Preface: This post will literally make no sense unless you have see the tv show Lost, specifically the episode “Man of Science, Man of Faith.”
Welcome. I am Dr. Marvin Candle, and this is the orientation film for station 1 of the Eng Dynasty Initiative, the Newborn. Every 108 minutes, your baby must be fed. From the moment she starts crying, you will have 4 minutes to insert milk in either breast or bottle form into the micro-human. It is highly recommended that you and your partner take alternating shifts. In this manner you will both stay as fresh and alert as possible. It is of the utmost importance, that when the baby cries, the milk must be given correctly and in a timely fashion.
During that 108 minutes, you will develop a rhythm around these six specific things:
4: The number of actual minutes you sleep every 108-minute period.
8: The number of times you fantasize about your partner telling you “I got this” when the baby starts crying again.
15: The amount of times you say you are “going to the bathroom,” but in reality are just closing your eyes for four to five minutes of peace on the toilet seat.
16: Equal to two 8 oz. cups of coffee, which is the minimum amount you will need to survive each 3-hour period.
23: Michael Jordan’s uniform number. He had so many illegitimate children. Did he care for any of them? Is there any way you can “be like Mike?”
42: The number of years it will likely take to recover from the sleep you lost during the newborn phase.
4 18 15 16 23 42
Let’s flash sideways six years ago. St. Louis, Missouri.
I was at a conference half way around the country. This woman comes up to me. Her name is Angela Harrison. She is beautiful and weird. I remember that I wanted to kiss her after talking to her for five minutes. So I do the bold thing and ask her out. She agrees and we eat empanadas and drink mojitos at a restaurant down the street. That was it. It was soon a “race” for her heart. I was “lost” in love. We started to date and got married two years later.
Flash forward. 2012-2013
We bought a dog and a cat and started our small family. Angela said that we could save the world together. So we did, and that was lovely. But we needed more. We moved away from our comfort zone in Hampton Roads to start a new life in the Washington, D.C., metro area. It was time. We needed somebody else to inhabit our island. So we started to try to get pregnant with no result. I wanted to give up, but she kept telling me to “not tell her what she couldn’t do.” She was adamant that it would happen. Months later, it finally did.
We went through the pregnancy. Even if I felt like an “other” from time to time, we got through it, even if the ride was a bit bumpy. Some days it felt like we had survived a plane crash. As such, the birth was far from smooth sailing. Within the first day after our daughter Zelda was born at the hospital, we wondered where our normal lives went. We had to go back.
We came home and settled into our new station. We saw the orientation films online. We read the documents and prepared ourselves. We were told to react to our child every 108 minutes. It’s what our parents said; it’s what most of the books and documents stated ad nauseam. Approximately every 2-3 hours, something had to be done in the form of changing and, most importantly, feeding. This is of course more of a burden for Angela as it is for me because I lack the necessary equipment. The clock counts down, and a “code” must be entered. After a while, we started into a routine. Every 108 minutes.
It all starts with the crying.
Our eyes open. Four minutes to go before a complete meltdown. We wake up, wipe away what minimal sleep was in our eyes, and go straight to the child. She is hungry. The “code” must be entered – she needs to feed. For fear of triggering an electro-magnetic pulse of crying, we ready for the task at hand with military precision.
So we enter the “code:” mother’s milk. Down the hatch. The warm substance enters the test subject. The crisis is averted and the countdown begins again…for now. 108 more minutes to go. What to do now? When sleep does not come, we occupy ourselves with other tasks.
It starts with music. If it’s very early in the morning, we try to go for something catchy that will keep us awake. Not exactly Mama Cass, but not heavy metal either. Soothing is the key.
The routine continues to kick in. Now two weeks into a routine, much of what we do runs on auto-pilot. After nearly 40 minutes of running around and feeding our daughter, less than two hours remain. Time speeds up and slows at the same time. With the music playing softly in the background, we go into our nightly montage:
- Pick up empty bottles, used burp cloths, pacifiers, etc. and wash accordingly.
- Empty the Diaper Genie and throw away used diaper bags. It is also beneficial to take out a few diapers for the next emergency/emergencies (as they can come in waves).
- Take a shower. It is always invigorating to wash the stink of the day and/or my daughter’s poo and spit up off my skin.
- Do the laundry. Although the quantity of laundry differs on any given day, it is guaranteed that our 7.5 lb. little girl generates at least a load of clothes a day. Newborn life is serious business.
- Food and drink. Most of the time, we skip the food and go straight to the coffee. Although I do recall standing in the kitchen in my underwear last week at 3:45am eating leftover wonton strips. During the first few days at home, I was averaging 3 cups of coffee in each 108-minute period. I may have a problem.
With the time left (and there isn’t much by then), a strategy is devised for the next round. By then, the crying alarm sounds once again, and it is once again time to save the world together. One step at a time…even when we feel at times, for the lack of a better word, lost.