I have a recurring fantasy: It's 6 a.m. I'm well-rested. As I enter my baby's room, he flashes me a thousand-watt smile... FULL OF TEETH. Teeth that have appeared in the night. Teeth that came from nowhere. Teeth that chipped nothing from my soul. I am richly fantasizing about these sorts of teeth.
Teething is ruining my life.
There are two camps of children.
Kids from Camp A miraculously arise with new teeth -- no fanfare, no sleep deprivation. These gems also tend to fall asleep randomly around the house. You've seen their photos on Facebook -- curled up on a pile of Legos, or out cold in a bowl of oatmeal. These children exist. But they do not live in my home.
Now, for the parents of Camp B kids -- those who enter the Dark and Stormy Tunnel of Teething. I am you. You are me. We are one. You know exactly how many teeth you have left. We are 13 deep with three to go, and then the two-year molars. Each tooth cost me brain cells and my youthful glow.
There are 15 stages to a tooth's arrival in our home.
1. No bueno. Grouchy boy wants to nurse 24/7. He sleeps in 15-minute increments. Something ain't right in his diaper. So what if a tooth came last week? There will be no respite from our last rodeo. Time to gather my inner strength. We may be going on this ride again.
2. We're on the ride. I think. Probably. Or maybe he's just sick? Hmmm, hard to tell since teething pain IS A GODDAMN MYSTERY!! It starts well before any tangible proof appears. He's a wreck. Maybe I should check with the doctor.
2A. Go to doctor. Eliminate anything else that could be wrong. Doctor bets a tooth is coming. (Most everything is blamed on teething -- I know this from my first baby.) Maybe the gums are swollen, maybe not. Well, he reasons, the next day or two should tell. Two days = 2,880 minutes, and whose tit is this baby suckin' for those minutes? But thank you for squeezing me in on short notice.
3. Go home and suffer. But not in silence.
4. It's baby, me, and 2 a.m. Actually, it's us at 10 p.m., 11, 12:30, 2, 3, and 4, but who is counting? Pull out all stops -- holistic pills, Camilia, amber necklaces. Pray the teeth arrive in a pair.
5. Repeat similar torture pattern the next night. But start the night pre-loading syringes of Advil and Tylenol. Attach them to sticky notes scribbled with time stamps. It's a smart way to avoid later barking at your spouse to triple-check confusing dosing charts. Also, you might bypass saying ugly things you'll have to apologize for tomorrow.
6. Apologize for the ugly things you said last night. Blame everything on sleep deprivation.
7. Run into a friend who asks why you look like a mug shot of your former self. Realize friend has a kid in Camp A as she recalls how Little Cyrus got two teeth at once, but it was nothing a pinch of Advil couldn't fix... have you considered this? You have the urge to hurt your friend, but realize she doesn't understand. You ask to see the latest pic of Lil' C fast asleep on a crowded trampoline.
8. Worry that something is wrong with my kids. Why must they feel such pain while other kids sprint through teething? Decide everyone feels pain differently. Despite this, continue to agonize over why my children feel this way. Feel sad they could feel pain this way their whole lives. Feel grateful to have kids to begin with. Feel guilt for feeling any of these feelings. Post something on Facebook about loving motherhood and its many gifts.
9. Repeat sleepless night several more times. Feel all of the feelings.
10. Daylight always brings a happier camper. Revel in the fact that you made it this far. Change Lil' Man's diaper and realize the white spot you see in his mouth is not from exhaustion! THE TOOTH IS COMING! THE TOOTH IS COMING!
10.5. Tell anyone who cares that the tooth is coming. It's a short list.
11. Ride out the next night with a renewed sense of hope. You can smell the finish line. Administer syringes with confidence and flair.
12. The tooth has broken through. Stretch your arms toward the heavens with a deep cleansing breath. Review your tooth count.
13. Attempt to venture out and realign yourself with reality, but forget to look in the mirror first. Run into someone you worked with previously. She doesn't ask why you look like a mug shot of your former self, but she's thinking it. Instead, she wonders if you're working on anything exciting these days. Quell the urge to tell her about your triumphant journey. Settle on, "You know, juggling!" and toss a scarf over the breast milk stains on your yoga pant uniform (remembering to casually re-clip your nursing bra). When she asks what it's like to have a child, remind her you actually have two kids now. Gently pat down the halo of frizz surrounding your head using gestures you naturally work into conversation. Smile sweetly when she asks if you love motherhood. Add something vague, like, "It's a wild ride!"
14. Bemoan the sleep training process you undid over the past week of compassionate mothering. Ponder if you should have let him muscle through alone. Find this thought despicable. Re-sleep-train him in three-minute increments. Coo loving mantras while reminding him he's learning to sleep again. Speak loudly so he can hear you over the crying, which conveniently drowns out the sound of your heart breaking.
15. Enjoy [who effing knows how much] time before the next tooth comes. These suckers show up uninvited whenever the hell they want. You only have to get through two more teeth, unless you have another kid. Suddenly, remember you forgot to take a pregnancy test last week because you were so bloody tired. Vow to do it tomorrow.
Leyna Juliet Weber is a Mother/Writer/Actress in that particular order. She is the Co-Founder of WorkingBug.com and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small sons in a home that consistently looks vandalized. www.SeeMomWrite.com