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It’s 3 am. My son is up for the second time for a bottle and diaper change. I’m exhausted, but it’s my night. My husband lies next to me, snoring obliviously. Tomorrow will be his night.

I am 37 years old; my husband is 36. We have been married for almost 10 years. This is our first child.

I throw my legs over the side of the bed. It takes every ounce of energy I have just to stay awake. Moving is a whole new world of pain. I sit there, and for a moment, hoping I’m still blissfully asleep. But I am not.

I sigh deeply as I force myself to stand. My shoulders are heavy and my arms lay limply against my sides. I stand there, eyes closed. With each new cry, blue and red lights explode behind my eyelids as drums pound inside my head. It’s my own private extravaganza of suffering.

I wonder why we did this to ourselves. Of course, the baby is adorable. I can’t say it was love at first sight, but the need to mess up anyone who even remotely thinks about harming him is immense, almost paralyzing. I stand there for a moment just to make sure I am actually hearing his cries. My eyes open and begin to focus in the dark. The blinking red light on the baby monitor tells me I’m not mistaken in hearing his cries.

I somehow make it to the hallway, then to his room, which is dimly lit. A small lamp in the shape of a clown holding multicolored balloons over his head glows on the desk in the corner. A circus alphabet train that spells out our son’s name sits beneath the lamp.

This is our second week of pandering to this tyrant. My husband likes to remind me that “a baby is a bundle of nerves that has an immediate need to be satisfied.” I wonder when my immediate need for a full night’s sleep will be satisfied.

The baby looks like a burrito wrapped in soft blue in a giant crib. A Dumbo stuffy is his only companion through the night. I stand in his door for a moment, willing my legs to move. I make it to his changing table and start to put a bottle together. I don’t know if what I am doing is right. It feels as if I’ve put together hundreds of bottles in the last two weeks, and right now I am on autopilot.

The baby continues to wail, his face so red he looks as if he might explode. He is completely unaware that I’m even in his room, let alone seconds away from ending his misery. My husband continues to sleep. I do not have love for either in this moment.

As I pull my son from his crib, the Ringmaster in my head introduces me: “Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Step right up and be amazed! Watch as this woman in one fell swoop silences the crying beast! A feat that surely will astonish you!”

I stick the bottle in my son’s mouth, and once again the house falls silent. I sigh as I sit in the wooden rocking chair that is tucked in the corner of his room. Our tiger cat sits in the doorway, yellow eyes large and glowing, as if demanding to know why it took so long for the noise to end.

The rocking chair is uncomfortable, a necessity. We debated over buying a padded rocker and ottoman, but the fear of falling asleep and unknowingly hurting our son while we fed him during the night was too great. So, we stuck with the old wooden rocking chair I inherited. At this point, I’m certain I could spend the next week sleeping even in this chair.

The baby’s slate blue eyes are open. He is staring at me intently. I know he can’t really see me, but he’s focused on my face. I softly begin to sing, “Baby of mine, don’t your cry...” as Dumbo watches on from the crib. I still need to change my son’s diaper and reswaddle him. I’m hoping the spit up is minimal. I prefer not waking in the morning sticky and reeking of soured formula.

He is a slow eater and still ridiculously tiny. He weighs almost nothing. His skin is starting to peel, a side effect of his birth. His body feels like warm marshmallow over his tiny bones. There is no muscle. No strength. I am not sure which of us is more vulnerable.

My eyes water. Whether it’s due to the exhaustion or the moment, I don’t know. He’s still staring intently at my face.

As he finishes his bottle, his eyes grow heavy. It’s been almost two hours since he woke me. I change his diaper and reswaddle him. As I lay him back in his crib, he stares at the mobile above his head. An elephant, lion, seal, and rabbit performing outside of a big top will lull him back to sleep.

I walk to the door, ready for another few hours of sleep. I look back at my son one last time. His eyes are heavy. I smile as I close his door, taking in the absolute circus our lives have become since this little man joined our family.


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