The cry comes piercing through the chill of the night. It’s shrill like an alarm, and in my REM state of sleep there is an imaginary fire in a coop of chickens. While I’m sleepily wishing away the screams and clearing the smog that is filling my sleep deprived brain, another sound breaks through the sleep-sound barrier.
Grumbling, grunting, a heavy sigh and then the definite and firm sound of feet hitting the floor. My husband is getting up. He’s going to save the chickens from the burning coop. Good god man, hurry, the sound is driving me insane.
It is in the seconds between the breathy sigh of frustration and the heavy falling of footsteps on the bedroom carpet that I realize there are no chickens in my house, one of my children is screaming in their bedroom down the hall and my husband is dutifully rising to find the source and calm the ailing child, without so much as a nudge to wake me or a hint that it’s my turn to handle whichever nighttime disaster awaits.
He disappears into the darkness behind the bedroom door, the crying shortly after stops and I am uncomfortably waiting on my pillow in anticipation for him to reemerge with a baby who needs to nurse from my painfully huge boobs, or a soaking wet pee-drenched three-year-old that needs new sheets. More often than not, he never reappears. I list quietly back into the pull of much needed sleep while some unseen magic is being worked in the curtain of the dark. My husband is surely rocking the baby, or sleeping on the floor with the three-year-old because his little bed is full of pee and the floor is at least dry. I don’t know which child has woken, and it’s utterly too much work to even considering putting my own feet on the floor and padding down the hallway to check.
None of this goes undiscussed in the harsh, ugly light of the morning sun, as soon as the dawn cracks through the horizon and the kids are wide awake with the thrill of a new day and a new bowl of cheerios to dump on the carpet, my husband is sure to inform me of his good deeds and re-tell the horror story of the previous night through his perspective, he loves to add in a “you got to sleep because I let you sleep” and get his well-deserved pat on the back. I’m sure he would love more than a pat on the back but I’m clearly too unmotivated to thank him in a biblical sense.
He does battle with the needs of the kids while I sleep in our bed. I sleep with the baby nestled on my mammary more often than I am able to sleep next to my husband.
I miss sharing a bed with my husband, and there is a cool, crisp bare spot on the sheet where his body should be when I wake up. I wake up a little sad in his absence and more than a little grateful for his sacrifice. Life is about balance, a cliché that is more tired than I am, but for now a little balance and a little cliché might help us pass the day and live to fight another night.
There is no red flag waving a warning of ill-fated parenting decisions, nothing in me that worries about our sleeping arrangement. Life is not a Lifetime movie called “Another Woman’s Warm Bed, They Should Have Shared a Mattress” and I doubt we will be sleeping in separate beds well after our children are sleeping through the night. I have a feeling; call it “women’s intuition”, that he misses sleeping next to me as much as I miss sleeping next to him.
He’s never been swift with words, his poetic contributions consist of “I love you hun, have a good day.”
I’ve always known that I can’t expect him to tell me how he feels, unless he feels gassy, but I understand that he rises night after night like the undead to take care of our sleepless offspring because he shows his love in wordless demonstration. He is laying himself down in front of a wrecking ball in the name of love and saying the things I always wanted him to say. He loves me unconditionally, and he loves our family enough to sacrifice the things he wants for himself. Those were the things I always wanted in a man, whether or not he could eloquently express himself.
I am pregnant currently, with our third child and our first “oops”. Neither of us expected a third child. It took us by surprise and filled us with doubt. We ask each other every day if we can do this, if we are cut from the Teflon fiber required of outnumbered parents. We look at each other and know that for us there is no choice, and this baby will come home into this fold with love, and keep us up all night long. We know we will survive this and we will always be in it together.
I will have the rest I need, at least for now, because I have the partner I need to give me strength, the one I can always count on even when the future is evolving and impossible to predict.
He walks the night, fighting the sleepless demons that plague his loved ones. He employs every trick in his book, and none of them involve waking up mom.
Sometimes heroes aren’t obvious, they don’t have capes or badges but you can tell them apart from the ordinary by their honor.
Well, honor, and extremely happy wives.