The Witching Hour AKA The Ultimate Endurance Test

The Witching Hour. If you’ve been there, you know. If you’ve not, I sincerely hope you never do. In all the millions of things I read about the Witching Hour online and in books I never read anywhere why it’s called that. Clearly though it’s because only witchcraft could be responsible for turning an otherwise lovely baby into a demonic torture device designed to push even the most patient of parents to the brink of madness night after night. Although to call it a witching ‘hour’ is definitely false advertising because it lasts far longer than 60 minutes!

Somewhere fairly early on in our journey into parenthood it hit us unexpectedly. It might have been around the 4 week mark at a guess. (Many months on now and I think my subconscious has fuzzed over all the details as part of the healing process, it’s all a bit hazy now!) One night baba just started crying, I think it was about 9 o’clock. He cried. He cried. Then he cried some more. Reasonable bed time came and went; no amount of rocking, soothing, bouncing or milk made the slightest difference. He just would not stop crying. We were tired, beyond tired, but who can sleep when there is a baby screaming so loudly that you are convinced the neighbours halfway down the road must be able to hear. When it finally stopped we gratefully crawled into bed and thought to ourselves what a strange night it had been. So much crying, yet no obvious cause. Little did we know in that moment that this was just the first night of many…

The next night, as if on cue, the same thing happened again. Then again the next night, and the next. Our baby appeared to have got into a new routine that involved hours of non-stop crying every night. He would start somewhere around 9/10 o’clock and it would typically go on for about 4 hours. It was hard work. We had no idea why he had settled into this pattern. Queue endless googling:

Why does my baby cry for hours at night?
Baby will not stop crying.
How to stop baby crying at night.

Before long I stumbled upon the term ‘the Witching Hour’. I found myself reading endless threads about other parents going through the same thing. There were lots of them! Although it sounded as if most babies went through the witching hour earlier in the evening than ours. I found myself terribly envious of those parents whose babies cried between 5-9. At least they can get some sleep at night! Hubs pointed out they might think they had the worse deal, ie at least we get the early evening over before it starts, so we can go out and about etc. I was not in the mood for that kind of balanced thinking. Surely our baby’s witching hour must be the worst!

I discovered new levels of tiredness and a new found understanding of the term “losing the will to live”. Every night was like a battlefield and I was the most reluctant of soldiers. If I could have abstained for any conceivable reason possible I most certainly would have.

Hubs discovered the earplug method. He found that he was much more able to deal with the piercing screams when they were muffled with earplugs. It was his secret weapon.

To begin with we just fumbled our way through quite haphazardly, but once we started to suspect that this situation could go on for some time we had to get more strategic with our approach. We began to take shifts – one of us would go to bed quite early for a couple of hours while the other stayed downstairs with the screaming beast, then we would swap over halfway. This helped a bit with the sleep deprivation.

Then before we knew it, one day it stopped (HALLELUJAH!) and suddenly it felt as if it was over before it had even begun. When you’re in the thick of it there are moments when you wonder how you will come out the other side and if indeed life ever really will be the same again. Thank goodness we got there in the end! I almost feel we should have been given medals: “I survived the witching hour!

It is such a blur now. I can’t be sure exactly when it started, exactly when it stopped or exactly how long it went on for. I can however recall vividly how it felt never-ending whilst we were in the thick of it. That feeling of despair when you can’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel is really challenging to say the least. On the plus side though, I suspect it made us better parents in a way. It taught us new levels of patience that we could never before have imagined, and we surprised ourselves with how little sleep we could actually function upon. Most of all it made us so INCREDIBLY grateful for a little bit more normality once it was over.

If you’re in the middle of this particular parenting battle right now – keep going brave soldier! You will win the war in the end!

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