Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Morning, I Think

My youngest child is four. Thank God. She feeds herself, dresses herself, wipes her own bum (most days), and is, finally, night-trained. She's self-sufficient, and I'm glad. No. That's a lie. I'm over the bloody moon. 

Babies are sweet, and I love them. When my babies were babies I sometimes couldn't get enough of them. Touching them. Smelling them. Sometimes I wanted to be so close to them, I wanted to bite their chubby little thighs. But I never, ever got over the perpetual lack of sleep.

I always thought those women who stood around talking about how little Betsy or Jonathon slept through the night when they were six days (six seconds) old were full of shit. They were them same women who told me how much they loved every nauseous minute of being pregnant, and that giving birth was not a bloody, messy, dirty, sweaty 12 hours, but a spiritual event that transformed their lives. Oh fuck off. 

So when my children all reached that most glorious of milestones--sleeping through the night for the first time--it was always a sublimely joyous occasion. Though as I grew older and more confident as a mother, and with each subsequent child, that joyous occasion started to look a little different.

When my first child slept though the night, I woke in an absolute panic. How could this be!!!! Was he still breathing??!!! Had he, oh, please no God, had he died in his sleep? I practically flew from my bed to his room. I threw open the door and ran to his crib and picked him up. Poking, squeezing, listening and watching for his breath. He was fine, if a little shocked and groggy. After all, I had just woken him up. He started crying (go figure) and my day began. He didn't sleep through the night again soon. 

When my second child, a beautiful little girl, slept through the night for the first time. I again woke in a panic. But, I'm no dummy. I'd learned my lesson the first time. I quietly, though quickly, made my way to her room, tiptoed in, rested my hand on her little back to feel her breathing and tiptoed out. I, of course, didn't go back to sleep. The adrenalin ripping through my veins prevented that. Good God. Parenting is a perpetually stomach-clenching nightmare. I laid their wondering if there would ever be a time I wasn't in constant fear that something bad was going to happen to my children. Then she woke up. The screaming, snot-filled day was about to begin. My fear abated.

Then came my third child, and friend, let me tell you, I was tired! There's really no word in our language to express that absolute bone and soul weary feeling of motherhood. I was nursing her when she had her first all-night sleepfest. So I woke a pajama-soaked dripping mess. I was engorged, and it hurt like a bugger. I rolled over looked at the clock and realized what had happened. The entire night had gone by and I was still horizontal. I had an instant flash of panic, but I was drowningly exhausted. So I pulled the blankets up around my ears and thought, "Well, if she's dead there's nothing I can do about it now. I may as well get a little more sleep." And, well, I went back to sleep.

I did. I went back to sleep. And it felt good. Well, except for my boobs. But she made fast work of that when she woke up. 

I told that story once to a hallway full of pre-school moms. The response was shock, disgust, and horror. Everyone was silent. Talk about a mood-killer. 

But whaddya goin' do? Life is hard. Motherhood is harder. If you ask me, you should sleep. That's what you oughta do.  

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