The clock chimes 3:45 am. The house is quiet, and all are asleep–save one woman animatedly whispering rap lyrics in the warm living room by the fireplace. She is nursing a baby with one arm; her other arm gesticulates as if to emphasize her rhyming points. Never mind that she is mid-thirties, never mind that she is white and by all means a total fuddy-duddy. The words pour forth.
“There would have been nothin’ left to do for someone less astute
He would have been dead or destitute without a cent of restitution.
Started workin’, clerkin’ for his late mother’s landlord
Trading sugar cane and rum and all the things he can’t afford…”
Okay, fine. That woman is me. About a month before my son was born last October, I jumped on board the “Hamilton” craze and quickly found myself hooked. The lyrics: genius. The history lesson: beneficial. The songs were catchy enough to keep me fully awake during all of those middle-of-the-night feedings with my newborn, and so each night I alternately spent my feeding times either plowing my way through Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography or learning lyrics to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical version of it. I must say, it worked. I not only stayed awake, but I can now semi-competently rap my way through eighteenth-century historical events! I even mastered the full-tilt speed of Marquis de Lafayette’s triple-time rhymes in “Guns and Ships,” the fastest Broadway song ever written. Nineteen words in a mere three seconds? You betcha. (In case you’re curious, those nineteen words are, “And I’m never gonna stop until I make ’em drop and burn em’ up and scatter their remains, I’m…”)
Now, mind you, I haven’t always been such an accomplished Jill-of-all-trades in my night-time feedings. It has taken me four whole kids to wrangle the deficits of sleep deprivation and actually come out with something besides crazy hair and a headache to show for it. Indeed, when our second son was only ten days old I heard a knock on the door in the middle of the night during one of my feedings. Turns out it was the local police force, who became involved on our behalf when they drove by at 4:30 am and saw our minivan doors wide open in the driveway, keys still in the ignition, diaper bag still on the front seat, and the garage door wide open. Apparently when we had arrived home from my in-laws’ at about 10 pm the night before, my sleepy husband and I had forgotten to, you know, take the simple but necessary steps of closing up and locking our automobile and house. The officer was unimpressed with the fact that I had a newborn and a 20-month-old, and lectured me that I was lucky to have not been a victim of a serious crime. He was right. I was a chump then, but now I have mad skills.
Apparently I’m not the only person who utilizes those wee hours to try to squeeze something useful out of life. I canvassed my friends and found that, while some prefer to space out or fall back asleep, many have boned up on knowledge and know-how. For instance, my friend Sara has become versed in pump-speak. Everyone knows that in the middle of the night the rhythmic noises of the breast pump suddenly become a secret language of words that the pump says to you monotonously over and over and over again. It turns out that Sara’s pump has a proclivity for curse words, politics, and sayings that involve “babies” and/or “boobies.”
Britnie has become a professional Facebook stalker. She commented, “Friend’s little sister has a new boyfriend? Don’t mind if I do check out 574 pictures!”
Hannah immersed herself in her ancestral history. “I read a lot of news clippings, family journals, etc., and learned a lot of fascinating things–some not so flattering–about my ancestors.”
Leigh Ann dutifully recited “99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall.” Heidi flummoxed her friends and family by routinely sending angry, nonsensical texts and then not remembering having done so when morning came. Alyssa admitted, “I became obsessed with various new beauty routines. I researched to death the proper Asian beauty routine for my skin tone, and now my husband makes fun of our frequent shipments of beauty products that have packaging we can’t read.”
Kenzie kept her composure when her son spat up down her nursing bra, then still managed to get her baby back to sleep in his crib even though she was soaked, and then stayed up to do all of her laundry since she didn’t want to wash only the one bra. Leah and her husband watched “Bomb Patrol Afghanistan” every night to sharpen their amateur military knowledge; incidentally, the unexpected explosions on TV jarred her back awake when she found she had nodded off. Countless friends read books or watched whole series of television shows. One friend left the baby with her husband and, upon coming back into the living room, found him pacing with the baby and singing “Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls,” complete with the rap section.
It turns out that the middle of the night isn’t as lifeless as we all may have thought. Who knew? How do you spend your wee hours when your kids have you up?