In Tune

I linked to this video in my post about ‘‘Boy Meets Girl’ but figured I’d give it its own post as well.

I made this for Christmas, 2014, for Alexis. Clearly. It serves as kind of a warm-up for Boy Meets Girl. You’ll notice the song, ‘Window’ by The Album Leaf, is the same as in Boy Meets Girl (apparently I’m not too creative in that department). I’m technically (well, not just technically) using it illegally. I did this because I didn’t really ever intend for these videos to see the light of day beyond my family/close friends. Still, I feel a little bad about that. Anyone want to collaborate and write a replacement song?

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, and especially Alexis.


A Valentine’s Day Moment

It’s 9:10 pm on Saturday, February 13th. Poe and Alexis have been asleep since we got home at 6:30 pm from a party thrown by some of Alexis’s colleagues. Poe has slept variously on my chest and on the couch next to me. This is, technically speaking, cheating, since Alexis and I have been trying to get Poe accustomed to sleeping on her back in the bassinet as often as possible. But Poe’s had a rough couple of days and got her first round of vaccines this morning, and we’re all pretty tired. So I cheated.

We’ve set Poe’s bedtime at 9:30 pm and done a pretty good job of sticking to it over the last couple weeks. So, I really should be (ironically) waking Poe up to get her to bed — changed, fed, swaddled, sung to, etc. But her sleep’s been so bad for the last several nights that I’m hesitant to wake her from anything. So, I head in to the bedroom, where Alexis is sleeping, to consult with her and figure out a plan. Alexis is dead asleep when I walk in, but immediately wakes up when she hears me and begins getting out of bed to go and comfort Poe. This is how I’ve awoken Alexis innumerable times over the last 9 weeks. I walk in, let Alexis know that it’s her turn with Poe, or that I’m too upset or tense or tired to finish my shift, and every time, Alexis gets up immediately, without complaining, without being negative or distressed in any way. Alexis is significantly more underslept than I am, but she is constantly looking for ways to ease my burden. Simply, lovingly, without complaint.

Anyone who reads this blog or whom I’ve spoken to lately knows that I’ve really struggled at times since Poe’s birth to be a good and present father/partner. I’ve had dark times; I’ve had anger; I’ve considered (impulsively, not seriously) fleeing, abandoning. It’s been difficult. But it would have been impossible if I didn’t have a partner as kind and committed and loving as Alexis. Impossible. Impossible.

Poe’s Sleep Log, or A Tedious Catalogue of Hell

At Poe’s one month check-up, her pediatrician urged us to start working toward a sustainable sleep plan, which involved Poe sleeping alone on her back in a bassinet. This was not what we wanted to hear. We had just reached a shaky truce on the sleep front. We’d been trying from the beginning to get her on her back in the bassinet and she wasn’t fucking having it. She’d wake up 5 minutes later, furious, or gassy, or a combination of both. I had already mentally reconciled myself to the thought of an 18 year old Poe screaming and crying when I tried to take her from my chest and put her in a bed (presumably because I was being crushed to death). So this news from the doctor was unwelcome. We were gun-shy PTSD sufferers less than willing to return to the source of our nightmares. But the pediatrician assured us it was the right thing to do and would likely involve three miserable nights of adjustment followed by (theoretically) sleep bliss. Or at least a little more consistency.

The doctor never used the term sleep training, though she made it clear that if we weren’t able to establish sustainable sleep habits in the next month or so, that was likely coming next.

We went home emboldened by the pediatrician’s encouragement. This feeling immediately fell apart when we began to discuss the matter. This was a joke: Poe had already proven herself unwilling to sleep on her back and we had finally (finally!) worked out a sleeping arrangement where we all got at least some chunk of sleep and no one was murdering anyone else or having a complete mental breakdown in the middle of Fort Washington Avenue. So, why change? Because, eventually, we had to. We couldn’t put Poe on our chests forever and the pediatrician thought this was a good time to start taking baby steps (HAHA, SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! OH GOD, BEAT ME TO DEATH WITH A BOPPY!) toward Poe sleeping alone on her back through the night.


