I won’t deny that I enjoy getting a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the infusion of twin boys into our lives last August has not done any favors for my sleep habit, unless, of course, you count sleep debt as a positive goal in life. If that’s the case, then I am well ahead of the bell curve.
With the boys each waking up two or three times in the night, it is not unusual for me to only eek out two or three uninterrupted hours of sleep. I’d kill for four straight hours of sleep. I’d probably donate a kidney for just six. Yet somehow Savvy (Goddess of Parenting) manages to brush off the sleep loss each morning, feed the babies (again), put in a day’s work at the office, and all without the aid of any caffeinated beverages. I, on the other hand, do not thrive on sleep deprivation.
The onslaught of nightly sleep interruptions has led to what I like to think of as an involuntary sleep deprivation behavioral science experiment on the transplanted American father of multiple offspring.
In the opening weeks of the research, I displayed basic signs of nighttime confusion. For example, I would pick up a crying baby and exclaim, “Which one is this?” I blame the darkness, but frankly, I am glad to be aware that it is always one of my own children.
Over time, this kind of simple confusion morphed into something a bit more bizarre. I’d awake at the first squawk from a baby and start spewing out a random string of phrases that all made sense to me, but clearly deserved no reply from Savvy. Often I would come to my senses and say something like, “I’m not making any sense am I?” To which she would eloquently reply, “Duh,” and remind me that having more children was my idea.
Recently, my condition has degraded into hallucinations. The other night I heard the clarion call of a still unidentified (though adorable) baby boy and I began to grope around the bed to locate the troubled child. Finding him, I tenderly scooped him into my loving arms and began to console the poor thing. Savvy, who was nursing the child, calmly inquired what I was doing. “I’m trying to get him back to sleep,” I slurred in hushed tones. It was only then that I realized I was tenderly patting the back of my pillow.
During Chinese New Year, the boys were even more restless with a combination of colds and fireworks. One night, since a sleeping baby or two populated our bed, I grabbed a blanket and headed for the sofa. When my daughter called out in the night, I sprang from the couch and was completely lost due to my fractured dream and awaking in the wrong room. I felt around the walls three times before realizing my eyes were closed and I needed to open them to see that the light was on in her room, by which time she had fallen back asleep.
Friends with twins all say that it gets easier after the first two years. This is always followed by something like, “But those first two years are hell.” Six months in, I’m curious to know what the next 18 months of sleepless nights holds in store for me. Whatever it is, I’m not too worried. Certainly Savvy won’t allow me to do anything too crazy, like put a diaper on that crying pillow. Not unless she’s holding a camera.
illustration by Sun Zheng