Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In Which I Am On the Night Shift...

I think I'd be writing more--hell, I think I'd be doing all sorts of everything more, if I was, say, SLEEPING more!!!

I'm too tired to check this for myself, but I am pretty goddamn sure that sleep deprivation is one of those tortures outlawed by the Geneva Convention, and now I can see why. For the past two weeks--or maybe it's been eight--I've been awakened at midnight, and 2 and 4 and 5 AM. By the Éclair. Who seems perfectly indifferent to me during the day, but just can't seem to get enough of me at night.

(And yes, let me say for the record that I'm pretty sure she's waking up Her Lovely Self too, but my wife is a much closer approximation of a Perfect Being and so it doesn't affect her the way it affects me. Which is to say awfully badly).

So here I am, in a state of mind that I can best describe as addled. But really it's more than that. I caught myself sleeping--with my eyes still open--in my office the other day. That has never happened to me, and I can't tell you how disconcerting it was. It was like my dream life and my reality were suddenly placed on a split-screen and I had to function in both simultaneously. It was just what I imagine going crazy will finally feel like. Who knows? Maybe I'm already there.

At least I'm not so far gone that I'm blaming the baby, or even remotely entertaining the slightest hint of a germ of an idea about doing anything harmful to her, like leaving her on the doorstep of our ultra-right-wing neighbors. Or my in-laws. Just the opposite. It's like I'm her zombie slave. I literally am unable NOT to do her bidding.

This wasn't a problem with Thomas, at least not at the end, when his nightly schedule was defined by a 43-minute-long sleeping jag, followed by 2 hours of screaming; repeat til dawn. There was always a point in that 2-hour phase where the little shit finally broke our will and one of us went and got him. This lasted months, possibly even years. And then one day, we were just so exhausted, we simply fell asleep during the screaming. And then it was the silence that woke us with dread and fear.

I can't sleep during the Éclair's screaming. I am physically incapable.

Is it because she's a girl? I suppose I know myself well enough to admit there could be some kind of sexist subtext here. (The boy? Aw hell, let the lil bastard scream! But the girl? The little pink nubbin in the crib screaming "Dada? Da-DAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" Gotta go!) The Brownie never screamed much, so I have no basis for comparison. My God, she was as close to a perfect sleeping baby as we'll ever have. She was wise enough to save her plans for Total Daddy Manipulation until she was old enough to start angling for toys and extra cookies.

Not her sister. The Éclair is like some nascent evil genius who knows exactly how long to try any one tactic before switching gears. For the longest time, her greatest gift was her ability to modulate her scream, from a high, general, send-in-the-cops kind of cry, to a deeper mayday-mayday-we're-going-down yelp that yanked me out of bed as though my genitals were attached to fishing line. She's stuck in the slats. She's fallen out! I'd think--insofar as I'm capable of thought these days. And then I'd go to the room and there she'd be, just fine, arms out, thumping her feet on the crib the way a dog whaps his tail on the floor, barely able to hide her nefarious little grin of triumph.

Then one night, I heard a new kind of scream, one that was somehow closer in my ear. I sleep right by the door in our room, so I am physically closer to the baby's room than Her Lovely Self. In fact, I think I can firmly state that my right ear is within a 10-foot radius of the baby's crib. Maybe she finally realized this and calculated the right acoustic vector to throw her voice--I wouldn't put it past her--but all of a sudden, it sounded like she was yelling my ear. The first time it happened, I had a waking a dream that she was on the floor by my bed and awoke to find myself cradling my slippers. Eventually, I just got up and got her. Again.

We've tried alternate methods to keep the baby comforted; God knows we've tried. At the Brownie's suggestion--because her wisdom and rational judgment beggars mine these days--we gave the Éclair her very own Pink Bear to have in the crib. The Brownie has had a pink bear from a very young age and they are fast friends still--the Brownie loves her almost as much as the dog. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder what our logic was here: Did we think that we could deceive her? That giving the Éclair a bear would somehow trick her into believing she had someone in the crib to keep her company? Someone as fun to manipulate as poor ol' Daddy?

Well, whatever we were thinking, it didn't work. The first night she screamed and I tried to press the bear on her as a substitute, she took a long look at the thing, then proceeded to scream at it. Then she got it around the throat and throttled it, like it was a tiny pink husband, before casting it over the side of the crib and glaring at me with a defiant stare that seemed to say, "Now are ya gonna get me?"

And then she started sitting up. Not just once or twice by accident. But all the time.

If you're a parent, you know that sitting up is the first sign of End Times. From there, they're just a beat away from pulling themselves up on the bars of the crib and then rappelling down over the side and that's pretty much the ballgame. It puts the fear of God into me every single time every one of my children has done it.

But with the Éclair, even that's different. Now that she can sit up, she uses this new vantage point to waddle her little ass over to the side of the crib that's closest to the hallway--and therefore to me--and then she'll just hunker down and stare.

