Today you talked to me. Not words but sing-songy gurgling sounds while simultaneously smiling and looking deeply into my eyes having just come off the breast. It was a level of communication reserved for lovers and acid trippers- deep, poignant. Also in this moment I marveled at your china doll skin, round cheeks and unblinking long-lashed blue grey eyes with their expression of complete adoration.
Today was a crisp September day with golden light. I can pay attention to the weather now. I have no idea what’s going on in the world, I’m sorry to say. Maybe I should at least read headlines. I must have actually had REM sleep last night because I woke up remembering dreams. You can now lift your head all the way up when you’re on your tummy and keep it up and you can turn your head from side to side and look all around balancing on your forearms. It’s really chilly out today and it’s bizarre to have a whole summer go by and not go to the beach once or participate in any summery activities because we had such a hard time. At least I went to Walden pond last week when we had a hot day- I didn’t even have my bathing suit so I swam in my underwear while Brianne held you. Everyone says you’re so alert and engaged.
I’m getting more adept at squeezing in a little bit of cooking here, a little bit of laundry there, stealing moments to write and keep up with email. There are no consistent long naps during which to get anything done. Now you nurse every two and a half to three hours and it only takes fifteen minutes- what a departure from the constant nursing we did for the first two months. I’m still paranoid and perhaps always will be, about my milk supply, but you’re satiated and gaining so I have to reassure myself daily. I’ve started working again and am learning to juggle feeding and caring for you in between classes and appointments. The other day I acted goofy while you were on the changing table and you laughed for the first time. I’m addicted to that sound and all I want to do is keep it coming.
Today was a warm Indian summer Sunday and we tried to go to Gloucester. I envisioned walking around with you at Bareskin neck, sipping iced coffees, eating lobster rolls outside by the ocean, taking photos. Instead, we sat in traffic for ninety minutes while you wailed. You don’t like your car seat, I suppose. We missed your nap window. We turned around and since it was still nice out and the dog needed walking we went to oak hill and got a little lost, walking for two hours so that I became low blood sugar and was hauling myself up the path, craving sleep, knowing I wouldn’t get it. That night I binged on frozen yogurt and cookies. You were asleep on your tummy at seven. Now it’s nine. Going to bed now. Hopefully I’ll get an hour. It’s really hot in the bedroom.
Sometimes I feel swallowed up by taking care of you; consumed, depleted, not sure what I’ll do without the morning nap, even if just an hour for me to cook something or shut my eyes. I schedule appointments and car rides around your new schedule because at eleven weeks I knew we both needed structure and you were tired. So as soon as you started going to sleep at the same time at night, on your belly against medical advice, but the only way you sleep, you started developing a three nap a day schedule. But it’s work to make you nap. The books say you will eventually shift to two longer naps. That will be easier.
I’m sure when you’re a teenager with stubble and pimples I’ll look back on this time fondly. You still sleep most of the night on our chests.
Today I’m trying to:
Make sure you gets 3 timely naps
Make baked delicata squash and a leek pepper frittata for dinner (at 10 am) so Chris has dinner when I’m teaching and so we use up our CSA vegetables.
Walk dog in nagog with you in the front carrier for your noon nap
Launder poopy clothes: had blowout this am
Put sheet and mattress pad on crib
Tidy garage for tonight’s class
Teach yoga tonight at 6
On October 4th I started putting you on your tummy to sleep for most of night against the latest medical advice. You’re four months old. We’re told that the only safe way for babies to sleep is on their back, and in fact there is a medical campaign built to drive this fact home, coined “back to sleep” but this has never worked for you and since most SIDS happens before 4 months, I waited until now to try another arrangement. Thing is, you’re getting too large to have on my chest. I’ve had dreams of asthma attacks and not being able to breathe for the past few nights. I think you weigh almost fourteen pounds.
Oct 9th later:
This is survival mode. Typically still waking every 2 hours to nurse. The past two mornings you’ve woken at 4:30/5 with gas, moaning and tooting while I hold you. I gave you to your dad this morning at 5:30 after you spit up on my chest and then were wide awake lifting your head looking around. I tried to sleep to the sound of you grappling with gas and then Chris’s alarm went off at 6:30 and I felt like I had a hangover when it was time to get up. I feel like every day we’re living on the edge of impossible. Like today, getting up and bringing you downstairs to sit in your chair while I cut up squash and eggplant to roast and at the same time making and eating breakfast and bringing you new toys when you fuss, like some manic traveling salesman, moving you to a different chair, picking you up to dance, anything I can do to buy me more time so I can make dinner and eat breakfast and take my vitamins.
