I’m baaaack. I have emerged from the hazy fog of sleeplessness—the dark and quiet cave of the nursery—long enough to give you this potentially life-saving warning. Take heed all you other newbie moms out there, stumbling around with your eyes half-open, spit-up in your unwashed hair, not knowing what day of the week it is. I cannot stress enough the importance of this little factoid. Rule #1 for new parents: Babies do not, repeat not, drink espresso.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “But Sarah, who doesn’t enjoy a warm, sweet cup of earthy goodness with hints of spice and Christmas-time?” Four week old babies, that’s who. At four weeks into my new role as “Mom,” call sign “Waaaaaaa,” Avery William Rothschild was making his presence known as the new tiny man of the house. Since his arrival at 4:01 a.m., July 7th, I had not slept (both eyes closed) for longer than 45 minutes, taken a shower that involved things like soap and razors, eaten a meal still warm while sitting in an actual chair, or worn clothes not decorated in some sort of baby bodily fluid. Still Jeff and I had managed to form some semblance of a routine that went something like this:
8 p.m. Swaddle baby and place baby in bassinet for bed time. Baby laughs at our feeble attempts to thwart his plans of crying long into the night. 8:07 Baby cries. Feed baby, change baby, rock baby into semi-unconscious state. 8:45 Walk baby to bassinet to gently lay him back down. Once I am within four feet of bassinet, baby’s eyes spring open. “What are you doing?” he demands in his little baby voice. “Nothing,” I laugh nervously, “Nothing at all. I was just going to walk you around a bit…possibly sway you back and forth. Like this. See? Ha ha. Go back to sleep. I plan on standing here all night.” Then he does that “I’m watching you sign,” where he points two little baby fingers at his eyeballs and then at me. This cycle repeats until about 7 a.m., when Jeff wakes to find me half-asleep, rocking away, mumbling semi-coherent lullabies or possibly crying. He then pries Avery from my fingers and replaces him with a decaf latte. Decaf.
Now, Jeff is not a coffee drinker. He doesn’t know a cappuccino from a pair of Chinos, but every morning he diligently drives to our corner coffee shop, bleary-eyed and disheveled, to buy me a decaf latte so that I can desperately cling to some thin strands of sanity. This particular morning however, the 72 hours of no sleep had caught up with him, and I think he only managed to mumble something like “Latte. Wife. Baby cry. Need Latte,” and then held his hands out full of change as a single tear rolled down his cheek.
I should have recognized the look in Avery’s eyes. It was the same look I used to have in college at 4 a.m. after washing five No Doz down with a pot of coffee, trying to study my feeble attempts at class notes and dismayed to find that the political climate of 17th Century England was not smiley face plus palm tree. It was the strung-out look of caffeine overdose…minus, of course, the creases of worry about graduating on time. (Which I did. And he will too. Or else what am I doing paying for all those classes if you’re not even going to show up and…oh right. Just practicing.)
Until that dreadful day, I had never heard screams so shrill and long, piercing and prolonged. Jeff and I paced the floors, rocked and swayed and shushed our brains out, looking at each other in shared misery. After poring over baby books, the internet, calling our parents and pediatrician and stopping random strangers on the street, we narrowed it down to a few possible suspects: colic, bronchiolitis, absolutely nothing, or gas. Finally, spying the empty coffee cup on the counter I said in desperation, “You did get decaf, right?”
“I…think so,” he stammered. Which translated to: “Oh nooo! I did not! And now she will end my life. Which actually might not be so bad because at least it will be quiet.”
After we diagnosed the problem as caffeine overdose and not some rare fatal disease, we were able to regain our composure and somehow make it to eleven o’clock that night, when Avery finally fell asleep. Lying there in the dark, too exhausted to sleep, we marveled at how even after all that, we could not get enough of this tiny, toothless wonder who demands our every attention every waking moment. Smiling, we agreed we were lucky and then lay there in complete silence, gripping each other with trepidation and tensing in utter fear at the faintest hint of movement from his crib.
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Sarah Schaffner, MFA, is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. While humorous essays are one of her specialties, she also writes feature length films and contributes to national pet and lifestyle magazines.
I’m baaaack. I have emerged from the hazy fog of sleeplessness—the dark and quiet cave of the nursery—long enough to give you this potentially life-saving warning. Take heed all you other newbie moms out there, stumbling around with your eyes half-open, spit-up in your unwashed hair, not knowing what day of the week it is. […]