We set about inching our way towards sleep. We decided that we would put Poe in the bassinet in the bedroom and I would hold vigil next to the bassinet on a cushion and put my hand on Poe or pick her up and rock her anytime she woke up and got upset, which was bound to be often. At 1 am, Alexis would take over and do the same. If it really wasn’t working, we’d set up the co-sleeper in between us and hope that Poe was calmed being next to us. We also decided to keep a clear and detailed log of how things went, in an attempt to determine any patterns that Poe followed, as well as what worked and what didn’t.

What follows is the record of several of those nights. I’ve tried to be clear who is speaking at any given time. Aside from some minor grammar/spelling clean-up, this is pretty exactly what we experienced. Apologies for some odd and/or confusing jumps between third person and first person. It was late. And we were tired. So tired.

A couple notes: notice the dates are from nearly a month ago. Mercifully, and unsurprisingly, things are getting better. So, I can post this madness and (mostly) laugh ruefully and a little nostalgically about it. Also, you’ll notice a lot of references to grunting. Poe, like many babies, has a lot (like a grown man amount) of gas and often responds by grunting and straining. Anyway, here we go.

Key terms:

Nose Frida: draconian-looking but ultimately harmless and helpful apparatus for sucking mucus out of a baby’s nose.
Kissy Face: this means Poe is hungry.
‘Farting’ her: an act wherein someone pumps Poe’s legs in an attempt to encourage the expulsion of gas.



9:55 pm – Poe swaddled, rocked to sleep, put in bassinet, white noise – no pacifier
10:13 pm – grunting and complaining
10:14 pm – some crying
10:17 pm – rocked and soothed
10:23 pm – put back down in bassinet – no pacifier
10:25 pm – crying
10:26 pm – tried pacifier
10:27 pm – grunting/complaining
10:33 pm – complaining ceased
10:34 pm – wish I was spooning Alexis
10:43 pm – spit out pacifier
10:46 pm – awake and complaining
10:47 pm – put pacifier back in
10:48 pm – this is a tedious catalogue of hell, isn’t it?
11:32 pm – Complaining
11:30-1 am – intermittent complaining but no crying
1 am – I woke her up for change/feeding/re-swaddling
1:45 am – put her on my chest for 20 minutes
2:05 am – put her down in bassinet


2:15 am – more boob after diaper changing
2:30 am – Poe falling asleep on mom
3:07 am – Poe swaddled and in bed with Mom in office. She’s MUCH quieter than last night at this interval. Makes her little percussive sound every 5 min but it’s mild. Alexis places hand on chest. Alexis likes being close to Poe.
4:15 am – Got gassy, she got frisky and seemed to be waking herself up. Fed her a little bit to see if it would help soothe, without unswaddling her. Then put her back down. She woke up.
4:25 am – unwrapped her to see if it would help her poop it out. She was not crying.
4:30 am – changed diaper. Poop.
4:40 am – gave her right boob. She seems very awake and curious about the room.
4:56 am – She’s super congested. Going to get Andrew to help me Nose Frida (Ed. note: I was so groggy when Alexis woke me up to do this that I had no idea what was going on and thus was of no help. Alexis leaned Poe against my inert and confused body and did the whole thing herself.)
5:15 – she’s totally awake. Letting her hang out in swing.
5:30 – she whimpered. Picked her up. Left boob.
5:58 – swaddled and lay her down in co sleeper
6:18 – after 20 min total silence, she started constant grunting. Put hand on her. Didn’t do anything. She will wake up
6:30 – picked her up. She went quieter. Put her down. Clearly needs diaper change. Considering just waking her. Going to lose my f)$&@@;/ing mind.



