If you're new to the No Move is Good Move saga, you'll find part one here, part two here, and part three here.
To add to my mounting panic over our nest-less existence, those were the months that marked the beginning of the end of Sophie’s career as a baby who slept like, well, a baby.
From her second month of life, Sophie sleep in her crib, every night, from 6 PM to 6 AM, and that was the problem: We had it too good. “This is it,” Alex and I said, congratulating ourselves during quiet, unhurried dinners, “we’ve got it made. She’s a sleeper, thanks to our stellar parenting and undeniable good looks.”
We moved to Boulder. Two weeks later, we went to Mexico. Two months after that, Sophie broke her collarbone on the babysitter’s watch, an episode that disturbed us much more than the bout of pneumonia she caught about as soon as her tiny bones mended. I would put her in her crib and stroke her head, either for an hour or until I’d rubbed off a good portion of her hair—whichever came first—and try and make dinner before she was able to figure out that she had accidentally fallen asleep. There would be night terrors sometime between midnight and one, and at least three other teary awakenings on a bad night. She would ask for—demand—milk each time she woke, and by morning, had drunk enough to add up to a volume that justified keeping a cow on the premises. And as if there was something a mere doctor could do about it, Alex and every relative I have implored me ask our pediatrician for ideas.
“You moved?” asked the pediatrician, as if he’d never heard such nonsense, “Oh, well.” He wrote the word “moved” in Sophie’s chart, and said,“That’ll do it.” He told me that a move can mess up a baby’s sleep schedule for as long as six months, and so can an illness, an injury, and a big change in routine, like starting day care, which she did in between bouts of the Bird Flu. Accepting that we’d sent our daughter’s schedule straight to hell in a basket bearing a nice pink bow, I told Alex to buck up. “We’re never sleeping again.”
Of course, I was wrong. We would sleep, but with a child in between us who apparently was dreaming that she was executing a triple axel toe-loop combo. In exasperation one morning, Alex looked down at the two of us in bed, Sophie occupying ¾ of the king-sized bed by lying diagonally, her feet in my face, and said, “This must end.”
We all deal with challenges differently. I usually hide under the covers of whatever bed is available with a box of strawberry Pop Tarts (frosted). Alex threatens to help, usually in the most condescending way possible, which is what he did the night he suggested, “Do you want me to read a book on this stuff or something?”
“Sure, go nuts,” I said. I went to my office and retrieved a half-dozen books with so many bookmarks and wrinkled Post-It Notes thrust between the pages that they resembled little paper porcupines. “Which philosophy do you want to subscribe to?” I asked him. “There’s Ferberizing, there’s the almighty American Academy of Pediatrics.” I tossed them onto the coffee table as I summarized. “On one end of the spectrum, there’s Dr. Weisbluth and his all-cry-all-the-time approach and the Sears clan at the other, who openly come right out and ask you, ‘What’s up your ass? Jesus. Just take the kid to bed with you.’” I shrugged and said, “I’m paraphrasing, of course.”
It was out of the kind of hand-wringing, hair-pulling, crazy-making, all-encompassing desperation that only severe and extended sleep deprivation can cause that I’d turned to the experts in the first place. Knowing that they’re just trying to help while they make a good living, I know that there’s a problem with relying too much on them. The problem with experts is that you can’t really call them up at 3:24 AM to say, “The best thing about not sleeping is that Bosom Buddies is on now.“ The problem with experts is that they may or may not have changed their minds about something they’ve written between having written it and having decided that maybe it would be better just to give the kid a big slug of whiskey.
The problem with experts is that, while I’m listening to the second half of an hour’s worth of screaming and crying that will no doubt escalate to the kind of wailing that eventually culminates in a vomiting jag, the good doctor is probably in his study, deciding what to bring to the next Rotary Club potluck. Just as he’s asking the shadowy figure of his wife in the doorway, “Do you think Swedish meatballs are too salty?” I’m wondering if it would be wrong to just put my head in the oven, next to the dinner that’s four hours late.
And then, of course, the problem with experts is that sometimes I just want to do things my own way. Because sometimes, unlike a certain ’80 sit-com, I like to think I know exactly who the boss is. (Of course, I’m almost always wrong.) Bossing aside, I do believe that ninety percent of the time, we know what to do with the crises in our lives, no matter how big or how small they are. We can trust our instincts, we can trust ourselves. Although she would win any day of the week in a cage match against Major Houlihan from MASH, and although I often wonder if astronauts can see the stick up her ass from space, the pediatrician’s nurse took me aside on Sophie’s fifth day of life, and told me that she had some advice about advice. She poked me square in the chest and said, “Now that the baby’s born, everyone wants to give you advice, but the best advice is already built-in. It’s in you.” She was telling me what I had already concluded after years of near-disastrous dates and relationships and experiences. Those experiments in substituting my judgment with someone else’s have served me well in the form of painful lessons that hold up over time. Nurse Ratchet with the Rave home perm reminded me that there’s hard-won wisdom in me, and damned if I was going to forsake it because I’d spend $24.95 on some yahoo’s thesis.
To be continued, unless you beg me to stop.