In this installment of “Love, Recorded,” Matt and Cathreen deal with the vampirism of new parenthood while trying their best to sleep-train their baby civilly.
1. I want to write, the following numbers are not typos.
For a week, my daughter stays up all night and goes to bed at 6 AM, at 8 AM, at 10 AM—the record. My wife texts this time to me while I am sitting at my desk, at work. Finally she went to bed, she texts. I feel dying tired. I guess you too. Poor us!
2. 10 AM.
3. My wife says Grace has mixed up night and day. A vampire baby. I remember when Cathreen was pregnant and stayed up late watching Korean dramas while I tried to sleep to the drone of voices crying out for love or death or money.
She was sweating, in the winter, the heat from a second body inside of her.
4. Sometimes, on Facebook, people will write, “You made a beautiful baby.” As if we were able to get our hands in the clay.
5. My daughter was born with a full head of hair. They say you can tell the hair by the heartburn. That turned out to be true. In a way, Cathreen made that hair out of vomit.
When people comment on the hair, I want to say, you should have seen how sick my wife was!
We didn’t make her a vampire, is what I’m saying. All we can claim, if anything, is her outsides.
7. When you become a parent, other parents have all kinds of advice for you. Sometimes you even ask for it. Sometimes non-parents have advice for you, and you are forced to weigh your tongue against your relationship. Often your own parents have advice for you—then your best argument is how screwed up you are.
8. Recently, I heard there was such a thing as a 9-month-old sleep regression. Google tells me this can happen at 8, 9, or 10 months, that Grace is sleeping worse because of curiosity and teeth.
We can see that she is tired. She rubs her eyes, squints. But what she wants, more than anything, is to be awake, is to live. It is a sleep regression of will.
Her mind is at war with her body. Or our minds are at war with her mind. Or— Something is at war with something else.
9. When I complain, an older friend of mine says that 8 months old was when they sleep-trained their daughter. They couldn’t take being tired anymore. Two nights of crying it out, the first night 40 minutes, the second night 10, and then she slept, as they say, like a baby.
I met his daughter recently, a teenager. She turned out fine.
This is the time in your baby’s life when people tell you to let her cry.
10. Cathreen and I do not believe we have to be mentally stable to love. Or something.
It is a struggle to stay awake. Now that Grace is mobile, we have to rely on our reflexes sharp. I mean this in the most animal way. Our hands tremble a millisecond behind her, ready to catch her when she dives face-first at the floor.
11. We make basic sleep-deprived mistakes. We lose our keys. I leave a package of beef out all night. We stub our toes. We shout.
Sometimes we can’t catch her in time.
Maybe we can’t take it anymore.
12. On Saturday, we wake on four hours of sleep and take Grace out of the house. We keep her out all day, even though she sleeps for most of it. At 10:30, I rock her in the baby carrier, singing about bonnies over the sea. She tries her best to get out, but I sing louder, bounce lower, worrying about shaken-baby syndrome.
After half an hour, she gives in. Or she gives up. So much rests on that preposition.
What we fear is that we are teaching her to believe we will not be there for her, that this is what independence means. This is why we keep her in the carrier, in contact with my skin. I am there if she screams for rescue; where else would she go? Does she get confused, I wonder, that her lifeguard is the one drowning her?
13. She wakes every few hours, and we wake, as well, to feed her and rock her back to sleep.
And somehow, with those stops and starts, nothing easy, she makes it through the night.
14. The next day, we take her out again, we keep her out, we rock her, we feed her, we insist and insist. Again it works. A not-so-minor miracle. Two nights in a row.
15. But the third night, she screams.
“Don’t forcing her,” Cathreen says. “We said we wouldn’t forcing her.” I’m not forcing, I say, I’m just determined. We have to sleep. I use the arguments that have been used on us.
“What do you want to do?” I ask. “Give up?” I almost say, “Let her win?”
I rock Grace lower. She cries harder. She has had enough.
She twists, she screams, we try feeding her again, she refuses to eat, she slaps at us and pinches and tugs her mother’s hair. “Give up?” I ask again.
“Give up,” Cathreen says.
16. We let her sleep when she wants. But maybe we’re only giving in. Somehow, we feel relief. “She’s a perfect baby,” Cathreen says. “How did we get such a perfect baby?”
We admire Grace, her thirst for life, even if it sucks the blood from our days.