It’s a quick drive home. 15, maybe 20 minutes with traffic. Sam and I are chatting away, talking about anything that comes to mind. Bella is playing in the back with something that seems to have captured her attention enough for us to have an entire uninterrupted conversation.
Neither of us realize it’s gotten very quiet in the back. Too quiet.
Then I ask casually, like I do 3-4 times a trip, “Is Bella ok back there?” She’s behind me, rear facing so I can’t see her.
Sam glances in the rear view mirror, but the opposite mirror in the back that shows us her face is askew. “I don’t know,” he replies, a bit of panic setting in. We look at each other. She’s really quiet.
“Bella,” I call out, trying to keep my voice cheerful, “Honey, what does a lion say?”
No “RAAARRR” comes from her seat.
“Hey, Bella, is there a truck outside?”
“When did you hear her last?” I ask Sam, panicked.
He looks at me with sad eyes as we both fully realize what has happened. We have failed.
She’s taking a car nap.
I stifle back a sob. Sam shifts his weight in the seat to reach back and rock the car seat, saying, “Bella, wake up! Wake up little one!”
I keep a sharp eye on the road and as we start to drift I snap, “For heavens sake, you’re going to get us killed.” He counters back,”We can’t let her sleep! We’ll be home in 5 minutes and it’s only 11:30.” He’s right.
I try to reach behind me to see if I can touch her head. Sam turns up the music and we sing along loudly. I grab her water and bear, heaving them back behind me in hopes of landing in her lap. They bounce off the back of the seat and land on the floor, the bear mocking me with those horrid little beady eyes.
And on she sleeps.
I start to call out her name as Sam attempts to grab her hand hanging over the seat. No response.
Flooring it and trying to not pick a fight over who should have been keeping her awake while silently blaming the other, we pull into the garage and she groggily wakes up while being taken out of the car seat. I whisper to Sam that I’ll change her and lay her down as quick as possible – trying to keep her half asleep. It seems to work, she lays still on the changing table as I work fast – throwing off diapers and pants and shoes, then laying her in bed. She grabs her paci, I pull the blanket over her and tiptoe out.
We stand in the hall beaming at each other. She’s out. She’ll be out for a couple hours. We did it.
And then we hear the cat that got trapped inside her room let out a faint meow, so soft I can barely make it out, but which apparently is louder than the radio, us calling her name, our arguing, and more powerful than shaking the car seat.
She spends the next half hour bouncing and screaming in delight, while throwing everything out of the crib as I ponder simply bringing the entire carseat in next time and letting her sleep in it. Or driving around for two hours.
Or making sure the cat with the deafening meow is out of her room.