I knew something had flipped when I complained to my mother-in-law that my sleep deprivation was worse than my wife's, that at least Lucy was buoyed by the mother hormone—the "ectoplasm," I said. "That's from Ghostbusters," she told me.
"I mean the oxycontin."
"That's a narcotic."
Even now I can't recall the hormone, the one that bonds new mothers to their children, and I'm too tired to look it up.
I never used to enjoy sleep. Not recreationally, the way some people do. As a kid, I couldn't nap, couldn't turn off my brain. As an adult, it was worse: sleep was a grudging obligation—if there were an IV for it, I would have hooked myself up.
But since Pepin came home, I've never gone to bed so often and slept so little. We were waking her every three hours at first, round the clock. And I'd just gotten used to the idea of falling asleep at 8:30 and 11:30 and 2:30 and 5:30, and then we were told we could go to on-demand feeding. Which sounds like progress until you realize you're no longer on your schedule, you're on hers. And the girl doesn't have an alarm clock.
So now I have to fall asleep the way you might play dead in front of a bear, just fall over and hope it works. I tell myself that if I'm tired I'll fall asleep, but there's no guarantee that it will happen in bed and not while I'm merging onto I-394.
I've been so tired that I've gotten up and walked downstairs only to remember that I wear glasses, that in fact I really need glasses, and they're not on my face. I've been so tired that the only thing I could think to do with the moldy soup in the refrigerator was to throw it outside in the snow.
There doesn't seem to be any way out of this at the moment. My choices are few. I could stay up and do stuff: learn the bagpipes, invent an electric car, comment on newspaper stories. I could take oxycontin. Or I could learn from Pepin when she's sitting on my chest in the dark after the wee-hour bottle feeding, her eyes wide open. She's nocturnal too, but she's quiet about it. She has no agenda. She has all the time in the world, and seems to know that everything will happen that's supposed to happen, including sleep, and no reason not to believe it.
(Photo: Pepin the nocturnal baby, at oblivion o'clock in the morning, heedless of her dad's desire to sleep until 2018.)