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Being home after four days away is a mixed bag of emotions. Of course, the one most prominent is happiness, because I’m not an emotionless robot (yet!) and that’s the natural reaction to seeing one’s beloved family. The feeling of happiness is followed closely by relief that they were just fine without you, no one burned down the house or lost a limb. The only incident worth getting worked up over was the random contraction of pinkeye from my son’s daycare, which magically did not spread to anyone else in our home.

All fluffy emotions accounted for, the void is filled with guilt for leaving, frustration at the reality of the days ahead of playing catch up and paying forward of the favors I had to call in in order to go away in the first place. Nothing drives home this gut-sinking feeling of “here we go again” like attempting to get through the newly minted night routine forged in my absence.

I had gotten a tiny taste of my pre-baby nights while I was in Boston, and I must say, I liked it. I could go to bed when I pleased and wake up when I was damn good and ready. The only thing that stood in my way to eight blissful hours was the still entrenched instinct to shoot up in a panic at 4:00 a.m., but that was way manageable considering the way I slept at home.

The first few nights were okay, but as we brought my son home from his wellness checkup, thighs burning from two more regularly scheduled vaccinations, he began to run a fever. For some reason, I took this as a sign to disrupt the proven protocol because my egotistical ass knew better, and by 2:00 a.m., it was all over. I had reinforced the incorrect response, bypassing my son’s fragile new skill of self-soothing and he responded by spot welding himself to my shoulder with tears, mucus, and the baby death grip whose frightening strength new moms can attest to.

I swear, no one is capable of dignified behavior at 3:00 a.m. While my husband attempted to get us back on track, I had to relegate myself to the basement to be the furthest from the ruckus going on upstairs. I’m probably being too hard on myself, but there was no experience more visceral as the self-loathing I was putting myself through.

After what felt like an eternity, the baby calmed and was silent. Soon he resumed his angelic sleeping state and my husband came downstairs in search of the larger baby to soothe her as well. The thing about the chaos is that stepping away from it for even a few days is enough to let the selective memory take away the survivalist skill set so difficult to forge. I think this is one of the hardest parts of parenting, and the difference between being childless and responsible for a little one.