Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know what it is like to have a baby. The reason for this? I sleep. I mean, I sleep well. I took my first business trip last week. Spent two nights away from my wife and child. The first two baby free nights in 10 weeks. Most new fathers would welcome this by immediately turning off all the lights in the hotel room, raiding the mini bar, setting the alarm for Labor Day, and knocking back a horse-size dose of ambian. Me? I tossed and turned half the night and longed for my bed at home. You see, my two month old sleeps through the night…and has since she was about a week old. A new parent who would rather be home, with a two-month old 5 feet away, than in a hotel room with a down comforter and free HBO? After this experience I fully expect my daughter to sprout teeth without complaint, potty-train herself and marry the first man she dates.

Normally, the lack of sleep is what binds new parents together. When people find out you have a newborn, everyone needs to know how your nights are going. It is always the first question they ask.

-Getting any sleep?

-How’s the late night TV treating you?

-Bet you are pretty tired?

-Get all your sleep in before she was born?

This is particularly true for couples with young children. They want someone who can sympathize with them, someone who can relate to the months of zombie-like existence. Parents want to know that others have to go through the same trials and tribulations (there is a reason those creepy message boards exist). They want the conversation to go something like this:

Them: Newborn, huh? How’s that sleep going?

Me: Sleep? What’s that?

Them: Ha ha ha

Me: Ha ha ha

Them: Yeah. Madison didn’t sleep at all for the first 7 years.

Me: I know. It is terrible. The only way I get some shut-eye is if we have a parent, a sister, and three babysitters there to take shifts because she is just a monster at night!

Them: (patting me on the back) It’s okay, it gets better. Just hang in there, champ.

But the thing is, Olive has slept through the night since she was about a week old. She goes to bed about 10, sleeps until 4, wakes up to eat, and then goes back to sleep until about 7. Even those days where she doesn’t go back to sleep, my wife and I get a solid 6 hours of sleep – or about what I got in a week in College. When I tell people this they usually respond with a mixture of contempt and disbelief. How could this be? You must have to let her cry it out for hours to get her to bed? Nope. Does she go to sleep when you do? Yup.

And usually I feel bad telling people this. Really. I feel bad that I get 7 hours of uninterrupted slumber while other parents dream of three. I feel bad that I can’t fulfill their need to have an exchange about our shared experience in sleeplessness. But I can’t. I don’t know what it is like to wake up, night after night, for the midnight, and 2 am, and 3:30 am, and 5 am feeding. I don’t really know what it is like to roam my dark house in a t-shirt and boxer shorts rocking a crying baby for two hours. I shrug at the shelves of devices (sound machines, stuffed animals with heartbeats, little baby straight-jackets, soothing lights, mobiles, vibrating mattresses) all designed to get your baby to sleep quietly for a precious few hours. They even have a creepy term for some of these things -- and I wish I was making this up: Mechanical Mothers. Dr. Sears lists 31 WAYS to get your child to sleep. There are fewer steps to breaking alcohol addiction! Judging by how hard it is to get a normal child to sleep, I’m amazed that some parents can work a full week without the assistance of hard drugs or partial ownership of a Starbucks franchise.

Now, I know full well that this can change in an instant. Olive has had days when she has decided that 4 AM is a great time to want to start the day and that 10:30 PM is a great time to release a day worth of poop. Those days might start to become the rule rather than the exception. Who knows? But right now, when I hear other parents talking about how little sleep their getting, I stay quiet. Because they don’t really want to hear from me – I don’t really know what it is like to have a baby.

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