My youngest sister and I gave birth to our sons on the same day, five hours and 456 miles apart. These baby cousins started communicating in utero—talking by means of a Morse code of pokes and kicks, about how warm and cozy they were in there and how they didn't want to leave. They were both a week overdue. My sister and I both had to be induced.
During the early weeks of the boys' lives, my sister and I texted each other in the middle of the night, a lifeline after dark. When the babies started sleeping more regularly, our late night/early morning texts stopped. We talked on the phone during the day, comparing notes. The boys were at it again. If one slept through the night for four days, then on the fifth day was up from 1am-3am, the other had done the same thing. We joked that they were talking behind our backs.
Do you remember the Twilight Bark from the movie 101 Dalmatians? The dogs bark to one another all across the city to spread news and ask for help, often in the late night hours.
I thought of the Twilight Bark one night as I was lying on the floor of the baby's room. He had been up several times already. I did not dare get up until I knew he was in a deep sleep. So I shut my eyes, curled up under a blanket and attempted to relax. Not surprisingly, that was difficult to accomplish under such circumstances. My hips and neck ached from lying on the floor, my arm kept falling asleep, and my mind refused to turn off. I thought there must be parents all over the world, maybe even down the street, that were doing the exact same thing at this moment. I thought of my sister. Was she lying on the floor at this very moment, too? I imagined that our boys were communicating in their cosmic cousin way.
It was then that I recalled the Twilight Bark. Here was the scenario: my baby would cry out his message in North Carolina, setting off a chain reaction of babies crying all the way to Ohio, where my nephew would receive it. I thought this must work for parents, too. We are stretched out on bedroom floors lying motionless, sitting in rocking chairs at awkward angles, spooning little ones in twin beds with our backs against the bed rail. We are all awake, desperately willing our children to sleep. So, I send out a silent message to my sister, "I am awake, are you awake, too?" I imagine my message is received by the dad down the street that is pacing back and forth in his kitchen with his newborn daughter, and he passes it on to another parent keeping vigil in the night, and the chain continues.
My Twilight Bark message makes it all the way to Ohio, where my sister is awake, barely rocking in her glider, afraid to move, with my sleeping nephew curled against her. A sense of relief washes over her in solidarity.
Now, when I find myself on the floor of the nursery in the middle of the night, I think of the Twilight Bark and send out a little silent message. I am oddly comforted by the thought of other parents and caregivers doing what I am doing; relieved that I’m not alone. Chances are, my sister is probably lying awake on the floor 456 miles away. We’re not together…..but we are.
Katie Hunnes shares her perfectly imperfect life with a three year-old boy, a five year-old girl, and a 39 year-old man. She has a penchant for chai lattes and Instagram. When she isn't working, she spends her time hunting for missing socks, chasing sunsets, and occasionally writing about her parenting experiences at Stop Licking the Table! (and other things I never thought I would say).
Editor's Note: This is the mysterious essay that was mentioned in our latest podcast with Krystal Festerly. After a bit of digging, we found it! A special thank you to Katie for letting us publish this today.
P.s. A coffee + mug giveaway!