Late last week Leta was sick with some sort of virus that had no symptoms other than a bad fever. It made her lethargic and mopey and interrupted her sleep six or seven times a night, six or seven times too many. Thursday we called her doctor, and the nurse told us we must bring her in! They must see her right away! Hurry! The clock is tick-tick-ticking! And then when we got there the doctor was all, why are you here? Did you really just bring her in because she has a fever? Really? Because I don’t want to see you in here again unless this mystery virus has eaten off her face. And even then I’m going to roll my eyes because you parents get so melodramatic when you think your kid is dying.
So we came home and continued what we were doing before, dosing her every several hours with ibuprofen that tastes like grape soda. And here’s where I get conflicted about medicine for kids, because I distinctly remember my parents having to sit on top of me, their arms firmly locked against my legs to prevent me from kicking, my head cold against the green linoleum floor, so that they could funnel a spoonful of cough syrup down my unwilling throat. It had a burning, acidic taste so foul that I thought they were trying to kill me, or at least trying to have a good laugh, and when you’re a parent the line between those two things gets a little blurry.
But now kid’s medicine tastes like candy, really good candy, and Leta often throws a fit when we won’t let her drink the whole bottle. On one hand, I’m relieved that we don’t have to struggle with her to get her to take her damn medicine. But then, there’s this old, wrinkled, cane-waving part of me that thinks this is ridiculously unfair. We didn’t have no candy medicine when I was her age! Our medicine tasted like piss! Goat piss! A goat who’s been drinking another goat’s piss! And after we took it we would go lie down on our bed of nails and cover up with a blanket made from the pelt of a rat we found crushed behind the refrigerator! KIDS TODAY.
Later that day she didn’t take a nap, so at night we put her to bed very early thinking she’d be exhausted enough to sleep until Christmas. But at three o’clock the next morning she woke up and refused to go back to sleep. And when I brought her back into bed with me she wouldn’t let me hold her or touch her or do anything that a mother instinctively does when her child is moaning in pain. So I just lay there next to her and listened to her whimper, and every minute or two she would let out this unbearable, tortured meow:
And if I tried to hold her she would claw at my face, so I would just make a noise to let her know that I had heard her, a yes, or an uh-huh, or a mmmmmmm. Because if I didn’t answer her it would get louder and more irritating:
MOOOOOMMM MMMMYYY YYYYY YYYYYY YYYYY!
MOMM MYYYYYYYYYY YYYYY YYYY Y Y Y!
And this went on for hours. Hours. And more hours. As many hours as there are between three and eight AM, which doesn’t seem like many right now, but there in the dark as the minutes were counted out in a machine gun spray of syllables, it seemed like all of the hours that ever were, a collection of time so vast that I could have witnessed the Colorado River carve out the Grand Canyon, one layer of dirt at a time.
By eight I had given up on the idea that I would ever sleep again, so I got out of bed and carried Leta on my hip into the kitchen to start breakfast. Jon stumbled in a few minutes later holding his head in both his hands and then said something about how what we had just been through was some sort of Kafkaesque nightmare that traps you in your sleep. I reminded him that every night was like this with a newborn, that this would have been considered one of the better nights, and then asked him if he thought we’d ever be ready to go through that again. He expressed doubt, and then we both agreed that if the answer is no, neither of us will be ashamed because at least we’ll be well-rested pussies.