Pickett’s Charge was the crescendo of Gettysburg, the high water mark of the Confederacy. Thousands of men charged toward a strongly defended line. They reached that line and punctured it. At that moment, they must have felt the euphoria of hard-fought victory.
Then, their charge ran out of steam. They were thrown back, battered and bruised. It was the beginning of the end for them.
Why do I mention Pickett’s Charge in a parenting blog?
Because at 1 a.m. this morning, as I was struggling to get the baby to sleep, I thought about all the men in history who fought hard and thought they had won, only to be cast backward into defeat. It isn’t that I wish Pickett’s Charge had succeeded; I’m very satisfied that it failed. Yet, as this fidgety baby turned my hard-won victory to defeat, I felt the weary pain of having the tables turn against me at the crucial moment.
At 11:30 p.m. the baby started crying. I took him downstairs and poured him three fingers of milk. He finished about two fingers worth before he waved off the bottle with his spastic little hands.
For an hour, I rocked him, swayed with him, and bounced him on my knee. He didn’t cry, but he didn’t close his eyes either. He just sat there looking cute, and awake. Occasionally, he would punk me by fitting a tall yawn in between his moments of contemplative staring at the ceiling.
Finally, his eyes got droopy. I took him upstairs and put him into his cradle. This perked him right up again. To keep things moving in the right direction, I gave him my pinky finger to suckle. He settled down.
For long, uncomfortable minutes, I hunched over him, rocking his cradle and feeding him my finger. It was working. As he drifted further into sleep, I eased my finger loose from his gums. In another instant, I would be free. Victory and a soft pillow would be mine!
Then the tables turned. We were doomed by the Moro Reflex.
The Moro Reflex is that instinct that makes babies fling their arms up over their heads at moments critical to their parents’ escapes. I have noticed two variations of the Moro Reflex. The Little Moro Reflex is the one where the baby throws his arms up in one fluid motion. I call this the Praise the Lord Reflex. The baby comes out of R.E.M. long enough to ask his dreams, “Can I get a witness?” then slips right back into deep slumber.
The Big Moro Reflex is the one where the baby violently jerks himself awake throwing his arms up and casting them all about for some vine or lemur tail to catch hold of. His eyes jolt open, and in them you can hear him think, “Holy shit, I’m falling out of the monkey tree!” The baby is now irrevocably awake.
At 1 a.m. this morning, my baby boy was stricken with the Big Moro Reflex. It was my high water mark.
I jammed my pinky back into his mouth, but it was too late. My victory was slipping away from me, and I knew it. Everything was trending in the wrong direction, right up to the point when the boy signaled my defeat with his battle cry.
This cry woke my wife. She saw that I was a shell of the proud soldier I had once been. I was summarily relieved of duty. Maybe I had earned a rest, but I had earned no victory. Just like the survivors of Pickett’s Charge.