It All Depends On Your Definition of “Better”

Sometimes I’m afraid that Jon is going to suck Leta’s brain out her nose when he tries to clean out her boogers with the blue rubber syringe. The clearing out of the infant nasal passages is not something I signed up for when I acted on my biological urge to procreate. Neither is the dreaded clipping of the infant fingernails. These things serve more to torture the mother of the infant than they help to keep the baby de-clawed or snot free, and when Jon gleefully reaches for the infant clippers I have to flee the room and hide my head in the oven.

You’d think that I would be prepared for this, having spent the last two years clipping Chuck’s claws. But you haven’t seen Chuck’s claws, and I’m sure that if you did you would have a completely different opinion about me and my notion of decency. I am tortured by the popping sound of the clipping and the very real possibility that I might cut him and cause him to bleed, something I have done on more than one or two or ten occasions.

A few days ago we clipped Leta’s fingernails for the first time, a process that involved turning off all peripheral noise, turning on all the lights, and holding our breath until near suffocation. It took about an hour to finish all ten fingers because we would pause between each clipping to admire each and every adorable joint and knuckle in her hand. It’s become a pastime in our home to dissect the DNA of all of Leta’s body parts. The knuckles on her index fingers are definitely Armstrong DNA. Her cuticles are definitely Hamilton. The size of her hands in general are the monstrous combination of the two families colliding.

Many of you have sent encouraging emails guaranteeing me that things will get better, and I really appreciate your thoughts. However, I have to believe that perhaps what you really mean is that things get better only in the sense that you sort of become used to living this way. Parenthood turns your whole body into one giant callus. The past five days have been unbelievably hard, harder than when I thought things couldn’t get harder, but my crying fits have slowly disintegrated into fits of eye-rolling or sighing or throwing my hands up and saying What the fuck, child? You couldn’t wait to pee until I had put the diaper ON your butt?

One thing that I have definitely become used to is the anxiety attack that hits me every day at about 6:30 PM when I start to realize that I may not get to sleep that night. Leta’s sleeping schedule is completely unpredictable despite our best efforts at establishing some sort of routine to set her clock. During the day I don’t let her take naps longer than a couple hours, and I listen to music or to the TV at an elevated volume to let her know that IT’S DAYTIME! Nothing says daytime better than the squawking, spasmodic screams of Oprah Winfrey’s middle-aged audience learning that they are going to get a gift at the end of her show, especially when the television is turned up so loud that Chuck is hiding underneath the bed. And normally I would be very annoyed at her audience, because IT’S JUST A T-SHIRT, YOU IDIOTS. But they are very good at keeping my baby awake, and so now I’m all SCREAM! SCREAM, YOU IDIOTS!

When it’s time to go to bed we give Leta a warm bath, and then we turn off all the lights and mute the television just low enough that we can hear the truth and the light that is Jon Stewart. We’ve tried sleeping with her in between us, with her underneath my arm, with her on Jon’s chest, and with her in a bassinet beside the bed, all to varied and irregular results. She’s very loud when she’s asleep and when she’s on the verge of sleep, and as her mother I hear EVERY SINGLE sound she makes — every grunt, every sigh, every angry attempt to pass a stuttering fart. Leta will go an average of three minutes without making a noise, and then at the end of that three minute stretch she will explode with noises as if to say Ha ha! Just kidding!

And it doesn’t really matter how many hours she’s been awake during the day. Her primary goal in life right now is to torture her mother, and she has figured out that the easiest way to do this is to stay awake by any means possible. Her strategy this week is to spit out her pacifier every five or six minutes and to make loud noises until I stick it back into her mouth. So last night I spent the hours from 10 PM until 2 AM sticking her pacifier back into her mouth. By 5 AM this morning, after two feedings and another hour of pacifier relocation, I honestly considered duct taping the damn thing to her face.

But I haven’t been driven that insane just yet. My level of insanity might drive me to use masking tape or at least something less industrial. Perhaps a Velcro product. Or maybe I resort to what every new mom feels at this point but is afraid to admit and I THROW HER OUT THE WINDOW. That would totally work.

(note: I would never throw Leta out the window. I may, however, throw myself out the window.)