9 pm – fed and napped on mom
10:00 pm – swaddled and rocked by dad
10 – 10:30 pm – very lightly asleep on dad’s chest – squirming often
10:30 pm – put her down in bassinet – she started crying immediately
10:31 pm – tried putting a hand on her – did not help
10:35 pm – tried a pacifier – she immediately calmed
10:40 pm – dad’s stomach making comically loud gurgling sounds, as if trying to wake the baby – dad wants to tear his own stomach out, throw it out the window, and jump out after it.
10:42 pm – dad not feeling up to the task tonight. Long day followed by having to take care of baby at night feels a bit like prison. Having unreasonable feelings of persecution. The feeling that everything is, and must always go, wrong.
10:35 – 11:10 pm – Poe slept pretty soundly until dad banged into the door knob upon trying to exit the room (apparently it’s just going to be one of those nights) and now Poe is grunting/straining pretty regularly.
11:15 pm – took Poe out to the couch
11:15 pm – 1:10 am – fitful sleep with some uninterrupted chunks thrown in (none more than 20 minutes) – every time she woke, I used pacifier or arm around her and she fell back asleep

1:10 am – diaper just pee
1:20 am – left boob drunk solidly. She fell right to sleep then. Alexis placed her on chest.
1:40-1:45 am – swaddled her then let her rest on chest again.
1:50 am – placed in bassinet. A little groaning and alexis places hand on chest.
1:53 am – groan and immediate hand on chest.
2:03 am – still quiet. Afraid to have hope.
2:20 am – No dice. Note to self to put her in co sleeper because then crossing the room to put hand on chest is unnecessary.
2:44 am – either going to let her strain and see what happens for 5 min or going to move her. Indecisive. There are a lot of hours left and standing over bassinet feels bonkers. Want t.v. Or chocolate cake.
2:59 am – left her to grunt to for a few minutes. I think it gets worse when I don’t place hand on her.
3:00 am – I’ve peed 300 x tonight. Going to go again. My toe hurts.
Going to move Poe after pee. What’s the point of her sleeping in bassinet if I can’t sleep at all with this arrangement?
3:30 am – She woke up. Diaper change – pooped. Right boob. She’s got some stinky gas. Maybe I should stop eating raisins
4:07 am – put her on my chest to calm and burp her. Then decided to do tummy massage after she fought swaddling. She spit up on me after massage. Then wanted to eat.
Left boob.
Getting to point where I am considering abandoning swaddling and back sleeping for the night in favor of sleeping on my chest. Or swing?
Put her on chest and slept
6:46 – right boob
7:06 – diaper changed, left boob
7:30 – left boob some more



9:30 pm – put Poe down in bassinet awake with song, white noise, and pacifier.
9:30 pm – 9:50 pm – Poe closed eyes a couple times but mostly awake. Pacifier fell out a couple times – dad put it back in
9:50 pm – Poe awake but calm – dad, in hilarious act of wishful thinking, retreats to living room
9:52 pm – Poe upset – Dad returns to find Poe without pacifier, ripping major fart
9:55 pm – Poe closes eyes and keeps them closed – probably playing hilarious trick on idiot father
9:56 pm – maybe dad shouldn’t stare at poe’s face, using every ounce of his being to will her into sleep. Therapist would probably think that terrible use of time/mental energy
10 pm – a series of comically loud airplanes somehow fail to wake Poe, but I know if I move a fucking muscle she’s going to be wailing
10:06 pm – another hilariously loud plane – seriously, are we being attacked?
10:35 pm – some grunting
10:46 pm – loud, consistent grunting
10:47 pm – Poe awake but not upset when I came in. Closed her eyes when I laid a hand on her for a bit.
10:50 pm – upstairs neighbor honestly sounds like she’s stomping around on stilts.
10:50 pm – 11:15 pm – some whimpering/grunting
11:15 pm – 11:45 pm – mostly quiet
11:47 pm – she’s been pretty steadily asleep for almost two hours and I feel like that’s some sort of miracle
12:05 am – intermittent loud grunting
12:40 am – seriously, is there a helipad on the roof?
12:52 am – strained a couple more times but definitely not waking up
1 am – heavy grumbling, so dad woke Poe up for diaper change (very small poop), and feeding (2.5 oz or so)
1:25 am – put her back in bassinet sleepy but not asleep – immediate straining/grunting
1:26 am – put in pacifier – calmed slightly but not entirely
1:27 am – put a hand on Poe – calmed significantly
1:30 am – eyes closing and opening
1:35 am – spit out pacifier
1:36 am – eyes open but quiet


