“Somewhere in a lonely hotel room
There's a guy starting to realize
That eternal fate has turn it's back on him.
It's 2 A.M.”
—Golden Earring, Twilight Zone
She quiets down and I think I'm okay to lay her back down in her crib, the one that's been in our room shortly after being born in our room, but she cries yet again. I resume my march, cutting a groove in the carpet under my feet. It's like I'm marching back and forth through mud and grass in the soupy darkness. Faint yellow light from the streetlamps behind our house seeps in through the blackout shades, casting just enough of it upon her pinched, wailing face.
Back and forth, back and forth. Then some sleep. Then back and forth, back and forth. Then a little more sleep. I was a wreck. There's a point when experiencing sleep deprivation, even after a day or two, where a darkness settles on the soul like radioactive ash. Basic decision-making becomes compromised. Moodiness increases dramatically. I simply felt like reheated shit.
And you want to break things. Any things. Three days earlier, the Mama had been up for weeks on end with Bryce, and although I helped get up with her some of the time, and to feed her when I could with a bottle of breast milk or formula, Bryce didn't take very well to it compared to Beatrice, and the disrupted sleep-cycle continued.
Yes, we were all in the same bedroom together -- me, the Mama and Bryce -- but the Mama is the one who got up nearly every single night. This was early in 2011, when Bryce was still an infant and not sleeping at all.
Finally the Mama developed a Jack Torrance aura (the crazy father from Stephen King's The Shining), one that was all red aglow spilling freely from eyes. She simply glared indirectly at me and said:
"I'm sleeping in the garage guest room for a few nights. You have to take care of her."
And then she was gone, and I was in the bedroom alone with the crying Bryce. Every two hours at night for a few days.
You really do go a little (or a lot) batshit crazy when you're up with your lovely offspring; you almost want to eat your young. The sleeping or lack thereof is a spectrum as well -- sometimes the newborns and toddlers sleep pretty well (Beatrice) overall, and sometimes they do not (Bryce). Either way you're up with them, trying to figure out how to deal with them, and how to cope with your primitive fight-or-flight response when sleep deprived while doing your best to stand erect as a responsible parent. And it can create chasms between the parents, chasms that impact communication and intimacy. That was something we weren't going to let happen no matter what.
Nearly a year later there was another bout of sleepless Bryce nights, and ever since there have been those nights when one of the girls gets sick or has a nightmare and comes in to wake us up. Usually the Mama first, until she lovingly convinces them after a few times in a row that I love you, Sweetie, but Mommy needs to sleep, so please wake up Daddy if you have a bad dream.
You know, those kind of supportive, double-edged messages of love. But when we're woken up over and over and one of us has to get up -- usually the Mama -- then a little bit of our souls slip away. It doesn't mean we don't love our daughters any less. Quite the contrary: we love them even more when they're scared or sad and will do whatever we have to do to quell their fears.
That said, there's also the added pleasure of a loving couple sleeping together in the same beds for 18 years, where every detail of each other's sleeping habits are sacred knowledge. Biblical even. Knowledge kept in our Ark of the Marriage Convenant along with our vows, the love poems and notes, the wham bams and all in betweens, the passing gas, the snoring, the pulling sheets off the other, the getting up from bed like aftershocks from a major earthquake because of having to pee or having a belly ache or getting up with the girls -- and so much more.
Six years ago the Mama wanted us to get twin beds. In the same room and technically pushed together, but still, two separate beds. So we could both sleep better. I balked at the idea. I was even a little offended. This is what it's come to? Soulmates trapped in sleep hell and relegated to twin beds? To never touch again! No way, not over my gassy not-quite-dead old body!
The benefits of regular sleep and the now of every beat and breath have overwhelmed my fear of distance and the twin-bed chasm. Better health, mood, better sex. Yes, that last part. And so much more. So now we have two wonderfully sound twin beds, pushed together within one inch, and dressed as though we were one. Two nights in we've never slept better.
The only chasm between us now is sleep. And that we are thankful for.