I had a sinus infection last week. The mother of all snot slugs was living inside my head midway between my nose and my right ear, and she was having babies as fast as she possibly could. I could feel them pressing on my teeth, jaw, ear, and temple. Sometimes I still can. But I’m down from eight Tylenol a day to four, so I think she’s past her reproductive apex here.
The twins were sick last week, too. They had snotty noses and nasty hack-up-a-lung coughs. Both of which kept waking them up at night. Which meant I was waking up at night.
One night – they all sort of run together after a while, you know? – Ben was up at ten, at midnight, at two, and again at four. If I’d needed to take medication every two hours, this would have been a quite useful schedule, but alas, I was only allowed two Tylenol every six hours. (I was also told to get lots of rest. Clearly the people who advise such things do not live with young children.)
At four a.m., I dragged myself out of bed – again – and into the kids’ room, where Ben was lying in his crib coughing and crying. It was really quite pitiful, and if I hadn’t been up twice already I might have looked upon him with compassion. As it was, I was feeling just a smidge annoyed with him.
Still, I’m his mom. So I shoved my irritation down, picked him up, and offered him some water. He spit it all down his front – and mine. Okay, so obviously he didn’t want water.
I sat in the rocking chair, held him close, and rocked. Maybe we could both fall asleep this way. He shrieked. He tried to climb my head. He pulled my hair. Apparently this was not going to work out the way I’d hoped.
I stood, bounced him in my arms, sang to him softly (well, as softly as one can sing through gritted teeth). He kept crying, kept grabbing my hair and pulling it. I kept bouncing him and singing. He slowly quieted. When he was almost asleep, I put him back in his crib and covered him with a blanket, patted his bum a time or two.
He woke up and started wailing. My bum patting turned quickly to bum whacking. Thump thump thump. Go to sleep, Ben. Please. For the love of God, just go to sleep. He cried harder. I whacked his bum harder, faster, hoping it would get him to sleep sooner.
It didn’t. He cried harder, louder. Shut up! For the love of God, just SHUT! UP! Pretty soon I was thumping his bum so hard and so fast that Doug heard it. Or maybe he just heard the wailing baby. Or maybe I was starting to sob, too. It’s possible. Whatever the reason, he came into the kids’ room at a near run.
“Hey,” he said, “I’m here. I’ve got it. Go on back to bed.”
I crept back to our bedroom, crawled under the covers, and pulled the pillow over my face. That helped drown out the sound of Ben’s wailing, but it couldn’t help shut out the dueling voices in my head.
Voice 1: I suck. I’m a terrible mother.
Voice 2: Oh please. It’s not like you were beating him.
Voice 1: But love is patient and kind. A truly loving mother wouldn’t whack her son’s bum like that, wouldn’t scream at him in her head.
Voice 2: Remember when Jack was a baby, how you used to drop f-bombs at the top of your lungs when he wouldn’t sleep? I’d say screaming in your head shows a lot of restraint, growth even.
Voice 1: I should get up and go apologize to him.
Voice 2: Are you insane? He’s a baby. And you’re exhausted. Get over it and go to sleep.
After a few rounds of this useful internal debate, Doug was back.
I pulled my head out from under the pillow. “That was fast,” I said. “Is he asleep?”
“Yep.” He slipped into bed beside me.
“What did you do?”
He grinned, his teeth a flash of white in the dark. “I used the tranq gun.”
I fell asleep dreaming about the millions we’ll make on Doug’s patented No-Harm Baby Tranquilizer Gun. Every mom in America will buy one, and we can finally move to a larger house, one with a children’s wing where Ben can cry every two hours and I won’t hear him.