3:15 am – Alexis woke to constant grunting noises. Breasts going to pop. Sat next to Poe putting hand on her. She actually yawned in her sleep. Lots of smiling as she strained
3:24 am – she awake. Now I have to pee. Crazy happy smiles.
3:36 am – left boob
3:45 am – diaper change and right boob
4:03 am – she’s very awake
4:57 am – swaddled and in bassinet
5:00 am – she’s silent. I don’t trust it
5:20 am – grunting starts
5:33 am – moved to bed. Andrew put pacifier in. Now she’s grunting with it in her mouth. Going to unwrap her and put her on me. Want to sleep



9:45 pm – Poe put down in bassinet with song and white noise. Super squirrelly until pacifier
9:50 pm – eyes open for a couple minutes then asleep
9:55 pm – pacifier falls out – still asleep though
10:20 pm – big time straining – putting a hand on her does not help – accepts a pacifier but keeps straining
10:23 pm – rips a fart and immediately calms
10:23 pm – 11:05 pm – period of consistent (every 2-5 minutes) insane grunting
10:50 pm – took Poe out to living room because of grunting
11:07 pm – Poe awake and farting – put pacifier in – not helping much
11:12 pm – pulled Poe out of co-sleeper and farted her to see if that would help
11:15 pm – seems like it actually might have
11:20 pm – 12:10 am – period of mercifully silent sleep
12:15 am – straining starting back up
12:45 am – awake and straining/kissy face
12:50 am – fed, changed (medium poop), re-swaddled
1:30 am – put back in bassinet very awake with pacifier


2:45 am – consistent straining since she was put in bassinet. Alexis decides to move her so Andrew can sleep.
2:50 – there’s no ground decaf in cupboard. Blasted.
2:59 am – she smiles as she makes crazy grunts. Does she think this is funny? She partly woke up in the move. I pick her up and rock until she’s silent
3:00 am – arms and shoulders ache. She heavy.
3:01 am – no commentary as per normal in Andrew’s notes. He must have felt gloomy.
3:05 am – put pacifier in when I lay her down since she opens eyes and strains and cries. Insane grunting persists. She closes eyes. Hand on her at all times
3:10 am – pacifier fell out and she’s quiet. Silence of the gods
3:20 am – diaper change. Just pee if anything. Left boob.
3:50 am – swaddled and put in co sleeper. Grunting immediately resumes.
3:55 am – picked up to soothe and given right boob. She sucked a moment and then fell asleep.
4:01 am – abandoned co sleeper. Put Poe on her back next to me. Silent
5:42 am – she started to grunt. I put her on my belly because I really wanted a little more sleep
7:13 am – right boob



Mama says Dad did not include enough jokes in his commentary last night, so:

10:40 pm – Poe put down in bassinet with song, white noise and pacifier, after SLIPPING ON A BANANA PEEL.
10:44 pm – Take my baby. PLEASE. Pacifier falls out.
10:46 pm – Poe awake and grunting. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID. Dad puts pacifier back in and puts a hand on her. She calms.
10:49 pm – pacifier falls out: WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE-DOODLE! Poe restless. Dad puts it back in and puts a hand on her. She calms.
10:50 pm – 11:30 pm – Sleeping like a BABY (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAjust kidding, she’s actually sleeping pretty quietly.)
11:30 pm – 11:50 pm – consistent bouts of groaning, eased by laying a hand on her and periodically farting her. Kid you not. Here I am, a (purportedly) self-respecting adult man, farting his infant daughter.
11:50 pm – 1 am – slept pretty soundly with occasional grunts. Women can’t drive very well, am I right?
1 – 1:40 am – period of pretty intense grumbling.
1:40 am – Poe awake – Dad changed her – tiny bit of poop


2:00 – 2:18 am – left boob
2:41 am – right boob. She spat up a lot of left boob I think because I let her stay on her back too long after feeding from a side lying position
3:02 am – sending text messages about wedding housing breaking my phone use rule. Poe needed extra time to settle down.
3:16 am – swaddling and heading to bassinet
3:46 am – grunting begins
4:00 am – put her in bed with me
5:46 am – that did nothing and I let it go on too long. Putting her on chest
7:25 am – also did nothing for grunting. I am grumpy.

