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It was well after midnight and I couldn’t sleep.
In the adjoining room of the hotel where I was staying, a baby’s cry pierced through the wafer-thin walls. As a veteran parent, I knew the fast and desperate cry was a hungry cry, different from the unmistakable scream of a finger caught in the door or the agitated pleading caused by a damp diaper.
I had an early start that next morning, so I was mad. Who travels with a baby? How could they let that baby cry so? I’m sure they’re negotiating whose turn it is to wake up. And those penny-pinching corporate executives, couldn’t they put soundproofing in the walls? After 2:00 a.m. a quiet stillness came. My anger gave way to exhaustion and I slept.
Just before 6:00 a.m., the crying resumed. It was fast, desperate, and hungry, but in my sleep-deprived stupor, the cries seemed to be not from an annoying baby in the next hotel room, but the cry of one of my own children. I lay in bed with the crying reminding me how much I miss the zombie-walk to the kitchen to get a bottle ready. What I would give for a tired little person to rub his eyes with tiny fingers or lay her head on my shoulder. And there’s no better sleep than that with a swaddled child at peace, curled up on my chest and a tilted bottle dripping formula on the chair. Sure, those sleepless weeks with a newborn seem interminable. And I never appreciated fully a good night’s rest until we had children. It’s been over nine years since my last middle of the night feeding, and today, I wish I could put a bottle in their mouths rather than car keys in their hands.
The people next door were more efficient in the early morning hours than at night – my little next door neighbor’s cries ended soon after they started. Too bad, I thought, I could have listened to that baby for hours.
How did a midnight irritation become a wonderful gift at 6:00 a.m.? Did the tired frustration of the dark night give way to the joyful anticipation of the new day? Or was my four hours’ rest between my neighbor’s feedings a reminder that lost sleep – whether giving a bottle to a baby or watching bad TV until the teenager gets home late at night – is job one for every parent?
The things in life we dislike may become, in hindsight, among our favorite memories.
The next time I check in to a hotel I may just ask for a room adjoining a baby’s.
Submitted by Anthony Romanello.