I don’t get much time to process life through rem sleep or writing but I do get a beautiful strong healthy baby and a kind good smart man and a beautiful home and yard and a sweet dog. And right now you’re napping on my chest off to the side after nursing, rhythmic breath fluttering against my arm.
That nap only lasted 20 min which is unheard of and then you snapped awake and smiled at me . Then you fussed and screamed for an hour and a half after that so I decided to go on a walk with the dog in the woods. You kept screaming the whole way here, screaming on the walk too so I stopped and nursed you standing up in a field in the warm sun with a cold breeze freezing my shoulders and bear arms. It was cinematic- autumn leaves, momma and baby and dog. You finally fell asleep but then I had to wake you to get into the car so that I could go to work. I feel stretched as thin as a dragonfly’s wings. A membrane. Exactly this time last year I was thrilled to be pregnant, walking around in the same woods in the same beautiful warm breezy fall weather.
Evidently, people say, motherhood means you can kiss your memory, brain and sleep goodbye.
Gone are the days of long nursing sessions where I could read or surf the web while you took ages to extract milk. The most cherubic beautiful sight in the world is your chubby cheeked face turned toward me and laid upon my shoulder after nursing before bed or a nap, sleeping there with your poufed lips parted so I can feel each puff of air, an exquisite specimen of symmetry and innocence.
Weight 13 lbs 13 oz!!! 12th percentile! There is no doubt I am making enough milk. Your doctor is happy. I am proud of myself for sticking breast feeding out.
A recent night: you go to sleep at 6:30 pm. Wake at 9 or 9:30 to eat. I put you back in your bed on tummy after burping. I go to bed 10. You Wake at 12:30. I fall asleep nursing you, dream of not being able to breathe. I wake at 2, put you in bed. You wake at 3 to nurse. I put you back down at 3:30. You wake at 4:30. Gassy. You’re asleep but gassy and moaning so I give you to Chris and try to sleep for another 90 min until 6:30/7 when it’s time to get up. The past 2 mornings Chris has kept you until 8 so I can sleep a little more. This is actually a good night. On the hard nights you’d wake seven or eight times. I don’t know where the energy for working and walking and playing with you will come from.
There are more gentle days like this one: Chris took you at 5 am and let me sleep until 7:30. I brought you to yoga and you slept in the carrier while I taught. Then we went home, where I ate outside on the deck in the warm sun with you on my lap playing with the green elephant toy. I only needed a tank top today. Then we walked the dog and visited Margot and I gave you a bath and put you to bed at 6 and I ate dinner with Chris- he made panko haddock and sautéed spinach and baked sweet potatoes. We watched Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Bronx. Now I’m going to bed at 8:30.
Then there are these days where crying is most of what I hear all day loudly in my ear maybe teething rubbing your face against me, against the mattress. I just wonder how people do this. Maybe everyone else is better at it than I am. Babies cry and don’t sleep- two of my least favorite things. Maybe you’re not a difficult baby, maybe I’m a difficult momma. I’m sensitive and I don’t really like loud noise and I really need my sleep.
I was dreading the day you got a cold. I remember helping to suction my baby brother’s nose with a rubber blue bulb. I suck out your snot with nosefrida, much more effective than the bulb, and I asked your dad to run out and buy one tonight; he finally found one on CVS number three. Today like many days, one nap went bust so now I’ve spent hours trying again. At 12:45 you nursed and fell asleep in my arms so I put you in your bed where you pathetically tried to breathe through your stuffed nose and eventually woke up crying. Even though it helps, you despise snot sucking. You grab and bat at me with your arms and kick with your legs and back away as I try again and again to place the cylinder right at the front of each nostril, a moving target. Sacrificing: first, our bodies as hosts, forever altered, then hundreds and thousands of sessions at our breasts, tugging, hurting,feeding. We sacrifice dreaming and thinking, operating in these early days like zombies with singular focus. And on a day like this, one where you’re congested and I’m cumulatively the most sleep deprived I’ve ever been in my life, instead of making dinner, or napping before work, I walk with you in the front carrier, out our front door with you overtiredly screeching in there, whacked. I walk on pavement and leaves, padding down the street for the sole purpose of hoping you’ll sleep for an hour.