The Bloom

I have these little meltdowns. Intense but rarely outward-facing – implosions rather than explosions. Something goes just wrong enough and I completely shut down. It’s happened before, as Alexis can attest, but has grown more common since Poe’s birth, no doubt due to the added stress caused by sleep issues and trying to keep a tiny human that stubbornly refuses to obey common sense alive. The first post-birth meltdown occurred when I tried to install Poe’s car seat to get her home from the hospital. I had spent a good 20 minutes up in the hospital room looking over the instruction manual and watching YouTube videos and felt capable of installing the seat.

I was not.

At the first sign of trouble (buckling the seat into the recessed bars in the back seat of the car was difficult) I melted down. The world and everything in it was terrible; I was worthless; fate was set against me, and my best bet was to give up and take a forever nap in the Hudson.

Alexis rubbed my back, her mother said some kind words, I took a few deep breaths and was quickly ok again. The car seat didn’t have to be rigged that way. It had another option in which you could thread a seat belt through the base of the car seat and secure it that way. Simple enough. Except I couldn’t get the seat belt tight enough. The car seat wiggled easily back and forth. I pictured explaining Poe’s auto-related death to the police. Meltdown #2 tapped me on the shoulder. Everything was shit. I was shit. We were never going to get this car seat installed, and we were going to have to walk home with Poe, and she was going to die of exposure.

Encouraging words, deep breaths, and I was able to try again and find success.

The next meltdown occurred when putting together the hand-me-down swing/rocker we had gotten from a close friend of Alexis’s. I won’t bore you with the details because it was exactly the same as the first two meltdowns. Minor technical thing briefly doesn’t work, everything is shit, this product is designed to ruin my life, I want to put my head in the oven.

Take a deep breath, rewatch the YouTube video, realize I am putting one piece into another piece backwards, easily rectify the issue, voila.

Often, in my previous life, I was able to avoid these sorts of meltdowns with a deep breath and some perspective. In the addled/stressed state of taking care of a newborn, I lack these coping mechanisms, so I feel that my flaws have been laid completely bare. I am a petty, easily disturbed, rage-filled manchild.

But ultimately these meltdowns are meaningless when they are directed at inanimate objects. So, I broke the new needle to my record player on purpose when it wouldn’t snap easily into place and then had to go stand alone in the other room for 10 minutes. Who cares? No one got hurt.

But then I noticed the moments happening in relationship to Poe.

The first few days home were filled with a sort of hormonal bliss. Poe wouldn’t sleep for long stretches and Alexis was on essentially no sleep at all, but it didn’t matter. We both felt the soaring accomplishment and appreciation of new parents. I had never loved Alexis more and felt a need to take care of her that I have never felt for another person. Poe was a miracle and the fact that she had constant needs was outweighed by the fact that each moment brought on new and exciting developments.

Then the aura wore off a bit and reality settled in. Poe wouldn’t sleep in the bassinet for more than 20 minutes at a time. In fact, she wouldn’t sleep at all unless she was on someone or directly next to them in bed. This meant that someone needed to be awake at all times while she slept to prevent asphyxiation or the dreaded SIDS. By nature, this ended up being Alexis most of the time. I would take the early shift (9 pm – 1 am) but then Alexis would take over and get 0-1 hours of sleep between 1 am and 7 am, when I would wake up and relieve her. I was averaging 6 hours a night, so I was outwardly functional, but I became obsessed – monomaniacal – about getting Poe to sleep on her own so Alexis could sleep. Alexis’s lack of sleep became a profound source of anxiety for me, and the only solution was to get Poe to sleep by herself.

