Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Daughter is a Vampire

Belle never slept. As a tiny newborn she never slept. As a toddler she never slept. All through grade school, middle school, high school, she never slept. I don't count college, because I don't even KNOW anybody who did much sleeping there. She's an adult now, and she still doesn't sleep.

Most little babies sleep their lives away. Not Belle. She put in maybe five hours in a 24-hour period. Maybe. And it wasn't in a row, either. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, etc. It never changed. It still hasn't changed, except that now she will sleep a few hours in a row, at night. Sleeping through the night? I wouldn't know. And what are these "naps" I would hear people talk about?

But when she was tiny, her lifestyle nearly killed me. I'm basically a slug, and I like to get a few hours in a row every once in a while. I didn't have time to do anything when she was tiny. I didn't have time to shower, or eat, or put on daytime clothes, or run the sweeper, or cook, or anything. All I ever did was talk to my baby, and sing to her, and read aloud to her, and hold her. And hold her some more. It got easier when my cousin gave me her baby carriers; one for the front and one for the back. After that, I wore her. Constantly. I wore her, and she wore me out.

(For years after she outgrew those carriers, I still swayed back and forth whenever I stood at the sink washing dishes. Old habits die hard.)

There aren't really many activities you can do with a wide-awake baby hanging off you. A wide-awake baby who demanded every second of attention, and who knew exactly when you weren't paying attention. She was born knowing how to suck all the oxygen out of a room. She was born in the spotlight.

The books told me to put her to bed in a darkened room and walk away. My mom, and all my friends, told me to do the same. I tried that. Did you know that a baby can scream for HOURS without drawing a breath? Belle could scream solid from midnight to six a.m. Other peoples’ babies resigned themselves to the inevitable and eventually went to sleep. She didn’t. She never did. She never got hoarse, either. She just screamed like an abandoned baby banshee. I couldn't have that. What if I damaged her, emotionally? I was her slave. She was my master. It wasn't like reasoning with a child. She was just a little baby, and she was in charge, and she was winning. She never wanted to sleep, so why should she let me?

And soon I would have to go back to work. The school year was going to start, and how could I teach all day with absolutely no sleep?

I was so sleep-deprived, I was getting dangerous. I hadn't slept for more than a few minutes in ages.

I went to Belle's pediatrician and asked him for something to put in her formula, to make her sleep. Yes. I asked my baby's doctor for a drug. I was going to slip her a mickey. And I was looking forward to it. I am a mother who slipped her baby a mickey.

However, the doctor and I had reckoned without Belle. I slipped her the mickey. She fell asleep. I put her in her baby bed. I put on my nightgown. I brushed my teeth. I took a bath. She was still asleep. I almost cried from sheer joy.

About an hour later, I heard her crying. The doctor had assured me that if she woke up, the drug would help her go back to sleep before she could jerk her eyes open and start contemplating the day. Wrong.

The split-second she awoke, she was standing up in her bed screaming to be picked up and played with. But she was groggy from the drug, and furious that she wasn't completely alert, and she jumped up and down so hard she bounced over the bed's bars and toppled onto the floor, an inch from my frantic reach. I never slipped her a mickey again.

I accepted the fact that I, a lazy slug of a woman, had somehow given birth to a Tasmanian devil, a perpetual motion machine that never slowed down, ever.

How she managed this during her little phase of eating nothing but ice chips and banana pieces, I'll never know.

Surprisingly, she was never hyperactive, ADHD or any other letters of the alphabet. She was just so interested in the world at large, that to doze off and miss anything infuriated her, and she never seemed to NEED much sleep. She could sit still. She was just awake all the time.

I learned how to teach school with no sleep. I had to.

Many weekends, I would drop Belle off at my mother's so I could sleep.

She still doesn't sleep much.

She's seldom home long enough to sleep. She's on the go constantly. Gadding and traveling are her 'things.'

Why am I sitting here tonight, remembering my beautiful golden-haired babygirl curlylocks? There's a very good reason.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful Belle.

(It was actually on the 15th, but Momy is a slug.)

I love you, baby girl. And some day I hope you have a baby JUST. LIKE. YOU. For more than one reason.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:33 PM | |


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