I know, I know, I know. Mom’s don’t get sleep when they have a baby. It’s tough, and they are tough for getting through it. I don’t know, maybe we men aren’t as tough. All I know is that, in those first few months, I nearly lost my mind and my business due to a severely impaired brain mechanism caused by the lack of sleep…
When my son, Keller, was about 2-months-old, it became obvious to me that he was a vampire. Typically, he slept through the days and stayed up all night, and his mother and I were becoming The Walking Dead. Parenting a vampire is extremely hard work, and I didn’t know how much longer I could handle it. To make matters worse, as I was approaching my breaking point, Keller got sick.
One evening, we put our baby vampire to bed, and at some point, in the middle of the night, he developed a nasty skin rash and explosive diarrhea and woke up screaming.
Startled, we flew out of bed and rushed into his room, fearful that he’d impaled himself on his Winnie The Pooh mobile.
For days, Keller was a pooping, projectile-vomiting, insomniac with a runny nose that created so much snot I worried he’d drown in it. But the worst part was the screaming. The never-ending, round-the-clock screaming.
He obviously hated me.
But that was okay because I hated him too. I also hated The Bride and her stupid uterus for having created such a stupid, asshole vampire baby.
No matter what we tried (and we tried everything), we couldn’t get him to sleep. I could’ve laid him on a bed made out of angel kisses and magical fairy boobies and he still would’ve screamed through the night.
After three or four sleepless nights of caring for a sick baby, the crazy started creeping in. One more exploding diarrhea diaper and a seemingly normal mother could reach the point where she completely loses it and drowns her own child. Luckily for Keller, The Bride is an amazing woman, capable of incredible, death-defying, parental feats. Somehow, she survived being alone with Keller during the days, while I escaped to work. I’m pretty sure the government doesn’t give out medals of bravery to mothers, but they should. I’m more likely to become a superhero with flame shooting nipples than I am to survive handling a sick baby all by myself, 24/7, the way The Bride did.
Though The Bride provided the majority of care to our sick baby vampire, when I was home, I had to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t possess The Bride’s patience. One night, he screamed, non-stop, for three hours. I became unhinged and started yelling at him, “Stop being such an asshole! You asshole!”
I am not proud of this.
However, I felt much better afterwards.
The only way I could get Keller to stop crying was by singing to him while waltzing around the apartment with him. Literally. I had to waltz. Merely walking around the apartment with him, or bouncing him, or singing to him failed to soothe him. So, I waltzed around the apartment while softly singing the theme song from The Flintstones, which, for whatever reason, was the only tune that came to mind at 4:30 AM.
The next morning, I was beyond exhausted. I’d gotten a total of six and a half minutes of sleep and I felt like I was moving through a thick fog made of the moist farts of the naked old men who are always in the locker-room at my gym. I was too tired to take a stand-up shower, so instead, I took a bath. While bathing, I tried to drown myself; however, I was too fatigued to hold my head under water long enough to die.
That day, The Bride called the doctor, and he recommended that we give Keller cold baths until his fever came down. Of course, I was the one saddled with the responsibility of giving Keller his cold bath because The Bride is Keller’s favorite, and she wasn’t about to do anything that would risk her ranking. I remember my father forcing me to take those horrific, fever-reducing, ice-cold baths; they were traumatic, and I felt horrible subjecting Keller to this torture. As I put him in the bath, he screamed and fought. Once he realized he couldn’t overpower me, he looked at me with puppy-dog eyes as if to say: Please Daddy, stop torturing me. My testicles have retreated into my stomach, and I can no longer feel my toes.
After his bath, Keller fell asleep on The Bride’s lap. Despite my protests, she insisted we keep him in our bed. I was exhausted and fell asleep, but my slumber was abruptly ended by a brutal head butt to the bridge of my nose from the maniacal, jerk-off, vampire baby to whom I’d given the gift of life. My nose poured blood and raw anger began to rise within me.
“I told you he didn’t need to sleep in here! Now I’ve got a broken nose! Again! Wake up and look at my bloody, broken nose, woman! This crooked, bloody shit is your fault!”
On Sunday night, I went to bed feeling a lot of anxiety about the coming week. Mondays had long been conspiring to kill my inner child, and I wasn’t sure I could face one without at least four solid hours of sleep, which, unfortunately, I didn’t get. Monday morning, The Bride began coughing and sneezing, and I knew The Suck Monster had infected her. Though living with a sick baby is more difficult than completing a New York Times Sunday Sudoku puzzle while simultaneously rapping the lyrics of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, living with a sick baby AND a sick wife is even more difficult.
I took refuge in the bathroom to work out a plan for how to best handle dealing with the contagion. Not only was I stressed about the state of my family, but I was anxious about my impending bowel movement. It’d been almost a week since my bowels had seen any action and still fresh in my memory was my hospitalization in Mexico after twenty-one consecutive days of constipation.
