New England Gamer
The whimpering beginnings of a cry stir us from our sleep. For the first week of our daughter's
life she was relatively merciful. She'd sleep regularly for hours, snoring with her tiny lungs right
through the night until the break of dawn where she'd rise for a few moments only to be put back
down by a morning feeding.
Her whimper turns to a shrill bawl and our gradual waking turns into a startled rising as we
scoop Audrey out of her bassinet. "Give her here," says Mandi. I offer an incoherent mumbling
response; I don't wake as quickly as she does. I pass my daughter, now panting in her excited
anticipation of food (she's her father's daughter), to my wife and my head flops back to my
pillow like a cartoon anvil.
An hour passes when I'm met with a sudden, loud wail and the tap of a finger on my shoulder.
My eyes slide open a fraction of an inch and see Mandi and Audrey both staring down at me.
"She's not hungry anymore." I nod with understanding; it's my turn. I sit up, doing my best to
blink away the sleep as my daughter is passed into my arms. She offers a deceptively peaceful
coo as I pull her to my chest, but I know better. This is going to take awhile.
I move us into her bedroom and run through her routine of comfort: diaper change, double
swaddle, naptime CD and rocking. For ten or so minutes she keeps up her cute and innocent act,
staring up at me with those two week old pearls until her face contorts into pink squalling anger.
I take a peek at the clock for a point of reference and continue rocking her. In the background the
nap time CD my wife made for her plays. I sing along with it hoping that my rendition of
"Goodnight My Angel" will be enough to appease her.
Three o'clock rolls by with little pomp save the continued wails of my child. I push out a sigh
and think back to the last time I was up this late. Granted, I'm no stranger to late nights. Writing
is not my day job and they don't call it "moonlighting" for nothing. That said, even on my latest
freelance catch up nights, I would rarely stay up past two. This hour hasn't been a regular thing
for me in years.
For a moment I flash back to my teenage years and remember with fondness the pale glow of a
television screen, the burning of my red rimmed eyes and the feeling of the caffeine flowing
through my veins in such amounts that I'm resistant to it today. Back in those days I would have
told you that I'd beaten Final Fantasy VIII four times because I loved the game so much. In
retrospect, it might have something to do with my ability to stay up for ungodly lengths of time
during that period of my life.
Holding my daughter now, almost a decade later, it dawns on me just how far in the past those
days really are. I take inventory of my life as it stands and how little I resemble who I was at
fifteen. And, as she lets loose another voluminous wail, it dawns on me that things will never
ever be the same again.
Not that the birth of my daughter is the first big change in my life. The years since leaving high
school have, as I suspect they are for most people, been a period of transition for me. Since 2009
alone I've gotten married, graduated from college, struggled through the woes of unemployment,
found a job, found an apartment, and bought a home. You could say that my daughter is just the
icing on top of a cake that is constantly molding itself to accept new realities.
Even so, when stacked up against the introduction of Audrey, it's like comparing a Pizza Hut tothe Empire State Building. And, as I turn to take another lap of her room, the force of her cries
practically shaking the walls, I can't help but think of all the things we'll never do again. Of all
the things that will never be the same.
I remember the Rock Band parties we and our friends used to throw in college. Blasting music
and sleeping babies tend not to mix. I think about the hours my wife and I spent cuddled together
in our basement bedroom playing Dragon Age: Origins during the discouraging days of our
post-college unemployment. After another day of searching for job leads and sending out
applications without success, we'd lay next to each other in our bed and just escape. Then, when
we got tired we would shut the game off and drift off to sleep together, her head lying on my
chest. There was a closeness in that and, as desperate as those times often felt, there's still some
sadness to think that they'll never be again.
And as much as it can simply be tied to times-a-changing, on a tangible level she is the greatest
obstacle to it all. Because of the infant in my arms, I'll never again be able spend entire days
gaming. I'll never be able to walk into GameStop and thoughtlessly buy an overpriced game that
I don't really need. My wife and I will never be able to marathon play our way through a
Bioware game together and talk about nothing but the game for weeks following.
As I think of this, Audrey's eyes flicker. She lets out a small coo and presses herself against me.
The tears stop and the cries are little more than an echo swiftly fading from memory. I look
down once more at this perfect, beautiful little girl and remember the first time I saw her face
staring up at me. I recall the first rise and fall of her chest and the grip of her tiny hand on my
index finger as a nurse cleaned her beneath a heat lamp. She falls asleep in my arms and all I can
think is that whatever the price we've paid, it was a bargain.
Read more by Stewart Shearer