Up With The Baby

Up With The Baby2In the dark bedroom, the woman said,  “Did you hear him?”

The man answered, groggy, “I didn’t hear anything.”

The woman again, “I heard him. I definitely heard him. Are you getting up?”

The man, “I was up with him at midnight, then again at three.”

“How did you do that? It’s only two, now.”

“Well I was.”

“There he goes again.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

“There.”

“Huh”

“Did you hear him?”

“I’m still sleeping.”

“Shush. He’s awake again.”

The man said, “I’m not awake. I’m not planning on being awake. Tell him to go to sleep.”

“I’m getting him.”

“Don’t.”

“You’re asleep. You don’t care. You don’t care about anything except your sleep.”

“He’s not even crying.”

“Oh right. What do you call that?”

“Nothing. It was nothing. Don’t go.”

“He’s crying.”

“They make noise in their sleep, you know, just like we do. They cough and they burp and they give little cries. It doesn’t mean that we have to get up.”

The woman said, “You don’t have to be that way.”

“I am not that way. I am trying to help us both get a night’s sleep. We have to Ferberize this baby.”

“What does that mean?”

“This doctor, his name was Ferber; he studied babies and concluded that babies—just like grownups—wake up in the night and . . .”

“Wait. I heard something. Go get him. Bring him back so he can sleep with us, and you can tell him all about Dr. Ferber.”

“I tell you he isn’t crying. Anyway, Ferber said that babies wake up in the night and they need to learn the skill of putting themselves back to sleep. If you get up and pick them up and walk around singing “Hey Jude” they’ll only learn how to go back to sleep when they’re being carried around and listening to John Lennon. And given that those circumstances don’t generally exist in life proper, it doesn’t do them any good.”

“Life proper. When does life proper get under way?”

“Soon. Now. That’s what I mean. We have to get life proper going. We have to get back to getting sleep.”

“So what do you propose to do?”

“You have to let them cry. You go in and see them after five minutes and give them a little pat so they know they aren’t abandoned. And then you go in after six minutes. But you never pick them up or take them out of the crib.”

“What if they keep crying?”

“You let them cry.”

“That’s so cruel.”

“After a few nights they realize crying is a bad strategy, and they sleep through the night. And so do the parents. There is a whole book about it. It’s called The Ferber Method. It’s famous.”

“And that’s your idea of life proper?”

“It’s Dr. Ferber’s, too.”

“I bet he never heard the sound that a baby makes when he is scared and it’s all dark and his mother is not around.”

“I am sure he has heard it. He studied it for years.”

“He’s a Nazi.”

“For Christ’s sake, he’s a doctor. Doctor Ferber.”

“The evil Doctor Ferber. He wants to make my baby cry.”

“No. He just wants you to get some sleep. He wants me to get some sleep.”

“That’s what this is about. You don’t want to get up when it is your turn.”

“I don’t want anyone to get up. I want our baby to sleep at night. That’s our job. We have to train him.”

“We should leave him weeping in the dark?”

“It’s worth a try. He’s eight months old and we’re getting up three or four times a night. We’re useless during the day . . .”

“Shush. Did you hear that?”

“Damn. I was just up with him. What time is it?”

“I’ll go.”

“No. Don’t. Let him cry.”

“Get your hands off me. I am going to get my baby.”

“Let him cry. You’ll see. It’ll be better.”

“He isn’t stopping.”

“He will.”

“He still isn’t stopping. Oh God. How can you just listen to him cry? I am getting him. Let go!”

“Wait. Just wait. Come on. Give it a chance. Lets talk. It hasn’t even been a minute yet. You have to give it a chance. You wait five minutes, and then you go in. Let’s just wait.”

“Can I go, now?”

“It’s only been two minutes.”

“Listen to him. He’s scared, miserable.”

“Hold tight. I think he is starting to wind down.”

“You call that winding down? Damn you. How can you ignore him like that? He is your son. How can you just lie there while your baby son is alone, crying, and miserable? Answer me. How can you just lie there?”

“I am not just lying there. It’s as hard for me as it is for you.”

“Oh that’s precious. You don’t even notice it. All you care about . . .”

“He’s stopping. See! He’s stopped. He’s stopped. God Bless Doctor Ferber”

“Fuck Doctor Ferber. I’m getting him.”

“But he’s stopped. What are you doing?”

“Now he thinks I don’t love him. He thinks I gave up on him. I have to get him.”

“He’ll forgive us. Please, sweetie. Just go back to sleep.”

“After that? Just go back to sleep? You are inhuman. You don’t care about anything except yourself.”

“Right. I’m a big selfish prick who got up at twelve, and then at one, and then again, and now I don’t want you to wake up the baby.”

“I’m going to bring him to bed with us, so he knows that his parents love him.”

“Come on. Please. Let’s just let him sleep . . . Oh. Don’t. Come on. Shit . . . Watch out, now he will wake up. Damn.”

“Just let me go. If you don’t like it, go sleep somewhere else. We will be very comfortable here. You just go find yourself a hole to go sleep in.”

“Fine. Congratulations.”

“You’re the one to get congratulations.”

“Me?”

“You found a way to get out of getting up with the baby. You got just what you wanted.”

“Standing here in my drawers on the cold floor at two twenty-three in the morning, having had no sleep, thrown out of bed by my wife who thinks I’m inhuman, and I am supposed to be in court tomorrow—you think this is just what I wanted?”

“Exactly. Now you don’t have to deal with the baby. You can leave that to the woman. She’ll do the hard work. She’ll go without sleep. It won’t matter of course because she is not on trial with a bunch of fatassed lawyers and judges. Won’t interfere with her day. She just lounges at home and eats bonbons anyway. She isn’t a trial lawyer. She is just a bonbon eater.”

“No. She is just a mom who isn’t getting enough sleep.”

“Don’t you patronize me.”

“Okay. You get plenty of sleep.”

“Don’t try to get back into this bed.”

“Give me a break. I need to get to sleep. I can’t live this way. I have to be in court in the morning.”

“Sleep in a hole.”

“I’m sleeping in my bed. You don’t like it, you sleep in a hole.”

“Fine.”

“Fine? Where are you going?”

“I am getting out of his bed.”

“Are you going to sleep in the baby’s room?”

“Let go of the blanket.”

“No. I am using it. Where are you going?”

“Let go.”

“Great. Now I have no covers. You are going to sleep with the baby. I am on trial tomorrow. Just great.”

“You’re a shit.”

“You know that if you go in there he really will wake up? He’s asleep, goddamn it. Seriously, come to bed.”

“Oh. That’s what this is about. You want to have sex.”

“Good Lord.”

“And you are angry and pissed off and horny and so you blame the baby just cause you can’t slip in the old pecker anytime you feel like it. Well sorry. So sorry, Bud. I feel for you.”

“It’s not about sex. It’s partly about sex but it’s mostly about sleep. Come on sweetie. Get back in bed. He isn’t crying any more.”

“I don’t want to have sex.”

“Fine. Just come back to bed.”

“You are a shit, you know.”

“I am a tired shit. We have got to get this baby to sleep through the night once in a while.”

“He is a good baby and he sleeps through the night all the time.”

“Except at night. Come on. Come back to bed. That’s better.”

“Okay, but if he cries, it’s your turn.”

“He won’t. I told him to call me Argentina”

“Huh?”

“Don’t cry for me . . .”

“Funny.”

“Good night sweetie.”

“You know this is it, don’t you? Life proper.”

“It’s frightening to think so.”

“Well, you better screw up your courage, Bud.”

***

Up With The Baby originally appeared in The Milo Review