Anyway, just as things felt like they were beginning to move, The Bride blasted in and asked me to go buy medicine. Her entrance startled me, and everything clenched up. So, I got up, grabbed a handful of cash, threw on a tank top, sweat pants, and flip-flops, and headed out the door.
While I was driving, she called. “Our little monkey has thrown up on his favorite stuffed teddy bear. Can you get a new one?”
This is the way my passive-aggressive lover gives me orders. This was not a question.
Anyway, while in line at Target with the medicine and stuffed bear, I realized I was about three dollars short. I went back to my car, gathered up a jazillion nickels and pennies, and returned inside to count my change for the cashier: “$2.88, $2.89, $2.90…”
“Come on, buddy, you’re holding up the line!” yelled a customer.
I typically don’t go to Target. I don’t like shopping to begin with and Target depresses me. It smells like stale cigarettes and desperation, and some of the customers look like they might show up on neighborhood sex offender lists. However, on this day, standing in line, counting pennies, unshowered, puffy-eyed, constipated, dressed in something from the Dirtbag Collection by K-Fed, holding a stuffed animal and a vial of medicine that causes drowsiness, I was probably the one giving people the heebie-jeebies.
Eventually, I made it home with Keller’s bear and The Bride’s medicine. I’d come through in the clutch because I was a dad and that’s what dads do. The Bride, however, was less than impressed. “That’s the wrong teddy bear,” she said.
“So, he won’t fall asleep if he doesn’t have the right bear. You’ve got to go back.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
She was not kidding.
There’s got to be a way out of this, I thought.
On my return to Target, I briefly considered asking a buddy to call my wife pretending to be a Somali pirate who had kidnapped me. I could disappear to Vegas for a while, and then, once Keller and The Bride were healthy, I’d cut off a finger, return home, and tell the story of how my daring escape from the clutches of death had cost me a finger. I’d be a hero and maybe even get to be on Dr. Phil. But I had a very important meeting that I couldn’t miss, so I didn’t go to Vegas. Instead, I bought Keller’s bear and returned home. When I presented it to him and then bent down to kiss his forehead, he thanked me by sticking two spit covered fingers into my mouth. I felt the plague as it immediately began to grow and mutate inside me.
I sprinted to the bathroom and gargled with rubbing alcohol in an attempt to thwart the virus. After, I was running really late, so I quickly got dressed, took some laxatives, and headed off for my meeting which was with a woman who owned the biggest home health company in Los Angeles County. If my physical therapy business signed a contract with her company, it’d double our size instantly and completely change our lives. So, despite my sleep deprived state, I had to kill it.
I felt that the meeting went well. I left their conference room feeling very confident that I’d have a contract in hand before the weekend. I said my good-byes and left the building. When I stepped outside, I felt a light breeze between my legs.
Three doors down, there were two girls pointing at me and giggling. A wave of panic overwhelmed me. I didn’t want to confirm my worst fear, but I had to know. So I looked down.
“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”
It wasn’t just that my fly was open, but my Johnny Rotten was peeking out.
I should really start wearing underwear.
I’d completely blown it. I may as well have spent the entire presentation making armpit fart noises and shadow puppets. Distraught, I paced around the parking lot having a two-way dialogue inside my head.
How did I let that happen and not notice? Why did nobody warn me? Maybe she didn’t see it. I mean, she wouldn’t really have let me babble on for an hour with my penis hanging out? She probably didn’t see it.
Wouldn’t it be more embarrassing for me if she didn’t see it?
I should apologize.
Wait. What could you possibly say to make it better? Don’t apologize, just send flowers.
You idiot! You can’t expose yourself to a woman and then send her flowers. You might as well file the sexual harassment papers for her.
Maybe I should own it—make it into a power play. Just walk in there and say, “Yes, ma’am, that was my penis. What about it?
What? No! What kind of moron has thoughts like that?
I’m not even having a good penis day! It was freezing cold in there! I bet her whole office is huddled around the water cooler making dick jokes at my expense!
WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I DO?
What I did was drive away, very fast. On the drive, I stopped at two different coffee shops, getting a triple espresso each time to help me fight off the crushing fatigue that comes from living with a sick baby. Come to think of it, my fatigue was probably the reason I’d forgotten to zip up in the first place.
While driving to my office, I called The Bride to report my miserable failure. “Only you, Matthew,” The Bride said. It’s a phrase she’s used about a thousand times to explain the unexplainable weirdness of my life. She thinks I have bad luck. However, I know better. Weird things happen to me because I have some kind of weird genetic defect that has made me unabashedly uninhibited and I have a brain defect that causes me to bluntly speak my mind, almost always. And the fact that I consistently put myself in weird situations and act impulsively in them doesn’t help matters. I’m hoping for a cure before Keller is old enough to be embarrassed by me but that may not be realistic.