The rocker helped, but even then, Poe would (LIKE A NORMAL NEWBORN BABY) sometimes wake up quickly or need multiple feedings in a row. One night, we tried to put Poe down in the bassinet and she immediately started complaining. She had been fed 10 minutes prior, so I thought she just needed to be soothed. I took her out of the bedroom and told Alexis to try and get some sleep; I would handle it. I took Poe out to the living room, put her in the rocker, turned on the fancy vibrate feature, and set the rocker to swing Poe automatically. She was unmoved. She squealed and writhed and cried. I tried to give her a couple minutes to see if the swing would take effect. It didn’t. She simply got more upset. “Fucking impossible,” I thought to myself. “You just had a full feeding 10 minutes ago, and I know how big your stomach is – I REMEMBER THE LACTATION CONSULTANT’S DEMONSTRATION. YOUR STOMACH IS THE SIZE OF A PING PONG BALL SO YOU CAN’T BE FUCKING HUNGRY AGAIN.”

The rage rocketed up my spine and I picked Poe up from the swing. Brusquely. With anger. I stopped myself. I had just picked up a helpless infant like a sack of flour because she wasn’t conforming to the adult logic I was laying out in my brain. What was wrong with me?!

I took a deep breath. Poe was fine. Still hungry, but fine. Even in my rage, I had picked her up carefully. Quickly, with an ugly thought behind the action, but I had supported her shoulders and neck and had kept her safe.


It happened again. Nearly the same circumstances, but this time I had been asleep. We had put Poe down at 10:30 pm after a full feeding and after a long day in which Alexis had gotten in zero nap time. It was now 11:20 and Poe was up and screaming and writhing. Again, the rage bloomed in my brain like blood in water. I held Poe in bed and bounced her gently, shushing her like fucking famous Dr. Karp said to. No effect. Alexis headed to the bathroom to pee, ready to nurse upon her return if necessary. “Please calm down, Poe,” I thought. “Please go to sleep. I need to get Alexis more than an hour of fucking sleep tonight.” Poe’s complaining intensified. The rage pressed against the insides of my skull. I rocked Poe in my arms. Hard. Too hard. I stopped myself in horror. I was one degree away from shaking a baby. One degree away from a fucking crime. I put Poe down next to me in bed, put my hands over my eyes, and cried.

Alexis came back into the room and rushed to my side. She asked what was wrong, fear in her voice. I felt hopeless, helpless. I couldn’t control myself around a tiny infant. I was a terrible father. I wasn’t fit to do this.

Deep breaths, time, perspective. Alexis was able to calm me down and ease me into a productive discussion. In retrospect, I hadn’t rocked Poe very hard. Certainly no harder than she was rocked in the womb when Alexis exercised or walked down stairs. But still. The feeling behind it was dangerous and absolutely terrifying.

As any parent will, I’m sure, tell you, it’s completely mind-bending to have this tiny, barely human ball of cuteness that completely dominates your life. Poe is a twentieth the size of most humans, and yet she’s had a far more significant effect on my life than any adult (sorry, everyone) – at least in the short term. And she follows no logic, or common sense, or decency. These may sound like the most obvious things ever stated by a human, but when you are holding this human jelly of contradictions with a face in your arms, and she is bawling and making sucky face, even though you just saw her drink two full boobs worth of milk, it feels like she is ACTIVELY trying to ruin your life. Toss in a dash of stress and sleep-deprivation (even if it’s minor on my part) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

It’s getting better (as all of this will have to, or I’ll be very seriously considering the forever nap in the Hudson). The episode of vigorous rocking scared the SHIT out of me and has made me extra vigilant. I’ve had a couple more episodes and will undoubtedly have more in the future  (why, just the other morning I said ‘fuck’ more times than a Scorsese film because I couldn’t get the moby wrap correct after five fucking tries, while Poe cried and cried on the couch.) but I’m coping. I catch it a little earlier and am able to put deep breaths to earlier, better use. I also absolutely paint the air with cursing when something is especially frustrating. But harshly whispered, not yelled (well, mostly). Verbalizing allows me to release the steam before it becomes physical.

And I’m seeking help. There are a lot feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability that can come with being a father, and American males (and certainly myself) can really struggle with that sort of thing, no matter how sensitive and theater-y they think themselves to be. So, I’m seeing a therapist for the first time in my life. An event that is touted as joyous and life-affirming is sending me to seek professional psychological help.

How’s that for a motherfucker?