I cannot imagine another night like this. I am torn between an overwhelming desire to sleep and a need to preserve my sanity by staying awake and avoiding your Guantanamo-like torture technique of startling me with your piercing screams ten minutes after I finally slip into a decent REM coma. You have had a rough evening and I have used up every mommy trick in the book to settle you into something resembling peaceful awakeness…never once assuming that anything I am trying might actually coerce you into slumber…I am merely hoping that you might seem pleased to be in this world because I can only imagine that your screams mean that you must hate us all.
You are in your swing right now, swaying back and forth to a lovely piano concerto, and I am standing alone in the dark swaying to my own mental conversation…daring myself to take the chance to jump into bed and close my eyelids…but needing to flip on the light just one.more.time to make certain that you might really be asleep.
I creep across the room trying to avoid a toe-stubbing injury and slide my hands across the wall to feel for the light switch. As forefinger and thumb grab the switch to turn on the light I am gripped with fear that I am trying my luck by turning on the light…that you will instantly awaken with a fury that only a 2-month old can muster and I will be forced to rock, cuddle, sing and beg you back to sleep for another hour.
I stand in the dark listening to the motor on the swing, the tinkling of the piano keys and decide that I am not brave enough to do it…to turn on the light and risk ruining it all. As I stumble back across the room my hand slips along the top of the dresser to guide me towards bed and my hand brushes my Ipod. Struck with a brilliant idea, I turn it on and use the light from the screen to work my way towards you…hoping that the glow will be sufficient to see if I have been granted permission from the warden to sleep.
As I cautiously approach where you lay I find that I am holding my breath. I lean towards you with my Ipod out like a lantern, my heart thumping as if I am first entering a mummy’s tomb instead of approaching my warm and breathing infant. When my eyes finally focus and I lean downward I jump back a bit when I see your big blue eyes staring directly at me…unflinching in the strange light…and I silently curse myself for daring to move in the first place.
I quickly press the Ipod against my chest to stifle the light and stand up…hoping that maybe I imagined it…maybe you are not really awake and I am in the middle of a dream. Surely those minutes, those hours of soothing you and patting your back…of alternating bottles and pacifiers …changing you and swaddling you until your little eyes closed in defeat and I carefully placed you into the swing…surely those things would not be ruined by my foolish need to check that you are asleep one.more.time.
…but you didn’t miss a thing. You fooled me wonderfully, reclining so sweetly in your swing with eyes closed, knowing that I would not be far from you if you woke…comforted to know that there has never been a time that you have needed something that I was not there for you…confident that I will jump when you say jump…and probably enjoying the look on my face when I saw your eyes open in the tiny light. Oh yes, I think that you have a wicked sense of humor for a tiny little baby and I imagine that I just heard you chuckle as your legs begin to move back and forth and your angry grunts begin.
I know that I am not going to be sleeping now. Not anytime soon because you are working up to a cry that will wake the entire house. You don’t care that it is 2:31am and that I have not slept in 20 hours…you do not care that others in the house have to get up in a few hours for a long commute to work…you only care that you have been disturbed and that must be remedied.
I move quickly now, tossing the Ipod on the bed, smacking at the button on the swing to stop its movement and shakily try and unbuckle your safety harness before your anger becomes something unholy. I swoop you up and press you to my chest, whispering “there there…shhhh…it’s okay” and moving my body all around in order to calm you. I begin a shuffling two-step…working my way backwards in the room…knowing that I could bump into something unyielding but not caring about my own personal safety. For now I care about my own personal sanity and that will be saved by preventing you from working yourself back up to a boil.
Still moving backwards…still whispering to you softly…still patting your bottom I find myself pressed against the bedroom door having reached the end of the square footage and as I am about to move forward to the other side of the room I stop and stare.
In this pitch-black room I can see your face…illuminated softly by the green light of the smoke detector above our heads…and I can see the dark outline of your open eyes. You are calm yet awake and you are looking directly at me though I know that you cannot possibly see me in this dim light. You are quiet and still and your gaze never leaves my face…your tiny fingers slip out from the top of your blanket and grasp the v-neck of my shirt. I stand still as your hand moves under the edge of it and presses flat against my chest. You hold it there for a long time and I find myself breathing normally again. I can feel the warmth of your tiny palm against my skin and it calms me as if my own mother were soothing me on a particularly rough evening.
I reach up with my own hand and lay it across the top of yours. No longer aggravated that you are awake I find myself not praying for you to sleep…but praying for you. With my eyes open, staring into yours, I softly tell God all of the things that I have neglected to say these past busy weeks. I tell him how thankful I am that you are still here with us…I thank him for giving us one more day with you…I tell him that I need his help to be a better mom…a better wife…a better person…that I can feel myself being less me only because I am so exhausted. I pray that He will give me the strength to handle many more rough nights and to be grateful for each and every one of them. I speak to God softly while gazing directly at you and you never stop looking back at me…your hand simply stays still and firm as we both stand in the greenish glow and speak our needs. I speak mine aloud though not loudly and you speak yours to me silently with a gaze and a comforting hand. Together we say what we need to say.
…and I know that these moments are so fleeting. You are my last baby, this much I know is true, and I need to spend this time absorbing each and every moment and, yes, each and every rough evening. I vow to spend less time worrying about how much you are crying and how little I am sleeping…and more time feeling the full weight of you in my arms, the sheer privilege that it is to have you at all.
Thank you, God for these past two months. Thank you for every dirty diaper, every sleepless night, every sideways smile…thank you for all of it. I certainly do not deserve the blessing of this beautiful baby and I am grateful that you let me have him one more day.
…and thank you so much for this glowing green light.