For three straight nights Penelope slept for 7 hours, uninterrupted. We'd carefully put her in her crib, swaddled up tightly and tip-toe to bed, unsure of when she'd open her eyes and make her demands. Every night as I'm drifting off I go through the plan for when I hear her cries, as if I'm in a race, preparing for the gunshot to signal the start. First, I'll grab my glasses, I remind myself. Then I'll grab her, take her upstairs, change her, feed her, maybe pump, walk her around until she's tired enough and try to get her back down. I rehearse in my mind. There's always an internal debate as to whether I should change her first and risk her getting more and more upset, and crying and waking up Danny-- or the entire apartment building-- or feed her first and risk her falling asleep and having to wake her back up to change her. Other than the past three glorious nights in a row, typically she wakes up just once- sometime between 2 and 4 am.
Once I've gotten her upstairs and changed, we land on the couch, mostly in the dark, to send her the message that we're all still in sleep mode. And as she's feeding peacefully, my imagination starts to run wild.
I've always had an overly-active imagination. And scary movies or ideas plague me in the middle of the night. Once, I overheard someone discussing the plot of a supernatural movie, and without ever having seen it, I would lie awake thinking about it. After I actually saw the movie, it wasn't nearly as scary as my own imagination.
Sometimes when I'm rocking her to sleep, the shadows of the trees outside moving on the ceiling of her bedroom remind me of the movie Drag Me to Hell, and my eyes dart nervously, ready for an old decrepit gypsy to burst out of her closet and gum me with a toothless mouth. Other times I stare at the blackness of the bathroom doorway, waiting for the girl from The Ring to crawl out of the toilet. (Does she ever actually crawl out of a toilet in the film? I doubt it). Our wooden stairs creak on their own as they settle and I wonder if it's the creepy girl from The Grudge crawling up toward me and Penelope. Before bad last night I made Danny remove a white baseball pillow from under the baby's crib. "Why?" he asked puzzled. "Because in the dark it looks like a person's face under their hiding." I confessed, embarrassed. "You're so crazy!" he laughed, but removed it to appease me. And then there's the 'M'am?' story. But I won't go into that just now.
How can I be a parent while still afraid of monsters??
Last night, staring into the darkness of the bathroom, as Penelope suckled sleepily, I thought of Harry Potter, and how they used the Riddikulus charm on boggarts. What this means--in non-dork language-- is when you see something scary you transform it into someone ridiculous, or funny, so that you're no longer scared. Ron Weasley is scared of spiders, for example, so he gives the spider roller skates, leaving the spider harmless as it can't even stand upright.
I tried to think of the least scariest thing that could come out of the dark bathroom. My first thought was Woody Allen. What if Woody Allen just walked out of the bathroom suddenly at 2:30 am on a Wednesday night while I was breastfeeding my infant? What would he say? "Why are you so scared?" He might ask in his New York accent, throwing his skinny arms up in nerdy frustration. "Is it because you're wrestling with your own fear of mortality?"
For some reason, the second least scary person to come into my mind was Kurt Russell. I pictured him coming out with a smirk, scoffing at my fear and calling me something sexist like 'babe'.
Or what if Denzel Washington just walked out of the darkness? I imagined he'd be really intense and dramatically accuse me of being a racist. "No, Denzel! I'm SO not a racist!" I would insist. "I LOVED Remember the Titans! Danny hated it, but not because we're racist, just because it was cheesy." "Oh, yeah?" He would counter, so angry that spit was accumulating at the corners of his mouth. "Danny loves football and it's a football movie!" "Yes, but there's a scene where everyone sings and dances to a Motown song, can you blame him?" I reasoned with imaginary Denzel. "And besides, he hated Rudy too-- and that was technically a football movie."
As I put Penelope into her crib, I felt a little less scared. There was no scary person under the crib waiting to grab my ankles (and do what with me? bite my Achilles heel??).. There was no creepy ghost kid from Sixth Sense wanting to show me his father's guns.
But it will be a lot easier if tonight, my baby just sleeps straight through until morning and we dont have to fall back on the Riddikulus charm to get rid of one of these: