Abby did not have a good night. She’s been teething up a storm and it has massacred her normally good sleep schedule. The wee hours of the morning were especially hard on the little muffin; she cried inconsolably for the better part of an hour, and when Erin finally broke down and needed a break, I finally took her out of her sleep sack and popped her into the Ergo just to try to calm her down enough to sleep.
It’s hard, at 5:30 in the morning, to remind yourself that your little girl is only ten months old, that she isn’t trying to kill you through extreme exhaustion, and that her struggling against your loving embraces isn’t personal. You forget that the world and all of its pain, confusion, and fear is new to her, that her tender gums are a horribly novel sensation without logic or reason, that she is desperately in need of your touch even when she screams bloody murder at you.
I took Abby downstairs a bit before 6:00 AM, wiping her tearstained cheeks and snot-besmirched nose, and walked her around while trying to find something that wasn’t an infomercial on TV. She sniffed and snorted tiredly and rested her head against my chest.
When she did finally fall asleep on me (God bless you, ERGO Baby), I knew that putting her down in her crib would be asking for trouble, so I popped off the carrier, kept Abby tightly clamped to my chest, and lay down on the couch with her. I pulled an old quilt over us and prepared to welcome the dawn as a living baby bed.
I drifted in and out of sleep, but for the next two hours Abby was out cold. She buried her little head into my chest and snored contentedly, her teeth momentarily forgotten, and I found myself carried back to her first few weeks out of the womb, when she spent hours sleeping on me. I also thought back to something my old youth pastor used to say about love:
“Love is an addiction.”
He pointed out that one of the definitions of “love” is “to be addicted to something.” And that makes a lot of sense when you think about it. When you love someone, you can’t stand to be away from that person for long, you ache after his or her company, you feel bereft without it. Love makes you act irrationally; it makes you do anything in your power to reach the object of your desire.
As I lay on the couch, grumpy and exhausted at having my Sunday morning torn to pieces by a screaming, seemingly irrational baby, a baby that refused to sleep without being held by my wife or by me, I realized the depth of that love. Sure, she was crying and yelling while we held her, but if we put her down for even a second, her panic reached a terrifying crescendo that we could not willfully ignore. She needed us. She was addicted to us. She was scared and sleep-deprived and desperate to be close to her mommy and daddy, even if that didn’t fix everything.
That feeling intensified as she slept on my chest. She slept like someone who had finally had her needs fulfilled. She slept like an addict that had finally gotten her fix.
Abby’s love, unburdened by the complexities and dilutions of language and social norms, is a wild, desperate, passionate, screaming, clinging, unrepentant love. It is an addiction that courses through her like blood. When she feels it, she feels it with all twenty pounds of her little body. When she needs it, nothing else will do.
I also realized that my love for her echoed her own. As our hearts beat against each other this morning, hers tiny and mine broken, I realized the depth of my own feeling, less outwardly shown than her own, but no less passionate. I was reminded of the ache I feel in my heart every time I look at Abby’s photos while I toil away at work. I was forcibly turned by the hand of God to stop complaining that my love meant sleepless nights, tear-filled days, and poop-filled diapers, because no love worth its weight would ever be turned by such trivial nonsense. No addiction would allow such things to defeat it.
Erin spelled me off at 8:00, and I stumbled upstairs to catch one more hour of sleep before facing the day. But I could not ignore the cold, empty place on my chest where Abby had slept, where she had reminded me that she wasn’t the only one in this house that was addicted.