Listening in

listeninginHave you noticed the noise we live in everyday? Especially when you live in a city? I admit that I only noticed it before if I was tired or I had not slept well… But when you have a baby, the tiredness and sleep-deprived state becomes your new normal and if you are anything like me, you will develop a new ear for the sounds around you. So you become really oversensitive to noise and dream of silence all around…

Suddenly noises that you did not even notice drive you crazy. Especially if you have a baby who is a light sleeper. (Or so you think.)

In the next few weeks and months, you will chase your husband around the house to make sure there are no creaking doors, you will want to shout at him when he slams the car doors, the washing machine actually beeps when it finished washing – who invented that stupid sound? I heard that some kids like the “white sound” to fall asleep, but I was not ready to take any chances. On a bad night, you will want to rip out the creaking stairs or floor boards. The cat is too loud (especially when it wants to be fed), you hear the neighbours come in at 3 a.m. and feel like going out to tell them to be quiet, but don’t want to look like the crazy lady…

And you learn to move and live like a ghost: you find how to switch the subtitles on the TV, as you keep it on “barely audible” or go all the way and get headphones. You don’t do dishes in the evening, but wait for the morning – too much clinking… You unplug the landline or – in my case – are rude to the people who call, so that you end up not receiving any calls anymore (they were all telemarketers anyway!). You keep your mobile on silent which makes you miss even the important work calls (until people just stop bothering calling you outside of office hours – yes, a small victory there !). You hush people who talk, laugh or even breathe too loud… And don’t even get me started on the people who insist on flushing the toilet after only going to pee in the middle of the night…. You seek silence. Complete silence. Not only because it is so soothing for the nerves after having been exposed to child screams or cries during the day, but because you secretly hope that if there is silence, the baby will not wake up every two hours at night (it will).

The futility of the “noise embargo” I instated at home has however beamed on me one day, when we were walking the baby in the pram on the walls of St Malo for her mid-morning nap and came across a percussion band. There were about 15 people playing very loud music with a big crowd clapping to the rhythm… No possibility of going around, we had to pass barely a meter away from them. We adults almost had our ears blown of by the noise, but she slept right through, actually even snoring happily as we went past…  You go figure…

Which brings me to another thing. My ear has sharpened so much in the last months. Hormones maybe, practice certainly, strange new noises at home for sure.

I will not list all the weird noises that normally occur in our house (even in the middle of the night). My husband snoring, me snoring (I managed to wake myself up once !), me talking in my sleep (fighting with my dad again in my dream), the cat throwing up (not a pleasant sound to hear at 4 in the morning), the strange cracking in the wooden floors, the pigeons you hear in the chimney, the clicks and the whirr of the elevator (behind our bedroom wall). But since the little cuddly baby creature moved in, the weird noises have been multiplied by a dozen. I always thought that apart from when they cry, babies are quiet little things. Big mistake. When she is awake of course there is a variety of very loud vocal expressions. She cries, she screams, she hums, she sings, she talks (to us or to herself), she yells (at the cat mostly), she makes a lot of noise (at her age, anything can become a musical instrument – usually a drum)… And although it is very noisy, that is actually a good thing, because 1. you know where she is at all times and 2. it is when she makes no noise that she is probably up to something (with her head stuck in the drier for example.)

To this I could add all the other noises a baby can make with its body and that a parent knows so well, such as the spitting out of food (she could compete with a camel), making bubbles in her water glass (or bath), the farts, the burps, the sound of a filling up nappy (oh yes, some of those you actually hear).

But the noise does not stop when she goes to bed, oh no… I am amazed we managed to sleep with her in our room for the first six months! My daughter used to “sing” herself to sleep as a baby. Or just rock herself in her bed (which in turn would slam in the wall). Asleep, she is also extremely noisy. She squeaks, she purrs, she snores, she wheezes, she cries in her sleep, she talks, she cries out… At first I would jump up at every sound only to realise that she was sound asleep.

But then, in the first months, if all is quiet (in the middle of the night), you are usually worried if she is still breathing (and go check five times a night, imagining the worst), so some sounds are actually reassuring.

The third, and the most annoying category of sounds to report are the toys – the single friends’ revenge for your not being available for night out and bar crawls anymore… But that would (and probably will) make another whole post…

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