There are times when you are appalled at the ridiculous lengths you go to in aid of keeping your baby asleep. And there are other times when it seems you're living out a horror film, with false leads, zombies, wrong turns and spine-chilling suspense building to one of two fates: safe passage through that hall of mirrors called the nursery, or capture at the hands of your zombie son.
The bun was struggling with mighty unseen forces last night; as soon as he corked off, he began writhing and sobbing inconsolably. Knowing that teeth take no holiday, I suspected that their constant throbbing was probably making him pretty cross, and it was considerably harder getting him back to sleep the second time. Between him ripping my hair out and throwing his taut body toward the floor (it's like wrestling a badger when he's really struggling), I think I came away with a few battle scars.
But eventually he slept again. Things were looking good, and I became guardedly optimistic about getting to sleep myself.
After I settled into a pleasant reverie, a dog howled in the distance.
(Well, not the distance, really, more like next to my window. But it provides a hint of foreshadowing if you envision the neighbor's annoying Dachshund with bloody fangs and bloodshot eyes, barking madly at the moon.
Or the back door. Whatever.)
SO there I lay, staring into the void (actually, an incomprehensible book about string theory called The Elegant Universe, which as far as I'm concerned might as well be the void), the clock on the night stand ticking off the moments of delicious sleep stolen by the tiny hound of hell. Slowly, the mists of slumber enveloped me again and I dozed, as the book tilted gently, gently from my hands....
THWAP! It smacked the floor with a deadening thump.
Sleep snatched from my gentle grasp again! I continued to read about the other seven dimensions in the universe, which apparently resemble dinky doughnuts and are wrapped up in tiny pieces of vibrating string that used to be called particles but are now just confusing.
The bun began keening softly down the hall. I waited. He stopped. I resumed my reading about a universe which has numbers like "ten trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion times the Planck length" attached to it . The bun rather unconvincingly began to whimper. I waited. He paused. I resumed my non-comprehension of the quantum world as I scratched my butt through eleven dimensions and my flannel jammies.
At last he yelped the cry of the distraught, and I left cosmic weirdness to soothe the bun. And I rocked him and fed him and held him, but he just couldn't relax. Finally, I set him gently back into his crib and turned to leave, when out of the corner of my eye, a shape rose from the mattress and moaned. In the shadowy dark, lit only by the cross-hatching of the dim streetlight through his blinds, I perceived the creature rising towards me. I leaped back to calm the beast by sitting on the floor next to the crib, and stuck my hand through the slats to woo him back into a horizontal position. As I grabbed his foot to reassure him, he flopped like limp doll to the mattress.
I waited some more.
I began to climb to my feet to make my escape. The floor creaked.
The beast sat up.
I sat back down, thrusting my hand back in the crib, pleading with the gods of bun-slumber to let him rest peacefully, don't let him eat my brains, please, anything, just...
He flopped back down again.
I waited, lying on the floor next to his crib, trapped. Minutes passed. I peered into the crib, rising like a periscope from the deep. He sat up again and stared straight into my soul, got up on all fours and began to snuffle. I ducked as quick as I could back into my foxhole, hoping that he would think I was a dream, and began plotting my escape over the less creaky floorboards in his room.
I made a break for it, rising quickly to my feet from my rather undignified position beneath the crib. I tiptoed along the path I had devised of fewer squeaks, bobbing and weaving from board to board. I was a foot from the door. I could feel the air of freedom, I could almost breathe deeply again. I turned to take one last look when out of the dark rose a shape, slowly, pulling himself along the edge of the crib in his drunken baby-walk, limping towards me, staring with foggy unfocused eyes, reaching for me, reaching to grab me and pull me back...
I froze. He reached out, moaning, grabbing at the air for me, and I hoped my hideous blue bathrobe would provide camouflage against the backdrop of Clifford the Big Red Dog staring blindly into the dark. Maybe if I stayed perfectly still, he would tire after realizing that I was just an enormous mom-shaped statue that came to visit him in the night, and he would eventually lie back down, soothed by the maternal apparition. But the zombie-bun remained, lowing like a very small flesh-eater, reaching, clutching at the air...
Finally, I just plunked him on his butt and walked out.
I needed sleep, dammit, and no baby zombie was going to stand between me and my sanity.*
• • •
Now we're into the next evening, no smarter, no more well rested. My husband idealistically soothing him to sleep, once, twice, three times...
*Fat chance of that happening. I was still awake pondering the inscrutable universe far into a chapter called "Quantum Geometry." It's probably a bad sign when a chapter like that hasn't put me to sleep.