Sunday, July 26, 2009

Good night, and good luck getting any sleep

As we turned out the lights to go to sleep last night, my wife Kara turned to me and said, “Good nap.”

“Good nap, Babe,” I replied. Since our month-old son Evan has come home from the hospital, ensuring lots of nocturnal family togetherness, we’ve decided to retire the phrase “good night” for now. “Good nap” and “see you in a few” have become its logical replacements.

As a lifelong aficionado of sleep, this aspect of parenthood was always the one I had dreaded the most. When Kara was pregnant and exhausted all the time, we were getting about nine hours of sleep a night, with the only minor difference being that she had to get up to go to the bathroom every twenty minutes while I drooled on in ignorant bliss.

“Are you worried that we’re getting too much sleep?” I would call to her from the bed in the morning, noticing just a little too late the faint whistling of a hurtling hairdryer.

Of course, nobody goes into parenthood expecting to get more sleep, just like nobody visits New York City expecting to save money. But it’s still a bit of a shock when you get rung up for your first six-dollar slice of pizza.

Back when Evan was still in the hospital, gaining weight for his homecoming, Kara and I were ramping up for his arrival by waking up every three hours for Kara’s breast-pumping sessions, under the orders of the hospital’s lactation consultant, a soft-spoken but stern woman who ruled the maternity ward with an iron mammary.

“Every three hours, more if you can handle it. And keep the pump working as hard as you can tolerate,” she advised as she turned the dial on the breast pump further to the right, making Kara wince. The consultant reminded me of the six-fingered torturer from The Princess Bride. I kept expecting her to say, “I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain” or “I’ve just sucked one year of your life away.”

Kara and I were thrilled when a different lactation consultant offered us a hint of leniency. “Oh, no, you don’t need to wake yourselves up,” she said, and we started to give her a high-five. “Just pump at about midnight, then again at 4 am,” she continued, transforming the high-five into a synchronized head-scratch.

After she left, I said, “Oh, what a relief! I thought we were going to have to keep waking ourselves up. Instead, you can just pump when we get up before dawn to unmoor our lobster boat for the day.”

In any other situation, if someone were to tell you that you don’t need to wake yourself up, but that you need to perform a half-hour activity at midnight and again at 4am, that person would probably be auditioning for an absurdist comedy troupe.

Despite my whining, all that waking up was good practice for the main event. Since Evan has been home, Kara and I have been feeling surprisingly good, even with the tiny amount of sleep we’ve been getting. We’ve theorized that your body knows it isn’t going to get any sleep with a baby around, so it doesn’t bother punishing you with fatigue.

Or perhaps nobody needs as much sleep as they think they do. In high school, I used to have a similar theory that cars would keep running just fine without any gas.

“It’s just a conspiracy the oil companies dreamed up,” I would tell people. “You don’t actually see the gas going into your car, do you? They just waft that gas smell into the air so you think something’s happening in there.”

In the coming months, Kara and I are likely to find out just how long it’s possible to run on empty.

You can tuck Mike Todd in at


  1. Soon you will find, that sleep is over-rated, and that the milk in the cupboard, and the the keys in the fridge are all normal. That a 5 minute shower is all the rage, and picking things up with your toes becomes 2nd hand, because your hands are always full with a child.

    Then, suddenly, they are sleeping through the night, and you wake up, wondering what is wrong, and you check on them 425 times, and they are blissfully sleeping, and you still walk around in a zombie state....yeah, good times. :-)

  2. You both may as well put the pillows away for the next 30 years and give them to Memphis.

  3. You'll find that you will get into a groove - a routine that should make things a little easier. Of course, just when you get used to the "routine" Even will decide to mix it up a bit, just to throw you off. :) I'm not going to lie. It's hard. But it's worth it. And it's shorter than it seems at the time. All the best to you all!

  4. "lobster boat" ha ha you're funny

  5. tims_mom -- I sure hope so! Right now, it seems like sleep is rated just about right.

    Loon -- Ha. 30 years? That's rough news. I'll be old enough to be his grandpa by then.

    ZenMom -- That's nice to hear. Everyone says the time flies, but man, it sure wasn't flying anywhere last night. He sleeps great, except from midnight to 5am.

    PerlDad -- I learned it by watching you.