Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The post below started with the first sentence of a short blog entry I wrote about the baby waking at night, and that primal alertness that I believe all parents must feel upon hearing the first peep. This is unlike any other feeling, physically, that I’ve ever had and that is why I believe it’s instinctive. Probably cave women and apes before them have all been lying on their bed of pelts and leaves, eyes wide open, back stiff as a board, silently praying to the God of Fire that the baby goes back to sleep.

The closest physical reaction I’ve ever had to this was during the two years that I was the clinical director of a halfway house and was on call all the time. There was always a fire to put out and it was the most stressful job I’ve ever had. I would drive home crying many days. Then after hours and on the weekends, whenever the phone rang it was most likely the house calling with some crisis. It didn’t take long for my body to begin reacting to the sound of the phone ringing with a similar reaction to hearing Charlie stirring at 3 AM.

It’s like every cell in my body begins vibrating with complete and utter alertness; I am lying horizontally but could be vertical in less than a nano-second. Each cell, while vibrating with readiness, is also silently praying:




If the first burp is followed by silence, slowly my body relaxes back into the bed and I’m asleep within minutes. However, if there is one cry or more, it’s enough to wake me into insomnia for an hour or two (I have problems with insomnia even before the baby, this just triggers it) especially if it happens at 3 or 4 AM.

I’m very lucky with Charlie though, she is and has been sleeping through the night for awhile now, with minimal waking and there have been few times I’ve had to get up and actually go to her room lately.

So it seems the Parental Guessing Game was somewhat of a flop (thanks for those who participated), but I might try it again if I ever think I have a good opening sentence again. So nobody lost anything because there was no prize, but I'd have to say Danicuz came closest to the correct answer by mentioning the monitor... although the sound was not the lack of breathing, but the first stirrings or cry of waking up during the night.

Was I right though? Do all parents have this innate "super alertness" function the second there is a peep from babe? Or is it a single parent thing, when you know you have to go to work in a few hours and are praying for some sleep?


Sarah said...

Much love to all the Dads out there, but I think its more of a Mom thing, Mr. Dad in this house (and I've found it true in discussions with other moms) sleeps right through even the loudest of night time wakings.

Go moms!

Adopting1Soon said...

Actually Sarah, I had originally written "moms" everywhere the word "parents" is... and then changed it at the last minute in the interest of keeping the peace. But shh... I agree with you. 100%.

LegalMist said...

I can't speak for all parents, or even all moms, but I know I was on hyper-alert status when my kids were babies. In fact, the first time my daughter slept through the night, I woke at 6 a.m. in a total panic. I *ran* to her room to see if she was still breathing. I was in tears and was completely convinced she must have died of SIDS or something, since she had completely missed the midnight and 3 a.m. wakings! Of course, she was fine. Something about my panic must have startled her awake, though, because she woke up and started crying just as I entered the room.

And then she didn't sleep through an entire night for another 6 months...

Adopting1Soon said...

OMG, Legalmist, that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Lonnie said...

I noticed this unbelievable super power of hearing baby noises in a friend before I became a dad. I didn't understand how it worked. I now understand though. The slightest noise on that monitor and I'm wide awake- both listening for what's going on with him and hoping he'll go back to sleep. It's amazing to me that I've developed baby radar and go into that mode of concern for the baby even when I'm not around D and hear noises from a baby I don't know.

Michelle said...

Legalmist-- I did the same thing!! When I woke in the morning and realized I hadn't heard my son in the night, I flipped out, convinced he had died and ran to his crib! He too was fine, of course :)
And Sarah-- I was going to say the same. It's a mom thing. Sure there are dad's that wake up when they hear their children cry, but for the most part it's the mom's who hear their children before the first peep has turned into a cry.