Before you have a baby, everyone warns you to kiss sleep goodbye. “Good luck,” they say, with a smile full of schadenfreude. (I wonder why German is the only language with a word that means being happy when other people suffer.) They wish you luck the way someone who has just assembled a piece of IKEA furniture says good luck. Like, “I suffered beyond imagination to make something so wobbly I have to lean it against the wall, but at least now I can sit back and laugh while you discover this Riktig Ogla is never going to fit into that Grundtal Norrviken. But go ahead. Good luck.”
After all the warnings, I was duly scared about the sleep thing. And it’s true. I have not slept more than a few hours in a row for months. But what nobody tells you is how much joy you feel.
I just got up to pick up the baby and I realized that all my fears of being exhausted never materialized. Because when you lean into his crib and he sees you, he erupts into a smile like you just told him he won the $80 million Powerball lottery. That happens multiple times a day. His joy is so overwhelming and infectious that it’s impossible to feel tired or beleaguered. It’s like a tractor beam of sunlight hitting you in the face. And it never gets old.
Lev is a habit of happiness. He’s like a little 12-pound human Prozac. He can’t help smiling when he sees me first thing in the morning, or after a nap, or when I come home, or any time really.
It’s impossible for anyone to warn you how great it is so they warn instead that you will be sleepy. This tsunami of love doesn’t knock gently at the front door. It tears the house down.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a New York City-based author, journalist and songwriter. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and the Huffington Post. His son, Lev, is the love of his life and the inspiration for The Daddy Diaries. @dimitriehrlich