The baby’s hungry cry pressed in on my dreams. I squinted, trying to focus my sleep-blurred eyes on the alarm clock. Its glowing red digits told me the time was 3:30 a.m. I groaned.
“Will you take care of her this time, honey?” Pam’s voice revealed how exhausted she felt. I would have to get up for work in a few hours, but I realized that, with a four-month-old baby in the house, Pam’s day would be at least as hectic as my own. Besides, little Jessica had already roused her mother twice that night.
“Okay. I’ll try feeding her a bottle of formula,” I mumbled.
Sleepwalking zombie that I was, I still had enough wits about me to pull on a robe—which I later discovered belonged to my wife. My eyes still not functioning properly, I shuffled my way into the tomb-like blackness of the living room and had almost reached the kitchen when the inevitable happened.
“Ow!” My toes had discovered one of the wooden legs of our sofa.
I paused to wince and massage my throbbing toes, but little Jessica’s persistent wail became even more demanding. Stumbling onward in my quest, I made my way into the kitchen. Mentally, though, I was promising myself (for the umpteenth time) to never, ever walk through the darkened living room without at least a pair of slippers on my feet.
Still moving on autopilot and not in my full senses, I stretched out a hand and flipped on the kitchen light switch. Flash! A dazzling brightness flooded my eyes. Too late, I clapped my hands over my face. It felt like some deranged practical joker had just shined a spotlight into my eyes at pointblank range.
Awake and happy
When my eyes had recovered from blindness enough to peek between my fingers, I opened the refrigerator door and found the bottle of formula that Pam always kept for nights like this one. I heated it, then dragged myself to Jessica’s room, cuddled her on my lap, and lowered the bottle’s nipple to her mouth.
In contrast to my frustrated yearning to be back in bed, Jessica showed absolutely no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, as she earnestly sucked her bottle, those bright, blue eyes of hers probed up and down the walls and across the ceiling. She studied the curtains, the framed pictures, and everything else in sight. I let her eyes roam while I closed my own.
My eyes did not stay shut for long. Jessica soon emptied her bottle, and continued to entertain herself by playing with its nipple and gurgling milky bubbles onto her chin.
“Okay, sweetie, time for you to go back to sleep.”
However, when I tried to bed her down, Jessica howled her objections with renewed lungpower. Reluctantly, I settled her back into my lap and tried to reason with her.
“Jessica, I’m tired and I have to get up early for work. Please won’t you go to sleep?”
The energetic imp on my lap beamed me a wide, toothless grin. The twinkle in her eye seemed to say, “Let’s play!”
Having no other option—and growing desperate—I decided to pull out my last trick—walking her to sleep. This method had never failed me yet, but it required time and patience. With Jessica cradled in my arms, I trudged down the hallway, circled around the living room (while keeping a wary eye on those dangerous couch legs), and then back to her room again, being cautious not to stumble over her Swing-o-Matic on each loop.
Hoping to encourage her trip to dreamland, I sleepily hummed “Jesus Loves Me,” “The B-i-b-l-e,” and whatever other Sunday school songs my drowsy brain could dredge up. Finally, just as the clock reached 4:30, I noticed that my little bundle had closed her eyes and slumped her head to one side. She was breathing softly, evenly. Success!
I tiptoed back to Jessica’s room and delicately lowered her into the crib. After tugging the green afghan up to her shoulders, I turned to leave. At the last second, though, I could not resist lingering to enjoy a last peek at my firstborn. Her eyes were closed; one dinky thumb was drawn up to her mouth; and I could barely hear the quiet sound of her rhythmic breathing.
I still felt drained, but I just had to smile as I stood there watching her. Sure, I had missed an hour of sleep. But priceless moments like this one more than compensated for the inconveniences that come with a newborn. After all, that was my little tyke in the crib, and I was grateful for her. It occurred to me that quiet times like this make being a dad especially satisfying. I knew that—despite any brief frustrations—I would not trade fatherhood for any treasure. I looked forward to teaching, talking to and just being a dad to my kids.
Sure, kids can be a handful, and even the most dedicated moms and dads must admit that the odor of dirty diapers is less than exhilarating. But what an awesome privilege and responsibility to nurture a new little soul, to show that infant at least the same amount of love that we received from our own parents or caretakers.
Clicking off the lamp, I slipped from the room. As I did, the words of Psalm 127:3 came to mind: “Lo, children are an heritage from the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”
Once more, I thanked God for the precious gift He had given.