Go the F@$# to Sleep

Last week, I made a post on facebook that said “I have now become one of those parents who brags about their child’s sleeping habits. Sorry.” What I should have said was “No, Karma. I don’t need to sleep these next three nights.”

To clarify, Mabel is a master at sleeping. Once asleep, she usually stays asleep for at least 10 hours unless we’re stupid enough to wake her up. The key phrase here of course being “Once asleep.” To the uninitiated, this is the equivalent of saying “Once I’ve trained the cat to pee in the toilet, I can usually teach them to flush it.”

Babies are a lot like people. Tiny, stupid people. They get cranky when they’re tired, hungry or otherwise uncomfortable. Where adults separate themselves from babies is their ability to diagnose their ailment and find the cure. Before you call CPS, I know babies can’t feed themselves. They sadly need our help. But going to sleep is something – possibly the only thing – that babies are born with the ability to do. They just haven’t yet figured out that sleep is the antidote to tired.

Jennifer and I are starting to learn how to diagnose Mabel’s sleepiness. The eye and nose-rubbing is an obvious hint. But it can still take up to a couple hours to get her to figure out what to do about it. I find myself playing guitar and singing to serenade her to sleep, but my set is only really about 20 minutes before I start repeating the same five songs. Thankfully, my biggest fan doesn’t really mind how many times I play Say Goodbye to Hollywood in a row. Everything I do is her favorite song. Which is great for my ego, but horrible for my callouses and my sleeping schedule. After repeating everything twice, I’ll read a Dr. Suess book to her. I’ll sing a capella. I’ll start to read her some David Sedaris because how the hell will she know the difference? I’ll cry and plead with her and try to reason with a four-month old to no avail.

But I’m now starting to figure out that Mabel has a bedtime in mind, regardless of how tired she is. And if it’s not that time yet, she’s just not going to sleep. This past Friday night, I thought we were able to get her to sleep earlier than normal at 10pm. Apparently that was only her nap and she was up 45 minutes later. Turns out she decided 1am was her bedtime that night.

Also, we haven’t been able to get her out of the swing yet. I’ve gotten mixed messages about that. The doctor and books say that she should be able to sleep without the swing or needing to feed by now. Actual parents of actual children have said the hell with the doctor and stupid books. If she’s sleeping for ten straight hours, count your blessings and don’t change anything. And certainly don’t complain about it to actual parents. If she sleeps better in the swing, put her in the swing. If she needs to nurse, let her nurse. If she sleeps better on your face, buy a snorkel mask and trade shifts with your wife.

All in all, I know how lucky I am to have a child who sleeps through the night, however long it takes and however it happens. So I’m not complaining. In fact, her 1am bedtime and 10 hours straight of sleep is pretty much on par with her father’s biorhythms anyway. Maybe they’re bad habits we’re allowing her to get into, but they’re genetic bad habits so we really had no chance anyway.

Remote Control

I can’t remember if I picked it up backwards and was turning it around or if I just didn’t have a good grip on it, but I dropped the TV remote. I’ve dropped remotes before plenty of times and have never written a blog post or even tweeted about it. Especially when it lands on a bed. But this time, my three-month-old daughter’s head happened to be lying delicately, trustingly, on that very bed.

I saw it flipping around like a helicopter blade as it spun out of my reach. Sure enough, the remote hit her square in the head. Her fussiness turned to abject screaming. That piercing kind where her voice goes hoarse after half an hour. That walk that was going to put her to sleep was postponed for anything I could think of to try to calm her down. I tried the five S’s as I power walked around the house, pacing back and forth from room to room. I tried to feed her, I did a puppet show for her, I even hit myself in the head with the remote while laughing to show her it was fun. Nothing worked. I have never said sorry so many times in 30 minutes. This is the first time I’ve actually seen tears reach beyond her eyeballs.

I am a horrible father. This is my sixth day on the job and I just hit my child in the head with the TV remote. Any other job and I’d still be in a review period and fired on the spot without repercussion. In fact, I toyed briefly with the idea of not telling my wife. But I feel like she would know anyway. Not because of motherly intuition, but because I was still crying when we picked her up from work. I spent an hour on babycenter searching things like “hit baby in head with remote” + “brain damage” + “can guilt last forever” + “therapists in DC area.”

Yes, I likely overreacted. As Derek told me, I will do a lot worse to her as time goes on. He always knows what to say. But this situation put me on even higher alert for everything I do. Rounding corners with Mabel in my arms, securing the pillow fortress around her when I go to make her bottle and holy crap, the stairs! I hate the stairs. I have two cats that could be lurking unsuspectingly on any stair in the house at any given point in time. I panic and have been panicking about these things for months. Now I just have to add to the list my remote control (pun very intended and not apologized for). There is a certain guilt that any harm done to her due to neglect will obviously bring, whether I could have stopped it or not. Bee stings, bike accidents, etc. I’d just prefer to limit the kind of guilt after having actually performed the act of harming her to this incident and maybe one other. I’ll let you know when that one happens.

The Last Day of Vacation

It’s the last Friday of my wife’s three-month maternity leave and we’re driving home from our week in Ocean City, making it the last day of vacation both literally and literally. On Monday, my wife will return to work in D.C. and I will start my new job as full-time dad for our three month old daughter, a concept my new neighbors don’t seem to be grasping.

“Oh, so you’ll be working from home?” No, I’m going to stay at home and raise my daughter. “Oh… so you’re going to work at night now?”

Upon returning home, Jenn (wife) realized that she didn’t have enough work clothes for her ever-changing body size. “I need to go buy myself some work clothes. Do you want to come?” Having already served my penance in the matter of shopping for maternity and baby wear, I thought my time would be better served at home. Besides, Mabel (daughter) had a whole week of NFL Live to catch up on.

The exact second that Jenn left the driveway is about when Mabel started crying. Maybe it was because she gets irritated in long car rides and was just getting around to complaining about it. Maybe it was because she couldn’t smell mommy anymore. Maybe she was sick of listening to Trey Wingo bastardize the word “literally” on national television. Either way, this lasted longer than normal. And none of the normal fixes were working. I tried feeding her. Not interested. I checked her diaper. Nothing out of the ordinary. I tried burping her until it just became gratuitous beating. Nothing. So I resorted to old faithful, walking her in the stroller. That seemed to distract her enough. For about three blocks.

Of note is that my wife left her cell phone at home, negating the possibility of any Hail Mary phone call I may or may not have been considering.

I got Mabel back home and tried putting her down. Still crying. I tried sitting her up. Even louder. I tried laying her on her side. The other side. The swing. The only thing that seemed to be working was holding her in my arms and walking around. This was going to get tiring.

Eventually Mabel calmed down. To keep her calm, we went for another walk. This time for longer and she slept through most of it. Finally. A calm and happy (or at least not currently crying) baby.

We got home and I put her down so I could answer an email. She started grunting. I continued to type. The grunting grew louder. She wanted daddy’s attention. So I bounced her on my knee and sang to her and I booped her nose seven or eight times while my email sat mid-sentence, with the blinking cursor mocking me. Every time a car passed by, I looked out the window in hopes that it was Jenn. I checked the clock. She had been gone an hour and 45 minutes.

Oh my God. How am I going to do this for ten hours by myself every day? Maybe we hadn’t thought this through all the way. Oh well. Wish me luck.