Last night, I heard coughing. It sounded like it was coming from beneath me.*
*[No, of course not. The Hub wasn’t even home. Get your mind out of that gutter.]
I sat up, stumbled out of bed and straight into what the dog had just thrown up.**
**[Yes, of course the Hub was in another city. It’s one of his superpowers. When someone at our house barfs, he’s usually in another city. Often another country. Frequently, another hemisphere…]
My children are grown. My grandchildren have their own parents on whom to barf. So what karmic imbalance dictates that I’m still being roused in the middle of the night?
I actually used to think I was a night person. I thought it was a sign of a healthy, normal adult to stay up into the wee small hours and wake up the next morning feeling like something the cat spat out. Then I got pregnant, was told I had to give up coffee for the duration, and discovered I wasn’t a night person. At all.***
***[This did not, BTW, have anything to do with natural childbirth. If God didn’t want us to have caffeine, She would not have given us espresso beans, chocolate, or Paris.]
Turns out, I was a caffeine person. It meant some readjustment as my daily schedule fought a doomed battle against pregnancy hormones. I insisted all was normal, but the Hub had his doubts:
Barb: I’m tapping into my natural body rhythms. After a hard of day of hunting and gathering, did our cave ancestors’ natural body rhythms tell them to stay up to catch the Late Show?
The Hub: Did their natural body rhythms tell them to faceplant in the roast mastodon every evening?
Then the baby was born. At first, the sleeping arrangements seemed easy. In fact, I remember asking a nurse in the hospital, “What time should I wake up the baby in the mornings?” Being a trained professional, she was able to control her hysterical laughter just long enough to assure me this would not be a problem.
There’s nothing like parenthood to put both ambition and sleep patterns in perspective. In the years B.C. (Before Childbirth) my ambitions included writing the Great American Novel, advancing to the top of my profession, and wearing a size 5 swimsuit. In the years A.D. (After Delivery), my life goals narrowed to scoring four hours of uninterrupted sleep, and also going into the bathroom ALL BY MYSELF, with no interruptions, until I was completely done with whatever I needed to accomplish in there. Even if it took more than thirty seconds flat.
It isn’t that most fathers—the Hub included—don’t try to be supportive when their wives are nursing. At first, they find a job to do too, like bringing the baby to the wife, or staying awake supportively during the nursing. Soon, however, most husbands are so good at being supportive, they can do it without waking up at all. Next morning:
Father: Did the baby nurse a lot last night? Because I’m exhausted this morning from all that supportiveness.
Mother: If I could move, I’d be reaching for a blunt instrument.
But it really isn’t the fathers’ fault. They’d like to help out, but evolution just isn’t on their side. Since the days of our cave ancestors, the fathers’ hormones have been telling them, “You’ve done your part. Now you need your rest so you can face sabre-tooth tigers, woolly mammoths, and other office politics in the morning.”
Meanwhile, the cave mothers’ hormones are telling them, “Wake up! I heard a sneeze three caves over. And while you’re up, you might as well put out a clean tiger skin for the morning, beat a load of laundry against some rocks, and change the baby’s swaddling.”
I really tried to stay away from caffeine when I was nursing. By Child #4, I thought I was getting the hang of the whole sleep deprivation thing. Sure, little things slipped my mind occasionally, like the kids names and our address. And maybe I didn’t put the recycling out. For three months. I kept thinking I was going to get a chance to read those newspapers…
And, okay—there was that time I ran the red light trying to get back to the bookstore which I had left without paying for my books because Child #3 had public bathroom anxiety and confided what was going to happen any second if we didn’t make it home in time.
But then I noticed something far more serious. I started to say yes. It took my kids about a nanosecond to catch on…
Child #1: Can I have this new blouse which we both know I’ll never be able to wear in public?
Child #2: Can I take horseback-gymnastics-on-ice lessons?
Child #3: Can I have a new puppy which will have to be walked every 20 minutes day and night?
Barb: “Where’s that coffee pot?”