By the time I pulled into my office parking lot, the espressos, combined with the laxatives, had joined forces like the Avengers to take on the constipation monster that was hiding out in my intestines. I got out of the car and sprinted to the bathroom. Of course, as is my luck, a female janitor was cleaning it. I wanted to spare her, but my stomach felt like it was being kicked repeatedly by a gorilla that was wearing steel-toed boots, and there was no way I could wait for the janitor to finish. The only options I had were to run to the McDonalds across the street or use the women’s bathroom.
We do not yet have “all-sex” restrooms at my workplace, like they do in most of California now, and I think this disaster may be exhibit #1 for why they aren’t a great idea.
I chose the women’s restroom because it was closer and my situation was urgent. Besides, the only women who worked on my floor, besides the janitor, worked for me, and I knew they were probably hard at work, wasting time on Facebook. So, I felt I could get in and out of the bathroom without being noticed.
I went in, dropped my pants, and did my business in record time. I’ll spare you the gory details, but about 10% of my body weight fell out of my butt, which may have included a couple vital organs. I cleaned up quickly, but as I was about to exit my stall, the bathroom door opened.
“I gotta go Mom, bye,” said a woman. I knew the voice. It was Rhonda, a petite employee of mine.
Rhonda went into the stall next to me, dropped her green pants around her ankles, and began her business. Meanwhile, I casually lifted my feet from the floor and squatted on the seat to avoid being noticed.
As a man, I’ve lived most my life under the illusion that women do not poop… especially the cute ones. The Bride killed this utopian ideal for me, and petite Rhonda buried it six feet under. Rhonda began farting, loudly, and I feared my Rhonda Experience was about to shatter every myth I’d ever believed regarding the fragile and sweet nature of the female kind.
Rhonda let go of a chorus of farts that sounded as if they were coming from the men’s room of a Carnival cruise for plus size singles on fish taco night. I couldn’t believe all that noise was coming from one tiny woman. After a full minute of listening to her cuss like a drunken sailor who was passing marble-sized kidney stones, Rhonda ran out of gas and began pooping.
“Oh shit!” she yelled.
Sploosh! Schplop! Splash!
Her bombs rained down, sounding like dirty hail stones falling into a lake. The smell began to waft into my stall, and I was able to determine she’d eaten Indian for lunch. Finally, it stopped. Though I was shell-shocked and would need a lobotomy to forget it, I was thankful it was over.
Or so I thought.
But then she started up again.
Nearly ten minutes later, Rhonda finally flushed―
The nightmare was finally over.
“Oh, oh, oh, oh, sweet child o’ mine,” sang Axl Rose on my cell phone.
I’m pretty certain I was the only guy in the building who had Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine for their ring tone. And I’m pretty sure my staff was aware of this.
“Who’s in here?” Rhonda asked. She sounded embarrassed, yet hostile.
I ignored her.
She asked again.
I tightened my neck muscles, raised my pitch, and, in a voice sounding like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, I said, “Mind your own business!”
Rhonda left the bathroom. She’d either bought it or she’d gone to call the cops.
I stayed in the bathroom for about five more minutes, just in case Rhonda was waiting outside. Once I came out, I sprinted to my car. Since I never actually went into my office, nobody was aware that I was even there, which was the only thing I had going for me.
I got in my car, buckled up, and drove straight home. I was angry, embarrassed and fatigued, yet filled with blinding resolve to change things at home. I was going to lay down the law with The Bride and reclaim my throne. No more running to stores and buying stupid-ass baby toys when I had important man’s work to do.
Because you wouldn’t let me sleep, I may have a sexual-harassment suit headed my way, and I can never again pretend that women don’t poop.
I got home, parked, walked upstairs, puffed my chest out, and got ready to lay into The Bride. However, as I opened the front door I was overwhelmed by the smell of oyster stew and pan-fried scallops. The Bride, my wonderful wife, found a way to make our sick baby sleep, and then, instead of taking a much-needed nap, she cooked my favorite meal.
“How’d the big meeting go?” she asked.
“Oh, they’ll be talking about my presentation for a very long time,” I said.
Essential Rule of Parenting, #8 — Never, ever, blame the people who love you when things go wrong in your life.
During the week Keller was sick, The Bride and I fought more than we had in the previous five years. That said, we managed to survive a sick baby without killing each other or filing for divorce. Once Keller got better, we kissed and made up, realizing that our fighting had been the byproduct of exhaustion.
Marriage is hard, but in the game of life it’s Candyland Bingo compared to the challenges of parenting a sick baby.
This was a sample chapter from my book, Daddy Versus The Suck Monster. You can get it on Amazon for a dollar. Enjoy!