For the past two nights I’ve put you down in your bed after nursing. semi-awake, not because I was trying hard to sleep-train you particularly, but because you were tired and after a long day I was ready to be done holding you frankly, and to go eat dinner. You’ve fussed a bit and kind of moaned and sung yourself to sleep. I daresay I think we’re done with the hectic, frequent waking crying hellish nights. And five months doesn’t actually seem that long in the grand scheme. Chris had the brilliant idea to put a red bulb in my lamp so the light doesn’t wake us and you don’t cry much at all in the night, just make a little sniffing waking noise so I pick you up, and you nurse and then sleep. I only change you once in the night now and you don’t scream the whole time. Whomever invented pajamas with snaps must not have been a momma changing her baby in dim light at one am.
You are infinitely more aware: of the room, the light, my iPhone, the inside of the car where I try to nurse you after a walk, of the dog whom you’re starting to delight in. You’re looking at my breast pump or the nightlight and sometimes I have to convince you to eat because you’re so distracted- a strange departure from the days where all you did was eat, myopic and desperate. Now I sit you on the counter while I eat breakfast and you watch the running water and want only to put the entire world in your wet, gummy mouth, touch it to your tongue.
This month, you started really laughing, a bubbly sound of music and light that makes me laugh right alongside you. On the changing table I make noises like I’m surprised and that cracks you up, as does nuzzling and pretending to eat your belly or neck. Sometimes I’m still in shock you’re here at all, that Chris is a father, that I have a son, and I hear him making you laugh upstairs as I wash dishes. Last year this time I was still in that first exhausting first trimester, holding my breath through the potential miscarriage stage, napping whenever and wherever I could because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, my body hard at work making an organ just for you. I was following your growth week by week on a phone app, every Friday a new milestone. They just keep coming now; dramatic developments and now another app to track your astonishingly compressed growth. You’re taking up all the space in your swings now and I have to strap you in- I remember when you were a little bundled lump right in the middle. I remember for the forst two months that I couldn’t even put you down in the swing at all. Now you want to sit up straight and are working hard on it but not quite there so your dad assembled your stokke high chair- a present from your great grandma, and you’re so much happier in there, upright, grabbing at toys on the tray. Here we are, already on the cusp of sitting up and rolling over. You love Scabby and he licks your drooly spit-upy mouth all the time, and you love splashing in the tub, a nighttime ritual I’ve only recently introduced. Before now, the bath bewildered and worried you.
You’ve started making teradactyl screeches and monkey sounds. You’ve discovered your toes. You stare at your hands in disbelief they’re attached to you. You want to pull my glasses off. You grab daddy’s beard.
You are fussy. Often. You seem frustrated you can’t move in ways you want like sitting up or walking for that matter. I am weary of the chronic spit up forcing me to change your clothes and my clothes, the gobs and buckets of drool forcing us to put you in bibs and bandanas. I move you from high chair to floor to bumbo seat to swing. I try to entertain you.
To say these have been some of the not challenging years of my life would not be quite accurate – there have been much more bleak hard times, drugs and pain and heartbreak and breakups and abuse. Severe loneliness. This is hard with a purpose- with hope- like labor is pain with hope, good pain. This is good hard. I think about pioneers having babies, hand washing cloth diapers, none of our modern conveniences. We have it easy in so many ways- breast pumps, freezers, toys and swings and high tech hemp cloth diapers.
Being mother of you little baby, is so dramatic, so bipolar, with high highs and low lows. There are blissful moments like tonight when you rested a warm hand on my chest while you nursed before bed, laid out on my belly in soft cotton pajamas. While you nurse, you stroke my scarf or the little blanket I put around my shoulders at night, or you touch my chin with your little hand. I stole a few minutes to read on my kindle in the dim light while you nursed yourself to sleep. Just yesterday you cried for most of the day and drooled and swallowed so much drool you spit up copiously and now I know these days to be teething days. Yesterday there was barely any napping and a lot of crying and today you smiled and napped and seemed at peace and this is the way it goes: in echo of the rhythm of life, waves cresting and receding all compressed into fast collections of moments. This is the marvel of having you.
You are mine but also not mine; you are of this world now and it will tumble you and elevate you and you will feel pain and you’ll get sick and I hate this. You will learn and laugh and be in awe and I love this. For now I strive to keep you safe in the cocoon of our home, surrounded by toys you’re getting better and better at grasping, eating and growing from my body and falling asleep on my heartbeat, and in your bed under warm handmade blankets.