of Pablum.

The sleepless nights began in February, around the time Abby turned eight months. I think it began the day I decided she needed a nap and lay down with Abby on our bed, putting her on my chest and rubbing her back until she fell asleep. A light must have gone on. She decided then that a crib was simply not for her. Abby would sleep, yes, but only while nursing, or on my shoulder walking around, or on my chest, or in the bed between Deb and myself. As soon as we tried to transfer her into her crib, though, it was Night of the Baby Banshees.

And so it would be back to my chest, which is not exactly cushiony with muscles. Rippled, yes, but rippled with ribs. There's no accounting for taste, though, and Abby appeared to find this a comfortable mattress.

Some nights, however, even my Scrawny Posturepedic wouldn't cut it and so it was downstairs to pace and bounce and perhaps heat up a bottle for a mid-night snack. To do this, though, I need light and a diversion to keep awake. The television provided both.

We don't have cable. Never felt the need for 157 channels. Never, that is, until I started surfing the dozen fuzzy channels we have, looking for something - anything! - good to watch at 3 a.m. A person can take only so many testimonials for the Ab-Dominizer and knives that can cut through tin cans. I've also discovered that on some evenings, if you time it correctly, you can flip between three channels with infomercials for chat lines, all of them showing bikini-clad women cavorting on the beach, around the pool, washing cars (and never a telephone in sight, curiously enough). You would think such "programs" would be ideal to help a sleepy dad pass the time but it's kind of like watching a parade of balloon venders; after a while, all the balloons start to look the same.

The bottle drained, some nights I would simply lie down with Abby on the sofa rather than risk the transfer to her crib. We knew it was reinforcing a bad habit but by this point, I would do anything for a bit of sleep.

Finally, a visit to our pediatrician (plus some stern admonitions from grandmothers on both sides) convinced us we better introduce some behavior modification.

It has been hard going, especially at first, causing a fair bit of tension as we second-guessed and triple-guessed what to do as Abby screamed inconsolably... alone... abandoned... in her crib. The sobbing was sadder, more pitiful than those other nights when she just stayed up and kept crying and crying. (Incidentally, it has been proven that no harm can come to your infant's psyche by chanting "Shut up baby. Shut up, please" but only as long as you sing it to the tune of "Frère Jacques.")

These last few nights, the crying jags have been shorter, our stretches of sleep interrupted by only the occasional short-lived squawk. There have been relapses, yes, as there would be trying to kick any habit. For instance, Abby has sometimes spent the last hour of the night sleeping between us after a bit of nursing. She's dozed off on my shoulder a few times. But to date, no more sleeping on my chest.

I'm going to miss it.

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