Sparks in the Dark.

Sparks in the Dark.

It had been months since I’d slept. This baby was keeping me up all night, every night. He wanted to eat, he wanted to cry. Even after he was fed and changed, he still didn’t sleep. So I’d rock and sway and bounce and sing. He’d finally drift off and then I’d ease both of us down onto the bed together like we were one being, hoping not to wake him in the process. I’d sleep for an hour or so and in no time he’d be up and it’d be time to do it all again.

I had long since reached the point where I had any idea if I was simply exhausted or in the throes of postpartum depression. I was certain that I was no longer certain there was a distinction between the two. And I knew without a doubt it didn’t matter anymore. I spent those hours awake in the night worrying about my mental state. I worried about everything else under the sun and then, when I’d exhausted all possible topics, I worried that my incessant worrying would worsen my mental state.

One of those nights, as I held my baby close to me, afraid to blink for fear the noise would wake him, I saw a sparkle in the fleece receiving blanket I was covering both of us with. It wasn’t as much a sparkle, I realized, as a spark. I moved my leg, and there was a flash, and then another. My heartbeat quickened and I held my breath, certain the baby was going to catch fire. Babies and their blankets should not spark. 

I moved again, another spark. I glanced at the boy who, by some miracle, wasn’t stirring. I carefully kicked the blanket from us, sparks of light twinkling in the darkness of a cold winter’s night. I pushed it to the floor. Pinned beneath my child, I silently wondered which was the bigger risk: the house burning down or waking Nathan. And there was still that chance he’d spontaneously combust. I was frozen. Worried we wouldn’t live through the night, I simply did nothing.

Eventually I drifted off. By the light of morning it was clear there was nothing wrong with the blanket or the boy. Perhaps it was all a dream.

This scenario repeated itself for an embarrassingly long time before I realized the sparks in the blanket had been static electricity. Nothing and no one was going to catch fire. I had worried myself sick, needlessly.

I never told anyone about the sparks and what now just feels like my own silliness. I left that part out when I finally met with my doctor, months later, to tell her that I was now completely sure that my uncontrollable crying was probably not a symptom of my extended sleep deprivation. I took the pills she gave me and worried just a bit less about my fitness for motherhood.

I don’t take the pills anymore, but I do still spend many nights awake. I’m still weary down to my core, my kid still doesn’t sleep enough, and I still spend hours contemplating our futures.

When my own fleece bed covering makes sparks in the night, though, I no longer worry that we’re all going to die. Well, at least not from a blanket.

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30 Responses to “Sparks in the Dark.”

  1. Loved this! I’ve missed your writing and reading along. I, too, remember being startled the first time I saw a spark from static electricity. It doesn’t seem right somehow! You really portrayed what can really be an isolating and depressing time. Thanks for sharing. Glad to check back in. :)

    • michellelongo says:

      I’m glad you stopped by to read and comment! I know you have a lot happening in your world right now :) (congrats, btw!)

      Somehow I never had fleece blankets before my kid was born and I wasn’t usually up in the middle of the night, so I never knew of this phenomenon. You’re right though, there’s something off about the whole thing!

  2. I’m forever grateful that the nurse at my first post-natal visit immediately referred me to a doctor for some of those pills. Like you, I blamed fatigue on the fact that I burst into tears as soon as she greeted me with “How are you?”
    Even with pills, there are so many things that scare us new moms. Your last lines are so true. We give up on one worry to replace it with another.

    • michellelongo says:

      I’m sure my level of exhaustion didn’t help my situation, but my near constant crying was definitely not good. My doctor didn’t get past the how are you before I broke down either. And yes, I still worry about everything with this kid, but it’s not the same as back then. I can mostly tell when I’m being irrational. Mostly.

  3. i remember feeling this isolated and depressed. your brain gets away from us. and who could blame us. i remember our first ‘spark’ as well. freakin fleece!

    • michellelongo says:

      Seriously with the fleece!! It is such an odd time. And I firmly believe that very little good every comes from being awake at 3am.

  4. I don’t have a baby yet so I haven’t exactly been there, but after reading this, I feel like I was right there with you, in that confusing, sleepless, time where nothing is right, and it feel like nothing ever will be.

    • michellelongo says:

      Well, I’ll tell you what I think for when your time comes: Being worried about doing everything right is normal. Thinking a blanket will set your kid on fire is not normal. Crying the first few days, normal. Eight months in? Not so much.

      And yeah, nothing feels right in the middle of the night. Hey, that rhymes!

  5. I’m a guy so none of that baby stuff keeps me awake at night, but just about everything else does.

  6. Tomekha says:

    Wow. I’m amazed at how you drew me in and made me feel like I was there with you. I saw those sparks and was sooooo afraid too.

  7. Linda Roy says:

    I felt that way with my second baby. So much to deal with, so much to keep us awake at night.

    • michellelongo says:

      I can only imagine how I would have managed with two babies (or not managed, as I suspect the case would have been). The list of things to worry about is infinite.

  8. Stacie says:

    Things can take on such a different perspective in the middle of the night, especially when you’re sleep deprived. I hope you can rest easy soon, someplace warm.

  9. ranu802 says:

    I thought the baby was hungry every couple of hours,like mine.I was scared while reading it and couldn’t wait for the ending,electric blankets are not safe but it was only static electricity in your case.

    • michellelongo says:

      There was absolutely nothing for me to be afraid of, but being a newish mom made me a mess. And mine just didn’t sleep, and still doesn’t sleep all that well. It’s just his way, and we make do. There’s no other alternative, right?

  10. Christie says:

    I’ve never seen these but had I seen them with my newborn I would have called the police. Because so tired.

    • michellelongo says:

      I couldn’t call the police, it would have made too much noise. He could hear my eyelids close, I tell you!! But yes, so tired.

  11. Sarah says:

    I can only imagine how alarming this was, but I had to admit I could completely relate with the whole ‘which is worse–waking the baby or letting the house burn down’ debate. I’m glad you didn’t have to choose between the two, and I’m glad the worse of it seems to be behind you.

    • Everything at that point came down to whether or not it would wake the baby. My only mission in life was to get him to sleep for more than an hour at a time. Things get better all the time, too. :) Thanks for the comment!

  12. I had a blanket that used to do that and the first time I saw it I was startled. I can’t imagine if it had happened during the time my son was a newborn and I was so sleep deprived!

  13. I did the exact same thing in the hospital with Emma. Tossing on a crappy fold-out chair, sparking away. There was no sleep that night!

  14. jen says:

    I used to play with those sparks in my blanket when I was little! I thought they were fire fairies. lol Gee I was weird. And ugh PPD is nooooo fun. :(

  15. I remember panicked, sleepless nights and convincing myself I cried all the time because I was tired. If only I had known then…..


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