June 12, 2013
What I want for Father’s Day
If you’ve never had a tooth extracted, I can assure you that it is everything you’d imagine and more, especially since I opted out of the general anesthesia that would’ve rendered me unconscious during the procedure. Turns out, I didn’t need it. You can imagine the surprise of the oral surgeon and his team of assisting nurses when my arm twitched involuntarily, exposing the fact that I’d fallen asleep in the chair while they all worked in my open mouth.
What’s worse, the offending arm twitch also woke me up. As I reluctantly drifted back to consciousness, I heard the oral surgeon ask, in amused amazement (or was it “amazed amusement?”), “Did he fall asleep?!”
It seemed this was a first for them. One of the nurses responded, “It shows how good we are.”
Not that they weren’t doing a good job (at least, I hoped they were), but I felt compelled to correct her, “Uh bwuh bwuh bwuh.”
Being fluent in the language of people who have surgical equipment in their mouths, the oral surgeon knew that translated to, “I have a 15-month-old baby at home.”
“That would explain it,” he laughed. “This must be a break for you. I love it!” Then, turning on the drill, he added, “You can go back to sleep now.”
And I did. Not really. But I do confess that, sometime later, I was actually looking forward to an ultrasound I had to have performed because I thought that it might present the opportunity to catch a few winks.
To my horror, I have become a cliché: the sleep-deprived parent.
When people found out that my wife and I were expecting our first child, they all warned us to enjoy our sleep now because soon we weren’t going to be getting any. And I mean, everybody. That was the first response of every single person we told, at least the ones with kids.
Everything they say about the effects of sleep deprivation is true. Remember, it is an accepted form of torture in many countries, none of which, to my knowledge, is cruel enough to administer it in conjunction with forced diaper changing.
Since our son, Gabriel, came to live with us, both my wife and I have experienced the phenomenon of entering a room and being unable to remember what we went in there for. We fail to find things that are right in front of us. We have a sense that there are people we should be holding grudges against, but we can’t remember who they are, or what they did.
On one occasion, I refilled the humidifier with water and turned it on, only to be baffled as to why I couldn’t get any steam to come out of the spout, no matter how high I turned up the dial. I fiddled with it for several minutes, until my wife, in a moment of clarity, suggested that I plug it into an electrical outlet.
Hopefully, none of my current employers are reading this. If they are, I can assure them that my work is the one thing that, for some reason, has not been affected at all.
There is a flip slide to this coin. The truth is, I enjoy sleep now more than I ever have before; it’s just not my own. There’s no accomplishment more satisfying — at least in my life thus far — than finding the perfect combination of soothing techniques necessary to lull a crying baby to sleep in your arms. The moment is thrilling and never ceases to amaze. You cannot believe what you have just achieved, even though you witnessed it with your own eyes. And although Gabriel is always adorable — if you don’t believe me, just ask my wife; she’ll tell you — when he sleeps, he is absolutely angelic.
Who cares that we never get to the movies anymore? I can watch Gabriel (sleeping or waking) for hours on end, completely transfixed and entertained, which is lucky for me as we now attempt to wean him from breastfeeding. When he wakes at 3 or 4 in the morning, expecting to nurse, it is I who must deal with him, as there is no way for my wife to distract him from what he really wants.
As I yearn for my pillow, it would be easy for me to curse my fate, but, eventually, Gabriel will rest his head against my chest, and I’ll feel his little muscles twitch in my arms as he relaxes into slumber. And I know that, one day all too soon, these moments will be cherished amongst the most memorable and meaningful of my life.
What do I want for Father’s Day?
Sleep. Or not.
Howard March is a writer and producer in film and for television in Los Angeles.