“There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
The dishes are done, the baby is down, and my bra is off. I slump onto the couch and a long list of “should”s rushes over me.
Soak the onesie in OxiClean following today’s experiment with beets. Meal plan. Write the grocery list. Catch up on months 7, 8, and 9 in the baby book. Order photos from the last three professional photo sessions. Unsubscribe from all the junk mail that’s overcrowding our recycling bin. Send those prints off for framing. Clean out my closet. Start planning our summer trip. Finish reading that book. Finish writing this essay.
The “less than necessary” and “must be done” buzz and swirl around me like busy bees. I swat them away and reach for my second glass of wine.
My bones ache. My muscles groan. My hair is falling out by the handfuls. I’m nearly 10 months postpartum, but my body feels like someone else’s on a regular basis. And it often feels like I’m living someone else’s life — because I am.
All day, I’m on his schedule. I anticipate his needs, decipher his cries from coos. When he wakes up, I spring into action. When I see him fading, I pounce into our “sleepy routine” and use Jedi mind tricks to lull him to sleep.
Dressing him is like wrestling a tiger. Changing diapers is like pinning an alligator. Mealtime is like feeding a snapping turtle. Motherhood, at this age, is a full-contact sport, and my battery drains hour by hour until my next cup of lukewarm coffee.
In the early days when my son was a cuddly little creature who didn’t know day from night, I found comfort in the stillness of 3 a.m. feedings. That was when I got a break from the “should”s and settled into a space that was just me and my baby. Even on the worst nights when I felt like I was the only mother in the world who was ever this exhausted, this confused, this overwhelmed, I knew the summer sun would rise in the morning. Each day was a fresh chance to do it all again, a little better this time.
As my son grew from brand-new baby to infant, the seasons shifted. Winter came, and with it a dark blanket of sleep deprivation covered me. After five or six months of not sleeping, it is no longer cute or sweet or darling to wake up several times through the night. I was exhausted, but staying up later and later. I was searching for that stillness from before.
One of those nights, I was lounging on the couch, scrolling through my Instagram feed, with the TV on and my glass of wine close by. As my husband headed upstairs for the night, he asked, “Honey, why don’t you just go to bed?”
Because all day I’ve been living his little life. I get to live mine when he’s sleeping. And sometimes, most of the time, I’m too tired for anything but Real Housewives.