As a brand new parent, I can honestly say that I’ve never loved anybody as much in my entire life as my daughter. She’s perfect, beautiful, and undoubtedly bound for a future of being a rock-n-roll drummer, a black belt martial artist, and the President of the United States, all before the age of 40.
During the daytime, there’s no purer creature who was ever put on this planet. Even her diapers, which are full of yellow, seedy poop that sometimes crowds her diaper and rides up her backside since I’m not so good at changing diapers yet, is perfect. I can change that mess all day, and often do.
But at night time, it’s a different matter entirely. All throughout my wife’s pregnancy, parents joked, “You better get your sleep now because you’re going to miss it once you’re little one is finally here.” Heck, even non-parents who had probably been poked and prodded as to why they weren’t pregnant yet offered similar advice: “You’re not going to sleep ever again, you know. Or so I’m told, anyway.”
This didn’t really bother me since I never really slept any way. As a teacher who also writes, I wake up every morning at 5:00 A.M. without fail to write at least 1000 words a day. It’s a schedule I strictly stand behind. Even if those 1000 words stink and I have to throw it all out, at least I’m writing, at least I’m being productive. So no sleep when the baby comes? So what? I don’t need sleep. Sleep is for the weak. No sleep til…dun dun, dun dun, BROOKLYN, right?
Nope! Wrong. Incredibly, unbelievably wrong. The first few nights were disarming because I wasn’t aware that you had to wake up every few hours just to feed her. You mean you can’t just let her wake up on her own and cry you awake when she’s hungry? Nope. Turns out, you have to set your alarm clock just to give newborns the sustenance they need to thrive. Okay, well, that’s something I never knew. What else? Well, how about inconsistency in regards to what they want when they cry you awake? During the day time, I have an almost Spidey sense on how to read my little princess. If she pinches up her face and grunts, she probably plopped in her pants. If she whines sharply and then crunches up her impeccable lips, she probably wants me to hold her. If she screams at the top of her lungs and starts trying to suck my shoulder when I place her against my chest, she’s searching for a nipple, namely my wife’s (But I’m sure any will do for a few seconds before she realizes no food is coming out).
But at night, all those hints go out the window. It’s not just because we only have a tiny nightlight in our bedroom that only reveals so much in my daughter’s facial expressions. It’s also because at night, my baby is an entirely different person. She is not my future leader of America anymore. She is a Gremlin. A Gremlin who doesn’t even know what she wants herself. The wails that signify a feeding in the daytime mean nothing at night. It means she’s cold. Or that she wants me to carry her around the apartment. Or that she wants me to sing her Beatles songs again. Or not. What’s insane about babies at night is that they prey on your lack of sleep. At least, that’s what I tend to believe. As soon as I calm her down, which is sometimes instantly, or sometimes after several hours, she wakes up again as soon as my wife and I put her back down in her crib. Some experienced parents will tell me that I will get the hang of it in time. “It’s not so hard,” they’ll say. “In a few months time, you’ll become a baby Jedi master.” While others will say it never gets better. “You’ll still be waking up in the middle of the night by the time they’re teenagers, just because you’re worried about them.”
Either way, I keep telling myself every night that it’s worth it, since I definitely don’t have to say that when the sun’s back up. That’s when she’s the love of my life again, and she can do no wrong.