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Origin Story: 3 a.m.

Dear Bethany,

It's 3 a.m. and I can't stay inside the lines.

They make up a series of boxes, these lines, all about an inch long and half an inch deep, patterned neatly on a series of pink papers. Your mom and I are supposed to use these boxes to document things you do. When you feed, when you ruin a perfectly good diaper. Et cetera. It's supposed to give nurses and doctors a better idea about your health, how you're faring your first few days in the world where you just crash landed.

Yes, you're here. The wait is over. You're three days old and beautiful, and I'm awake with you at 3 a.m. You're in your mom's arms 10 feet away, belly up to the bar, and I'm writing about it inside a series of little pink boxes.

Problem: Right now, I can't stay inside them, can't keep what I write straight. The resulting hooks and snaps of my pencil are less letters and more glyphs, obscure otherworldly jibber-jabber better suited to cave walls. Gravity is firing an impressive ordnance against my eyelids and my shields against it are just about gone. Everywhere sounds comfortable. The bed. The floor. Standing against a wall. On broken glass or hot sand. In frigid water while the Titanic sinks.

Just drop me and let me fall, 3 a.m. darkness. Blindfold me and push me down a well.

I'm so tired, Bethany.

And I can't go to sleep because your air supply is limitless, because you shredded my personal definition of love the first time I saw you and gave me a better one. I don't want to block out your cries; I want to prevent them, even if you're telling me how and I've forgotten the language.

I had fair warning. Friends and family who already had kids warned me I'd never sleep again. But they always said it with a smile or a laugh. In one case a cymbal crash. Jokes, I thought. Of course, I'll be tired, but not near the hyper sleep process from the "Alien" movies.

Sleep is for wimps. It won't be that bad. My first child won't really hold Ryan's First Bank of Peace & Energy at gunpoint and clean out the safe.

You did. I'm still working on wanted posters. Suspect is an 8-pound, 20-inch female with hands-down the brightest blue, most curious eyes I've ever seen. Confirmed armed with a shriek that could give Stephen King the inspiration for his next book.

Rest-wise, I'm bankrupt, kid. You cleaned me out and left me a shuffling mess of short-circuiting synapses and languid eyes. A half hour of eyes-closed at a time was a miracle.

Your mom is saying something. She's close, and it's clear and well articulated but sounds like a whisper underwater. The smothering air drowns her words. They turn to alphabet soup and barely reach my ear drums. Something about what time she started eating? Who knows? Who can quantify time in this state? Hours, minutes and seconds aren't familiar concepts at 3 a.m. when a baby you've known for 72 hours but would do absolutely anything for is crying.

At 3 a.m., time is a treadmill, going nowhere.

This is how I remember three days ago, Bethany. Despite the weakening dealt to me by the armies of No Sleep, Baby Tears and Frustration, that moment has such clarity, immortalized next to a new bank of memories I've just started. They're about you, all of them. When your mom told me you were en route. When I heard your heart beat for the first time. When I saw your developing form. When you kicked. When you arrived nine days late.

All good, misty-eyed snapshots. So why is 3 a.m. three days after your birth in this conceptual album?

Because origin stories — stories in general — need a defining conflict, Bethany; that test to see whether the character development up to this point will hold. This particular 3 a.m. was an army of comic-book bad guys standing shoulder to shoulder while they screamed a collective scream.

But I had help. I didn't choose to love you, Bethany, I just do. No time to think. Blink-and-you'll-miss-it. What I feel for you roared out of some dormant, quiet place and flipped a dusty switch, never asked for permission. Love chooses you, I think.

And it doesn't give up on you either, even at 3 a.m.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.