As followers of the Usual Poll know, I’ve been sick for a little while. Whatever illness I had laid me out pretty effectively–so much so that I missed two posts–but the low point of the entire experience really affected my wife more than me. She had a particularly rough time a couple of nights ago.
It started as we lay in bed listening to our daughter on the baby monitor. She’s old enough not to face any real sleep dangers and loud enough to let us know of any other problems, but she’s still our baby. She’ll be lucky if we don’t make her take the baby monitor receiver with her when she moves out. We would stand by her crib and watch her sleep instead, but we’re not horses so we would eventually fall over when we fell asleep ourselves. Also that might be a little creepy.
Either way, however exaggerated our watchfulness might seem on normal nights, it‘s restrained compared to when our daughter is sick. On the night of this story, she sounded like Darth Vader trying to breath chocolate syrup, so we attended the baby monitor as though awaiting a theophany.
Pretty early in the evening, her congestion woke her. I tried to comfort her back to sleep, but the syrup Vader experience had left her wanting a more extended arrangement. After a brief consultation with my wife, we decided to bring her into bed with us. It seemed like the perfect plan: she would have her parents for safety, and we wouldn’t have to bother hugging the baby monitor anymore.
Of course it was a actually terrible plan. We have a certain stubborn thickness that prevents our learning from mistakes. We know better than to bring our daughter into bed with us. Sure babies are cute when they sleep, but ours is also violent and greedy. She’ll climb all over us, cry about whether she’s covered or uncovered, and finally try to push us out of bed so she can have all the space. She’s strong enough to do it, too.
I’m going to diplomatically gloss over how much that description can also sound like my wife, and instead focus on how I slept through most of it. I had taken some very gentle sleep aids. My wife wasn’t so lucky.
Thus, while our daughter tried to knead us both into a comfortable shape, I slept. When she decided to absently throw herself over my body so that my wife had to dive across the bed to catch her before she fell to the floor, I slept. When she sat up and started kicking us for some unfathomable reason, I slept. Eventually, frazzled to the point of desperation, my beleaguered wife wrested me from sleep and begged me to take our daughter into another room for a while.
The sad thing is that we’ve tried the “bringing the baby into bed” tactic enough times to have a standardized contingency plan for when it inevitably fails: I take her out to my wife’s recliner in the living room, where I can sleep and hold her securely. The recliner is wife-sized not me-sized, so the arms of the chair help me hold my own arms in a cradling position. These are the sorts of tricks that fatherhood has taught me: how to do things while asleep.
However, on this particular night because I was sick, my wife felt bad for having ejected me from bed. Also, and perhaps more importantly, she didn’t want my sickness to wake me up in the middle of the night while I was under a toddler and incapable of responding. I’m pretty sure that her primary concern in such an event would be the toddler, but just to cover all my bases, I’ll mention that she’s also really fond of that chair.
In contrast, we both hate our couch. It’s been broken for years. At one point it was a fancy piece of furniture with two built-in recliners. Now it’s a twisted mass of angry steel that’s declared some sort of blood feud with my bottom. Technically I guess it’s still angry steel with two recliners, but one of them no longer retracts and the other one collapses if you try to use it. In practical terms it’s angry steel with an attached ottoman and a tempting booby trap.
Our daughter though, unlike her parents, loves our couch. She claimed the permanently extended footrest as her own private addition, in fact. The decision made a lot more sense before she outgrew it–I admit to laying her on it for more than a few naps as a baby so this is probably all my fault–but she’s stubbornly devoted.
Thus, when my wife followed me out to the living room and offered to swap roles–even though I turned her down and explained that I only wanted the chance to use the restroom–our daughter wriggled her way out onto the footrest and fell asleep as soon as she and my wife lay down on the couch together.
I returned a moment later, but we weren’t going to risk waking her again. My wife just agreed to sleep beside her until she woke up on her own. Judging from the rest of the night, we figured it would only be about half an hour. We didn’t understand that our daughter found our couch more comforting than she found either of us. She slept there for the next several hours.
This caused two obvious problems for my poor wife, over and above consignment to the devil couch. Least importantly, her maternal interpretation of the footrest was disquieting. While it was true that our daughter chose to sleep unrestrained on a questionable patch of fabric about a foot and a half (45 cm) above the ground, my wife understood it as something more like this:
Much more significantly, because our daughter outgrew the footrest about a year ago, she didn’t fit entirely on it; she needed to find a place to put her feet. She chose my wife’s neck. In fact, in her little sleepy toddler mind, she probably felt satisfied and soothed by discovering a warm nook so nearby.
Surprisingly, my wife’s description of the experience didn’t mention either satisfaction or soothing. Instead it focused on exhaustion and injustice.
My wife was the only one of us who didn’t get at least a few good hours of sleep that night. I woke up a bit confused–I had no idea how I had ended up in the recliner–but that was the morning I started to feel better.
Eventually, my wife may forgive me.