I swear to you, her staring has a weight that presses on me until I awake. Twice this week, I jolted awake. There was no crying, no nothing. Blissful silence, if you want the truth. And yet, I couldn't shake the notion that something was up.

And of course something was.

Because when I rolled over, and propped myself up and craned my neck way out of the bed to peer down the hall, those eyes were there. Not boring into me like some maniac. She just gave me A Look, complete with waggledy eyebrows and a toothless grin. And once more, I was suckered out of bed.

And now? Now she's teething.

Not just teething. Power teething. As near as we can tell, she has two coming down from the top and two coming up from the bottom. Must be hell. I can't swab her up with enough Oragel. And so right about the time when I would ordinarily be tired enough to start sleeping through the screaming and even the staring, now I feel like there's an actual reason for her to need comfort. And as I'm sure I don't have to tell you, once the kid has got you doing the job of justifying getting up, you've lost, baby.

So perhaps you can imagine my consternation when I was awakened the other night to a new sound--not any of my baby's earlier acoustic stunts--but a plaintive blubbering that almost sounded like words.

I slouched out of bed, looking for the eyes that must be boring into me from down the hall, but they were strangely absent. I belatedly poked my head in the door.

There the Éclair was, sitting up all right, but not taking the slightest notice of me. She was, instead, peering forlornly between the slats of her crib, looking down at a crumpled pink form.

She looked up at me. "Bay!" she howled. It took a second to realize she meant bear. Numbly, I picked it up and handed it to her. She greeted it with open arms, strangled it rather briskly for a moment, then, taking absolutely no more notice of me, flopped over sideways on it, eyes already closed.

Since then, things have been relatively quiet. At least, I think they have. Although I dunno. I suppose I could be dreaming the whole thing at this point and not even realize it.


From Somewhere on the Masthead

I'm glad that the Eclair took her tiny pink husband back into her crib.

Sorry to hear about the sleep deprivation. I'm working graveyard shifts this year and it's been an adjustment for me...fortunately, I have no spouse or roomates that have to be quiet while I sleep during the day.
Then she got it around the throat and throttled it, like it was a tiny pink husband

That cracked me right up.

MM, if this is how you write when you're sleep deprived... we should all be so lucky. Seriously.
I forgive you for not writing for so long. Poor dude. I am WORTH LESS without sleep.
I am sooooo sympathizing with you on this. My first two kids weren't nearly as bad as our third, when it came to sleeping.

Our fourth is worse. Just last night she started crying about 1:00 AM. Like you, it's simply impossible for me to sleep through it. How my wife manages, I'll never know. The trouble is, my fourth doesn't want me. She won't take any comfort, blankets, toys, or anything at all if it comes from Dad. It's all about the Mommy.

During the day we're the best of friends. We can play together for hours and have a great time. When it comes to being comforted at night? No way, Dad. No stuffed animals, no blankets, no songs, nothing from Dad. It's gotta be Mom or nothing.

After a few minutes of this kind of screaming my wife gets up and takes care of things. After she comes back to bed I always ask, "What was wrong?"

My wife always replied, "I don't know. I just gave her back her teddy bear, gave her a hug, and she was fine."

Then I think, "Isn't that what I just tried to do?"

It boggles my mind.
Great story :) Sorry about your lack of sleep, though!
I always thought it was funny when our neighbors would tell the story of their son, who was on a heart monitor at night. If his heart stopped beating, an alarm would sound. The alarm would also sound if you disconnected the wires. Somewhere around 6months he discovered "pull wires, big noise, mommy and daddy come running to play!" and they never slept after that. fortunately the doctors saw what a state they were in and even though the little guy was supposed to be on it for a year, they decided things were going swimmingly enough they could take him off it earlier.

Then I had a kid. Those nights were hard enough without a kid on a heart monitor. Now I have the upmost respect for those neighbors who made it through those days properly dressed and wearing matching shoes. Because I know I couldn't have.
I've sat at my desk a few times and fallen asleep~ eyes wide open too. Strange feeling, that's for sure.

I hope the Eclair finds what she needs in her little pink bear so that you can find some sleep :)
I am so sorry about the lack of sleep for you, old MM. I know whereof you speak. My little ones didn't sleep well their first few years of life.

Took my son 2 years to stop waking and needing me to help him back to sleep and my daughter has yet to sleep through the night, at 2 1/2.

I am exhausted.

all the time.

I hope to, someday, actually sleep more than 4 hours in a row, and not on the floor.

She'll go back to sleep for dad, but for, she sobs like I am about to leave her forever if I try to leave the room.

The "little pink husband" line cracked me up, too. Very funny.
I can't wait to have kids of my own - sleep deprivation sounds FUN. (Plus it sure didn't hurt your writing any - maybe it would improve mine!)

Here's to happy nights for the Eclair and her "tiny pink husband".
The Captain and I are preparing for children by suffering through the nighttime antics of our two cats. Invariably one or the other howls pitifully outside the bedroom door for a large portion of the night. I should have this sleep deprivation thing down by the time we produce a bundle of joy.
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