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Dad’s Side: Oh, What a Night!

1:13 a.m. Susan comes downstairs, worried by all the noise. Between Isabelle's sobs, I'm pleading with her to go to sleep. I promise I'll buy her a car when she's 16 if she'll just mind her dad and go to bed. It doesn't work. I tell her that she is grounded; neither Susan nor Isabelle laughs.

1:17 a.m. I decide to take the baby for a drive. Susan is hesitant  -- driving when you're sleep-deprived isn't the smartest thing. But I'm not that weary yet, and we're desperate.

1:28 a.m. Isabelle has been asleep for several minutes in her car seat. As I drive through the dark, I'm rigid with fear that a deer will come racing out of the woods and dart in front of our vehicle. I also imagine an inebriated truck driver a few miles behind us, gaining ground, barreling toward my precious cargo. And my eyes are wide open as I imagine myself slumped over the steering wheel, asleep, sending our car plunging off a cliff. Not that we have many cliffs among the rolling hills of rural Ohio, but you never know.

1:48 a.m. Rattled, I return home, easing into the driveway. I've called from my cell phone, warning Susan to chloroform the dogs if she has to, to keep them from barking. I park, ever so slowly. I turn the ignition off. Isabelle promptly wakes up and cries.

1:50 a.m. I troop wearily into the house with the crying Isabelle. Susan looks horror-stricken. I'm waiting for her to snap, certain she's about to grab the keys, hop in the car, and peel away, not stopping until she's in Canada, where she can apply for citizenship and try to start over.

1:54 a.m. I'm digging through a closet, searching for one of the baby gifts we received: the baby carrier. So far, whenever we've managed to get Isabelle to sleep, she's been gently jostled or held tightly in our arms. And so I have a plan.

2:15 a.m. Susan is asleep, and so is the baby, pressed against my chest in the carrier. I'm walking around, tired and dying to sit down, but every time I do, Isabelle's lungs turn on like an out-of-control blender. I mutter swear words that would embarrass Howard Stern  -- not because what I'm saying is graphic, but because my choice of expletives is ridiculous: Since I'm with a baby, I say "fudge, fudge, fudge!" in a way that I hope sounds really dirty.

3:33 a.m. After another feeding attempt by Susan, Isabelle is back in the carrier and I'm back to pacing. I take a little stroll through our living room, down the hall, through the kitchen, and back  -- 716 times.

4:01 a.m. I'm still walking, cranky, and no longer enjoying the idea that parenting means I get to watch a lot of TV. In the background a Clint Eastwood movie is on, and I'm rooting for the bad guys.

6:47 a.m. Sunlight is filtering through the windows, and I suddenly feel, well, almost awake and better than I have any right to feel. After all, we made it through our first night, and Isabelle has slept several hours. So has Susan. I got about 20 minutes. But between yawns, I realize that Isabelle and I have bonded. Still asleep, she's so quiet and vulnerable, her tiny hands curled against my body. There's no way a gerbil could give me the same feeling.

Geoff Williams is a freelance writer.

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