The first time I left you alone you were lying milk-drunk
against the soft flesh of my mother’s chest.
I had taken one of the samples from the changing table,
its color too bright yellow,
its compact shape too round,
its label screaming epitaphs,
“Better for brain development!”
“Easy on sensitive stomachs!”
I felt the pale mounds under my baggy, frumpy tee –
two sponges, ripe with nerves.
I showed my mother how to prepare the formula.
I thought briefly about staying.
I thought briefly about canceling my appointment.
I thought briefly about throwing my breast pump
and every failed attempt along with it
right out the broad bay window out front.
I focused instead on restraint.
And five hours later,
when my breasts roared with leonine intensity
and solitary arms ached to feel your weight in them,
I lifted you to me,
nuzzled you close,
and you turned
There is something odd, and yet beautiful in being a mother. It seems we always have so many different coats to wear: wife, mother, daughter, friend…Sometimes those coats seem to overlap, we slide from one thing to the other with little thought.
I never tried co-sleeping with my older children. I was very scheduled, and so were they. I was terrified to let them in the bed with me. I don’t know what started it with my youngest, except I was clinging to every aspect of his infant stages knowing he was going to be my last. I’m not proclaiming that one way is right or better. All I know is that I’m on step four and I’m too exhausted to ponder the greater values of sleep systems for babies.
Excuse me while I drown my woes in coffee. . .
1.The first few weeks – Your boob is like. . .right there.
You’re nursing and he’s happily latching on every two hours on the dot. You, however, wake up every fifteen minutes to watch his chest and make sure he’s breathing, that there is nothing near his face, that he’s not too close to your pillow, that your husband hasn’t rolled over on top of him…You get zero sleep.
2. The next two months – Utter exhaustion.
You find that you’ve passed out for three hours at a time, only waking when he does to eat. Initial panic sets in and you feel around the bed to make sure he hasn’t magically disappeared. You check to make sure he’s breathing…while he’s screaming for a bottle. As you’re feeding him you think, Why the hell am I doing this? Then he falls asleep in your arms, and the crib seems so far away, and so you lay down for just a minute…
3. Months three to six – Sharing sweat.
You wake every four hours with one side of your body drenched in sweat. He’s drenched in sweat. You change clothes, feed him, and lay down with your personal mini heater…which just plain sucks in June, July, and August.
4. Months six to twelve – Good luck, you brave, brave woman.
He can roll. He can crawl. He can use you as his personal jungle gym. You’ll find his preferred sleep position is draped across your body like the heaviest, sweatiest, drool-covered blanket ever. He will wake up long enough to burp in your face, kick you in the crotch, and then pass back out in a pile of the drool that’s collecting in your cleavage (or what’s left of your cleavage, because c’mon, darling, you nursed…we all know better). You look at the crib and realize somewhere over the last year it has transformed from that adorably decorated thing you posted all over Facebook to the world’s most expensive clothes hamper.