Tuesday, March 25, 2008

No Sleep in Brooklyn or Anywhere Else


I can hear nature lullabies coming out of the bedroom where Wally's asleep in that little bassinet he can now barely fit into. 

I hope soon I'll be able to string words together and form sentences and remember things I've seen and heard. So many baby announcements you read talk about how the parents are tired or they're up every two hours during the night or they are finally getting some sleep and I always used to think "How on earth could you think we care how well you're sleeping?" as I hit Control + D. Now I understand because the lack of sleep really starts to define you and distort your personality. Not just the physical strain but the way it morphs your emotions, not to have that release at night, not to ever complete a full sleep cycle. One night in the very beginning when Alex was in Brazil (Don't ask -- he actually did have a valid reason), I looked at the clock at 8:45 and set the alarm for 9:45 when I had to get up to feed Wally and meet Yani who was coming over to walk the dog. It felt so lavish and luxurious to be hopping into bed for an entire hour.



In the early days and weeks the overwhelming sense was how fragile he was. How unbelievably fragile this little creature is that's completely entrusted to your care. Every minute you have to make sure they are carrying on just the basic functions of a living organism. Sky seemed so strong and hardy in comparison. Not to mention absolutely effortless to take care of.



I was always personally offended when I heard about someone having a kid. I couldn't (and still can't) give up that sense of being one myself. To all those who felt the same way, who questioned why I was "giving up my 30s" -- how could I possibly begin to explain the joy and ecstasy of having the most precious thing on the earth and at the same time the severe dehydrated, sickening, suffocating nightmare of having in your care that very thing? Once it exists you've opened the way for unbearable despair because you wouldn't be able to stand losing the baby and they just seem so slippery and breakable and easy to lose.

I keep missing earlier versions. That first one: no butt, the wobbly mouth, quivering arms, the little high chirps, skinny chest, each day saying to him "This is your third day Wally" or "This is your fifth day Wally" and just feeling in total awe of what that would be like to just have landed on the planet.

What my mom wrote after the first week when she went back up to Massachusetts:

 "I can easily conjure up Wally --his skinny chicken
legs and long wrinkled feet, his little starfish
fingers and the smell of his neck. His adorable little
mouth and the tiny squawks that emerge. His eyes
darting about and the other-worldly look of wisdom on
his alert face."    

I had this moment when we first brought him home from the hospital. I was in the bedroom with Wally listening to U2's Rattle and Hum. Sky had immediately curled up under the bassinet, as if understanding that overnight her role had changed from baby herself to protector. Wally was moving his arms in that uncontrolled way newborns do, conducting an invisible orchestra. He looked like a sort of ancient wise being from a science fiction movie. I had this thought that even if something happened and I lost him and only had those two days with him, and even though the two days were so physically painful and exhausting and emotionally taxing beyond belief, they would still have been two of the best days of my life.

This is starting to sound like a sign-off while it should be the beginning. We are not kids anymore. Deciding not to have kids won't change that, but many seem to think it will. That as long as we hold off on steady jobs or responsibilities or remembering to pay bills on time we can extend what has already been the longest period of adolescence in human history. It just felt to me like the flood was coming and…I always think of Neeta's great line months before we left Hanover, "I'm trying to think of ways to stop the end from coming but I can't." I just felt like the flood was coming, whether I wanted it to or not, whether I admitted it or not, there was no way around it.