Saturday, September 10, 2016


I’m not sure that it is entirely necessary for the human body to prepare for motherhood so far in advance.  Certain things, perhaps, make sense: producing milk, for example, is complicated, and thus one is not surprised to learn that there is a casual sort of ramping up to the big day.  Likewise, pushing a five-to-ten pound human being out of one’s normally self-contained body seems like it should require a considerable amount of muscular practice; hence the reason for those delightful Braxton-Hicks contractions, also dubbed “practice contractions”.

But I would have thought that sleeping at night got a pass.  I know, of course, that one can’t really bank sleep the way one banks cord blood.  If I manage an extra hour each night for nine months, it’s not as if those 275 hours will be available to draw on when the rubber hits the road.  And yet it would be so nice to enjoy these last couple of months of the parenting equivalent of irresponsible bachelordom.  But no; no: no matter how much weariness comes with the territory of carrying around an extra twenty plus pounds, there is no guarantee that sleep will knit up your raveled sleeves.  If decreased space for fluids and increased softness of joint don’t get you, there’s always …

… your ears?  Yes, your ears.  You see, parents tend to sleep lighter after they’ve become parents than before.  Makes evolutionary/design sense, no?  Being able to tell when your offspring are in danger, in trouble, or just plain hungry is a useful skill; if you neglect to notice this once too often, you may not have offspring for very much longer.

But did you know that mother’s ears actually start tuning to potentially dangerous noises even before the baby arrives?

I didn’t either.  I admit, though, that it makes logical sense that moving from one place to another would trigger this adaptation.

Did you further know that this tendency to alarm at noises is actually beyond rational control?

Me neither.  Though once again, moving to a new place makes the irrationality seem a whole lot more rational, seeing as how we don’t really know the area yet.

And did you further know that even having a clean conscience, a brain attuned to logical probabilities, and a protective husband can’t actually put you back to sleep right away?  Because adrenaline.  Once you open those gates, baby, it’s not going back.  You can practice labor-and-delivery relaxation techniques all night long (well, for an hour or two anyway) and have no tangible results to show for it.  By which I mean, everything is still tangible: the mattress, the sheets, the pillows, the outline of the door(s) … and the noises that started it all.

There have been frog noises; bird noises; probably cricket noises; neighbors-trying-to-be-quiet noises; and mysterious, still-unresolved noises that come (I hope and sincerely believe, but it’s only eight o’clock in the evening at the moment, which makes optimism easier) from the kitchen.  One of my favorites to date comes from the (truly most necessary) air conditioning unit, which switches into high gear at regular intervals with a sound that is exactly like the cha-chick of a shotgun shell being clicked into place.  (Having shot skeet, I should know.)

But my real favorite was the night the boxes fell down.  You see, when you move, there are a lot of boxes; and when there’s a chance you may move again soon, and you had to beg for these from a couple of different stores, and you’re an introvert who hates asking for anything, even when the Barnes and Noble employees are super-nice about it—well, you’re not going to throw those boxes away.  No, you flatten them, and then in due course and the fullness of time (i.e., many days later than was actually necessary) they are taken upstairs to a closet and deposited on a shelf.

And then, that night, you are awakened from a not-so-deep slumber and a moderately terrifying to dream to the sound of stuff falling.

At first you think that it was just one of those vivid dreams, and the sound wasn’t real.  But you’re very much awake now.  (See: above: adrenaline.)

And then it happens again.

And it occurs to you that it might be the boxes, but you’re not sure; and anyway, it sounded like it came from downstairs, and could it be burglars, but there’s no way they would make that much noise, and maybe the house is haunted, and you really should have gotten a priest to bless it right away, but could anyone really have died here because the development is less than ten years old, and …

And for about ten minutes nothing happens, and then there’s the noise again, and it does NOT sound like boxes falling in a closet, because it is VERY loud; but it’s GOT to be the boxes in the closet, because that’s the only rational explanation, and you are a rational human being.

Then you decide that if the three of you are going to get murdered in bed, at least you’ll all be murdered together, which is better than some of the alternatives.

At this point, you decide that you’re not actually being all that rational, and that you either need to (1) get up and see if it really is the boxes, or (2) wake up your husband and tell him what’s going on.

Since (1) is obviously untenable, you go with (2).  He is sympathetic, if somewhat sleepy, and asks if he should go see if it is the boxes.  And—this is how you know that you’re pregnant, because this is truly irrational—you say no, because (out loud) you’re know it’s just the boxes, but really, secretly, you don’t want him to get killed by burglars without you.

And then the boxes are entirely and one hundred percent quiet for the next five minutes as your husband falls back asleep.  In fact, they remain entirely silent for the next 1,427-odd breaths which you take before you and your shattered psyche fall asleep.  Boxes are like that: quiet.  Nefarious.  Tricksy.

Anyway, it was the boxes.  There are no burglars in the area (that we know of) and the house still hasn’t been blessed (although we really need to get that done).  And I know a lot more about the hormones that make pregnant women sleep more lightly than usual than I did before this happened.

I’m not sure there is a moral or a philosophical reflection to go with this story.  Then again, perhaps that is the moral: not everything gets a moral, a diagnosis, or an explanation, especially things related to children.  (Also, boxes.)  That, and maybe patience: there is nothing quite like the frustration of losing sleep over something that you know is nothing.  But quite a lot of parenting in the early stages is just that: lots of fusses about nothings, and you can’t explain to your irrational infant that really, he just needs to burb and everything will be fine.  Perhaps, all things considered, it’s good to have a little practice dealing with oneself in the same irrational, midnight-of-the-brain state.

P.S. We still haven’t put the boxes back up.  At this point I figure they’ve reached some sort of disheveled state of equilibrium halfway between the shelf and the floor.  We’re not using the closet right not anyway.  Why would I mess with a perfectly satisfactory situation?

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