I was wrong. Sleep is everything.
Best not to think this sentence: “All I need is one full night of sleep.” Because it can only be followed by this one: “You’re not going to get that for a long, long time.”
I thought I could outmaneuver all those sleep warnings. I thought I could break down the day/night industrial complex. I thought all it took was the right attitude.
The thing is that I really can’t blame the boy. His needs are too pure. I can’t steal sleep from his wants and rhythms. But from B.? It’s not in the middle of the night, but in the morning, that he can, at times, become my sleep nemesis. I think I do for him too, but I don’t want to assign him my own character defects. It is he that has the power to give me more sleep. He who can take the boy for a walk. He who can pace with him upstairs while I fall back asleep for that precious hour more. I would like to say that I think graciously of his needs in these moments but the laws of scarcity apply and sometimes, well sometimes if sleep were money I’d rob a small child of their candy fund just to get more of it. These are the moments when I glimpse the borders of my own basic kindnesses.
I’m immensely disappointed about all this. Not the tiredness itself, but to have fallen into the most obvious of new parent modes. Also, yesterday we ran into another set of parents whose babe is only two weeks older than ours and they get six and seven hour stretches and I walked away from that conversation saying to B., “We need to get serious about a bedtime ritual.”
Evening as it is now is something that comes on us suddenly. The day moves along at a meandering pace; morning and afternoon seeping into each other until suddenly, as if we’ve been dropped over a hidden waterfall, B. and I find ourselves sweaty on the couch at 8 o clock, 9 o clock, 10. He is bare chested. I’m in my nursing bra with one flap open, a nipple airing out, and the boy, having finally fallen asleep, lies before us unbathed and still in his day outfit. You’d never know it though, looking at him. No signs of the long day show. Instead, he makes sleep look good, lying there, a gorgeous being straight from the cosmos.
We had talked earlier of the movie we would watch. The emails we would send. The random tasks that we’d accomplish with great satisfaction. Instead, we lean gently into each other so as to keep our sweaty skin from touching too much of the other’s. We kiss. Say, “Good job,” with a laugh. And then we assign the first shower, hurrying towards bed, the clock already running down towards the moment when the boy will stir sleepily, stretch, still looking adorable, until, very quickly if not intercepted, he’ll begin howling with all the unmitigated fury of his need to survive. Sometimes, if B. is the one to bring him to me, I think in my hazy sleep that I already have in my arms. I hear his cries, and feel the shape of him in my arms and then fumble around blearily to find him in the covers.
He is fed, and held upright to help with the gas, and then rocked back to sleep, and though I know how the next sleep cycle will end, he gets me every time–the look of him a mighty balm against the raw edge of the interrupted night.