I’m not ashamed to tell you that we now have three kids sleeping in our room.
Two year-old Hannah has staked out her position between Lisa and me on our king-sized bed. Caleb, five years old, camps down on a toddler mattress next to the footboard. Newborn Naomi is strategically set next to Lisa in a bedside bassinette.
Three children under the age of six in our room?
Yes, it certainly makes for moments of late-night chaos, especially for a really light sleeper like me.
Naomi is up every three hours or so for her feeding. As Lisa takes care of the new baby, Hannah, realizing that mommy is occupied with someone other than her, wakes up in protest. Hannah is also known to talk in her sleep, often arguing with Caleb or loudly proclaiming, "Mine! Mine!" to an imaginary acquirer of her toys.
Caleb takes his middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom while totally oblivious of those trying to sleep around him. Thump, thump, thump across the wood floors, followed by the illuminating of every light possible and a toilet visit and flush with door wide open.
Meanwhile, Faith, our less-than-quiet six-year old in the next room, makes similar nighttime journeys down the hall past our open door.
Is it any wonder that I’m quite tired these days?
I was once told in the Philippines that the reason Americans don’t have larger families is because we don’t have enough rooms for each child. There is a belief in some parts of the developing world that we rich affluent Americans, with our desire to put each child in a room of their own, limit our families accordingly. Two extra bedrooms translates into two children.
Meanwhile, in the slums of Bombay, Manila, Lima, Nairobi and the world over, families of eight are crammed into one-room 8 ft. by 8ft. shacks.
My nocturnal distractions occur in a scene of great comfort – a room set at 72 degrees Fahrenheit with a constantly circulating fan providing a gentle breeze, a plush pillow-top bed so thick that you could lose yourself in it, plenty of space for the five nighttime inhabitants, and a peaceful sense of stability and security. Everybody goes to sleep with full bellies and, should anybody be sick, there are multitudes of medicines on hand.
To the contrary, those shanty-town dwellers live on urine-soaked dirt floors with no running water. Any stirring of disease-ridden children in the middle of a hot and humid night means that the whole family is awakened. Mosquitoes buzz around the heads of the feverish kids, while the danger of a home invasion by thieves is ever present. The black sooty walls choke the lungs while splintered wood makes a comfortable sleep-time position even harder to attain. Sweat-drenched sheets enunciate the combined body odors of a family that hasn’t been able to bathe in weeks.
Like most, I love weekends. After a restless night of multiple rude awakenings, I arise later than usual to sunlight flooding in through stained-glass windows. Soon there will be the scent of coffee and bacon filling the air. A nice hot shower, and a pick from many freshly-cleaned clothes, helps to get the day in order. All my smaller bed-chamber mates have long scurried off in search of cartoons and fairytales.
Meanwhile, it’s just another day of hard labor for the father in the developing world who tried to fight for a few precious hours of sleep inside his sardine-packed abode. His young daughter vomited on him last night, just another episode among many like it, night after night. There is no aromatic food greeting him, nor any fresh shower and clean clothes. The only light streaming into his dark hovel is through the same slats that neighbors can peer through, the same openings that bring the bugs and vermin.
How on earth does he have a day where he has the rest, energy and health to provide for his struggling family?
Maybe my sleepless nights aren’t so bad after all.