Maternal tinnitus

Dot writes: I have a condition I call maternal tinnitus. It involves hearing phantom noises of children in the night. I spend so much of the night-time hours alert (even in my sleep) for childish voices that sometimes my ears provide them for me. In particular it’s Hugh I listen for, as Frank is in the room and indeed, let’s face it, in the bed with us. This morning I thought I heard Hugh a good half hour or so before I really heard him, but when I woke up fully there was silence. At one point I kept hearing what I thought was the sound of him crying in the other room, but then realised it was Frank lightly snoring right beside me. I also listen to: the buzzing of the fuse box in the living room; the wind; clanks and bumps from next door; unidentified creaking sounds; Ken (who only snores occasionally but breathes loudly); the voices of what if going round and round in my head. Because once I’ve woken up in the night – really woken up, not just shifted over to give Frank the breast – I tend to have pointless and anxious thoughts about mistakes I’ve made and things I should have done differently. I don’t know why this cloud of worry and regret descends on insomniac hours. Why can’t I spend that time thinking about how charming my baby is, or how Ken and I had a great time in New Zealand? But no, it’s all “if only” and “why didn’t I”.

The night after Frank was born the next door neighbours had a loud outdoor party into the small hours. In retrospect, there was a silver lining: that was one broken night I spent listening to music. Oddly, they were playing all the stuff that was popular when I was a teenager (early to mid nineties). I thought of sticking my head out of the window and saying something like: “if you really want to know what it feels like to be part of the Oasis generation, come and listen out for the cranky toddler and I’ll finish up your alcopops.” But actually it was Ken who stuck his head out, and when that didn’t work called the Guards. And shortly after a mysterious peace descended.


9 thoughts on “Maternal tinnitus

  1. Lily Roth

    I think this maternal tinnitus is an occupational hazard…I certainly have had it since Owen’s birth. And he is still in our bed. I’m just too lazy to get up to feed him in the night. Rolling over to give him his boob is just nicer and easier. My mum was afraid I’d crush him to death, but I find myself curled protectively around him all night and waking at every snore (which is frequent). Whenever he is in another room (which is seldom) I do often hear phantom baby cries…I guess it’s my native anxiety! I’m hoping it will get slightly less acute as he gets older.

  2. kenanddot

    It’s weird the way you just don’t roll on to them. But the advice not to co-sleep when drunk is obviously to be taken seriously (not that I would get drunk anyway because of the breastfeeding; and also because I don’t much like it).

    I’m also hoping the phantom baby cries will fade as the boys grow. But I’ve been told you never sleep as sound again after having children, and I can well believe it. It’s the sense that those night sounds are no longer something to tune out, but something you might have to respond to.

  3. Last night I woke up at 3:30 with the same kind of buzzing thoughts (minus the ringing of imaginary child voices) and couldn’t get back to sleep.

    I’m sure it will be much better when I have a screaming infant.

  4. I understand exactly what you’re talking about. Fortunately, Bean is still in bed with us, too. I certainly couldn’t handle it yet if she were in another room, not to mention how nice it is not to have to actually wake up all the way to breastfeed her. I didn’t understand co sleeping very well before I had her since I figured it would be hard not to be a hazard to her, but those instincts are just so strong. Plus I can’t sleep a wink without her next to me :-).

    1. Dot

      I think the breastfeeding is the big plus of co-sleeping, as well as the cuddles. But I admit I’m beginning to think it’s time Frank stopped needing his midnight snack (let alone his 10pm, 2am, 4am and 6am snacks). I’m glad it’s such a positive arrangement for you and Bean.

  5. Helen Conrad-O'Briain

    The last time I slept the night was August 23, 1978. I suspect my mother last slept the night on September 22, 1952.

    1. That’s strange since I wasn’t born until the following year…

      Luckily for us Amelia has slept pretty soundly (allowances made for resettling due to 1 bad night’s teething and two nights where I slept on the floor of her room when she and Jon had a bad tummy bug) since about week 7/8 added to which Jon is deaf and I’m stubborn šŸ˜‰ So I’ve not been plagued with phantom crying – not that we need to be as her enthusiastic shouts of Hi! c. 7am in the morning are enough

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