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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Atheist Life Hacks: How To Get Your Baby To Sleep

My son was born in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. At the time, we lived in a small, one-bedroom condo just off la Carretera Federal. It was brand new, with granite counters and stainless steel appliances. The tiled floor was the brightest, shiniest white and the trim was all made of dark wood.

Our balcony in Playa

We had this gorgeous wrap-around balcony, brushed by palms on either end, that overlooked the complex’s swimming pool. From the second floor, we could sit up there and relax to the sound of the waterfall that spilled into the pool. Just a few minutes walk from white sand, Caribbean beach, this condo was practically paradise and a fraction of the cost of living we’d known in Canada.

My son, who is still a happy kid, was a happy baby. In the beginning, he could sleep through anything. I’d take him to his Daddy’s live performances (he plays drums), which were loud, and he’d sleep right through them. The flash storms we had often in Playa would drag the patio furniture into the pool, tear tiles off the roof and slam doors open and shut, were no match for my son’s talent for slumber. He just slept and slept and slept. I figured this parenting thing was going to be a breeze.

My happy man

As he grew, though, and most of you parents out there are likely nodding your head about now, it became harder and harder to put him down for naps or bedtime. He just wanted to play all the time. Heck, he still does. Sleep became harder and harder for Godless Dad and me to come by and eventually, we knew we had a problem to solve.

We tried everything… at first, putting him in his stroller and rocking it back and forth worked, then a baby sleep DVD. He got used to it all though, and we were back where we started.

One particular night, I was alone as Godless Dad was out of town, and I’d had enough. I scribbled this about it way back then:

So, after watching an episode of House, which seemed to go on for like 9 hours (noteworthy because I love this show, it never seems dull and I must have been more tired than death to have it feel like it was anything longer than an hour) I crawled into bed, read a couple of sentences of Twisted Confessions and passed out. A few minutes later, I was awake again. Little man has suddenly sprung to life and needed a feed. This hasn’t happened in weeks and on the odd occasion it does, I just give him a feed and a few minutes later we’re snoozin’ again. But, and I say this ‘but’ over a massive, disapproving sigh, as I was heating up itty bitty man’s bottle in the dark, I knocked over a wine glass left on the edge of the counter. Admittedly, an hilariously poetic moment as I couldn’t see a fucking thing, I’m holding a wobbly baby looking at me with big doe eyes and a pacifier in his mouth and I turn to grab the bottle and I just hear slip… and then a moment of absolute, ear-shattering silence… and then a massive pop as microscopic shards of glass embed themselves in my bare calves. The pacifier falls out, doe eyes turn moist, the tiny lower lip sticks out and then “waaaaaa”. So, there I am, standing in the middle of minefield of shattered glass, in bare feet, with bleeding legs, a crying baby and I still can’t see a fucking thing. I have no choice; I have to walk through the glass in my bare feet.
Surprisingly, I managed to not cut myself on the soles of my feet at all. By now, however, baby man is wide awake, my legs are stinging and my house needs a massive sweep. After feeding baby, sweeping up all the glass and picking out the little bits in my legs, baby boy remains as awake as if it were 8am and I, still, am so very, very tired.

By the time the sun began to rise that night, I was fed up. I’d been pacing the tiled floor of our condo with my wide-awake baby, trying to get him to just close his eyes. He wouldn’t, no matter what I did. Deliriously tired, I needed to sit down and cool off, so I decided to sit on the balcony.

The rocking chair

I slid open the glass door, took a seat on our rocking chair, laid my baby man across my chest and began to rock.

The silence in the complex was rare. Usually, you can hear the sounds of cars and scooters whizzing past well into the night. Someone is always playing music, always with that same Mexican beat, somewhere in the distance. This early in the morning, however, it was as close to as silent as I’d ever experienced in Playa Del Carmen. Nothing but the rustling of the palms behind me and the sound of water trickling into the pool. It was beautiful.

As I rocked, I began to sing to my son, a song my mom had always sung to me,

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

He looked up at me with his beautiful blue eyes and smiled. I watched him while I sang, and it actually looked like his eyes were getting droopy. I kept singing, feeling a rush of excitement. Could this work? Could this be the trick? I ignored the iguana watching us from the condo wall, and sang some more,

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you…

My gorgeous boy

His eyes closed! Yes! I couldn’t give up now! I was moments away from actual, bona fide sleep! I kept singing and rocking and singing and rocking and finally, finally, he was asleep! I’d done it!

I got up ever so slowly and tip-toed back to the bedroom, where I lay my cherubic little dude in his crib. As I climbed into bed myself, at last, I asked myself why I had never tried that before. Before I could answer myself, I was fast asleep, enjoying the best slumber I’d had in months.

From that day, until the day we moved from Mexico, I spent every evening before bed out on that balcony, watching the sunset, seeing the iguanas frolic, and rocking my son back and forth while I sang that song to him.

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