The story so far …
I have been working for Lucy and James as a Night Nanny since Isabelle was one week old, coming 5 nights a week from 9pm to 7am. Now Lucy has reduced my nights down to 3 per week as she feels much more confident.
When I arrive in the evening at about 9pm we chat about Isabelle and discuss the little issues that have arisen since I was last here-the tiny details about the state of her nappies, the length of her fingernails, whether or not that might be a tooth coming through. It is such a privilege to be part of a family in these first few weeks and to watch mothers and fathers becoming more confident parents, particularly first time round. Often there is something that Lucy has read in the papers which she wants to discuss or follow up, and if I don’t know the answer myself I can generally guide her in the direction of someone who does.
On Tuesday night James corners me in the kitchen where I am tidying up. He wonders if it might be possible to take Lucy out for a drink one evening. I think it’s a great idea; it is important for couples to have “grown-up” time together occasionally and if Lucy is happy to leave Isabelle for an hour or so, I am more than happy to hold the fort. James broaches the subject with Lucy, who looks rather bemused. She has been with Isabelle 24 hours a day since her birth and the thought of leaving her doesn’t sit easily with her. James says he has thought it through: I will arrive an hour earlier than usual, at 8pm; they will go to the pub in the village, have a drink for an hour and be back before Isabelle wakes for her next feed. They are less than 10 minutes away should there be any problem and Isabelle is being left with someone she knows. Half an hour later as I go upstairs to get organised for the night ahead, Lucy catches me. “Will it really be okay?” she asks. I reassure her. James is absolutely right, but Lucy mustn’t be pushed they won’t enjoy themselves if she is worrying about Isabelle. We decide to leave it until Sunday evening to give Lucy time to adjust to the idea.
The family is obviously settling into the routines we have developed. Isabelle is growing well, putting on weight and the Health Visitor is pleased with her progress. On Thursday night I came in to find a series of new photographs on the computer. There are always photographs of Isabelle which fly round the globe to various aunts, uncles and godparents, but these mark a significant development for Isabelle – she smiled for the first time today! A proper smile, Lucy proudly told me, not just a windy grin!
When James came home he got out his camera to record the happy moments. Apparently Lucy had then laid her on the rug and they spent the evening waving at her, tickling her and doing anything they could to make Isabelle smile again and again. James looked rather embarrassed; he said it was soppy to be so besotted with a baby. No, I told him, it’s lovely. “It’s an indescribable joy,” he admitted, “better than closing a deal at work.
I really feel like she knows who I am now – and that I’m important to her.”
On Sunday night, as arranged, I arrive at 8pm and find Lucy with her coat on, looking excited and ready to go. “I’ve actually been looking forward to this all day,” she says. “It’s a real treat!”
Lucy’s sister Joanna came to stay for a few days with her children who are 10 months and 3 years old. I overhear Joanna telling Lucy enviously how well she looks. I have to agree; Lucy has recovered from the exhaustion of childbirth, she didn’t suffer from baby blues, she is sleeping well and she is eating well. Thank goodness she isn’t desperate to get back into her pre-pregnancy jeans. I have worked for some mothers who worry so much about what they look like and whether their husbands will be attracted to them again; they read the gossip columns and believe what is written in them about size six celebrities. So they start dieting and exercising before they’ve recovered from childbirth, completely ignoring the fact that if you are going to breastfeed successfully, you really need to be eating a balanced healthy diet. You need to look after yourself to be able to look after your baby.
Joanna can’t believe Isabelle is in such a regular sleep pattern; her 10 month old, Jack, still won’t go to bed without a lot of attention from his mother and wakes several times a night and Millie, her 3 year old, often creeps into her parents’ bed half way through the night. Joanna corners me when I arrive on Tuesday night; I tell her that I can help her son learn to sleep through the night within five nights and she is incredulous. “I can’t stand the sound of him crying,” she says, nervously. “You wouldn’t just shut the door on him and make him cry it out, would you?” I reassure her immediately. It is much more effective to teach babies and toddlers gently and consistently. I explain that once babies have reached six months of age, their bodies need to rest for 12 hours so that they can develop both mentally and physically, and that Jack will learn how to sleep through the night in less than a week because this is what his body needs to be doing. Joanna looks thoughtful and says she will consider it.
On Thursday night Joanna and her children have left but there is a message for me – could I possibly come and help Jack and Millie with their problems. Joanna has talked to Simon, her husband, who had no idea that Joanna was struggling so badly with the children’s sleep problems. “The thing is,” Lucy explains, “he has such a stressful job and leaves the house so early, that Joanna feels the least she can do is deal with the children in the middle of the night. I suppose she has got so tired herself that she didn’t realise the extent of the problem until she saw how well Isabelle is sleeping.” I check my diary and realise that I can go to Simon and Joanna straight after I leave here, provided my next baby has the grace not to arrive too much before its due date. Lucy rings her sister straight away and I can hear the relief in Joanna’s voice – Lucy and I grin at one another.
For more information about Night Nannies, call Georgie Bateman on 01794 301762, or look up the website, www.nightnannies.com
Editors Note: To reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome babies should sleep on their backs. Even though the side position is safer than sleeping on the stomach, babies who sleep on their sides can roll onto their stomachs. If you choose to place your baby on his or her side to sleep, make sure the lower arm is in front of the baby to help stop him or her from rolling onto the stomach.