As all new parents do, I live daily with the confidence that something I do either directly or indirectly will result in my daughter’s brain damage. In 35 years, she’ll be working third shift at the Gas N Go or maybe only become the first female vice-president and I’ll be able to pinpoint the exact day that either by neglect or gross recklessness, I caused her brain damage. And I’ll think to myself – or more likely say out loud to a therapist – “Man, Mabel really could have been something if only it wasn’t for _____.”
Maybe I was tweeting and didn’t realize she could climb the stairs yet. Maybe I underestimated my strength during a round of superbaby. Or maybe all that dice I had been playing, leaving her on the bed while refilling her bottle in the sink, would finally come up seven.
For the uninitiated, the baby dive bomb is one of the biggest motivating factors behind the need to sleep train babies. Even if you like having your baby sleep with you, it becomes dangerous once they know how to crawl. I was no longer able to sleep in my own bed if she was in there for fear that she’d wake up and find her way to the end of the bed and lemming herself off, filling in that blank. I started to sleep – or at least lay down – in the shape of an “L” so that between me, my wife and the headboard, we had all four sides covered. But then I just lay awake uncomfortably contorted in the shape of an L. And putting the mattress on the ground is such a pain on an adult’s back, getting up and down, often while cleaning and jerking 20 pounds (that sounded a lot dirtier than I meant it to). Not to mention, it doesn’t solve the problem, it only lessens the maximum amount of brain damage that could occur. It’s not like babies know how to get off mattresses instinctively. Our mattress is now on the floor and just the other night, Mabel crawled right off without breaking stride like an Oompa Loompa. One that lands on her head. Thankfully, it’s now only an 11 inch drop and she didn’t lose consciousness, which is my new barometer of how guilty I should feel and whether or not I should take her to the hospital. But let me tell you why our mattress is on the ground.
A few months ago, I was refilling Mabel’s bottle and since she started crawling, I’d run out to check on her after every step. Rinse the bottle, check. Fill up with 2 ounces of water, check. Add formula, check. Well, I had put Mabel in a makeshift baby jail, made out of pillows and blankets I stuffed around her, so I had at least the requisite 30 seconds to do all those steps uninterrupted. When I finished and walked out of the bathroom, I found Mabel on the far edge of the bed, reaching for my night stand. How the hell did she break out of pillow jail? That’s when I thought to myself “This is it. This is the brain damage.” I am quite proud of the dive that I made to grab her, dropping whatever it was that I was carrying without thinking. I had always hoped that would be my reaction in this situation, but I know on occasions when I’ve REALLY needed to swerve out of the way of a car that doesn’t know the rules of left-turning etiquette, I’m reluctant to drop my McFlurry first. Suffice to say, I got to her mere microseconds before the brain damage. This time.
Since then, I developed a little makeshift contraption out of my belt and a 10-pound weight to temporarily prevent the baby dive bomb. I don’t recommend using it for longer than a minute or two, and anything under 10 pounds is just kind of asking for it, but it should keep your baby from those pesky edges of the bed long enough for you to make her a bottle of formula. You can try to shower if you want, but don’t complain to me when he or she gets the brain damage because of a bad knot or a Herculean baby effort. There are therapists for that.