A Full Life

One year ago, I was getting ready for my baby shower, nesting, ironing my curtains, resting my aching sciatica, walking my dog every night as if that would somehow bring the baby sooner, convinced that sooner is better, for everything, always.

I always wanted to be three steps ahead. When I was in high school I frantically wished for college, thinking all my problems would be solved with some freedom (turned out I was right about that one). In college I pretended I was in graduate school, shunning the gaucheness of the undergraduates and their social scene, hanging out with the PhD students who lived off campus. When I was 10 I ached to be 14,16,17 and have my first boyfriend and first kiss. When I was 23 and single, living in Manhattan, I stayed up all night, laying on my Ikea slat bed, with my laptop overheating on the mattress, reading strange granola stories about women who went to cabins in the mountains and gave birth to their babies alone under the moonlight, cutting umbilical cords with rocks. I wanted a baby – I felt it physically – even though I had just ended my first serious relationship and was going out every night, dating for fun.

When I was 5 I read the newspaper with my father, instead of my board books. When I was 9 I crept into the Young Adult Section of the library and then read every single book they had, over those long summers that only existed when you were a kid, laying in air-conditioning on a blue carpet, in our high ranch. Sprawled on a towel at the public pool. Chlorine, yearning. All I wanted was for time to pass, rushing me into that next place. Feeling like I was meant to be somewhere else, already, fast. I quit smoking cigarettes when my friends were just swinging into their pack a day habits. I was 21 and I threw my almost full pack of Parliaments onto the highway, the only time in my life I’ve littered from a car. I taught college courses at 24, the boys snickering as I walked in the first day, exchanging glances that I knew meant they would never listen to me, no matter what I did or how thick the rims on my black eyeglasses were. I’m almost 30 and I’ve had more jobs than most people have in a lifetime, two abandoned almost-careers. I don’t know what I want to to do or be besides a mother to my daughter. The rest will come, or it won’t come, because I still have a lot of time left.

When my daughter was one month old, I wished she were 4, 5, 6 months, thinking that she would sleep, I would sleep, life would be a dream; when she was 6 months, I couldn’t wait for her to walk. Now I’m ready for potty-training, preschool, family vacations where we talk and play games in the car, conversations. She’s not a year yet.

I think I’m ready to stop time, at least for myself.

Other People’s Kids

So we all know we go around coveting our friend’s hair and our cousin’s house and our husband’s ability to eat only refined carbohydrates to no apparent bodily harm, but children too? Aren’t our children perfect beings that we would never change and serve as a vehicle for all that is God and holy and miraculous in our lives? Well, yes. But:

Scene: storytime. Subject: wanton jealousy.

I am jealous of moms with babies who Just Sit There. Wherever There is, I want Anna to once in a awhile Just Sit There. Not run to the nearest dangerous location, not attempt to climb objects, not steal things out of other diaper bags and purses. I want to look at a book and have conversations about Danielle Staub’s memoirs with strangers.

Some mothers I know compare their placid, happy, Just Sitting There babies to Anna, and wonder why she or he doesn’t walk, run, climb, and generally be all over the place at 10 or 11 months. They actually say things like “Look at Anna, why can’t you do that?” to their baby. Trade-offs.

Some moms want their child to be out-going and friendly. Anna runs up to strangers in the bookstore with her arms up, asking them to pick her up. She toddles up to other babies and thoughtfully pokes their cheek. She loves everyone. Especially when they pay attention to her.

Some moms want nothing more than to have a child who goes down for a nap easily. Anna refuses to let me feed her anything with a spoon or fork. Even birthday cake. If I was holding the most delectable morsel of food in the world, she would not let me put it in her mouth. Instead, I must put it in her hand for her to feed herself. I’ve met women who plead with their one year olds to pick up a single finger bite, and must spoon 100% of their baby’s sustenance into their mouth.

Do we get what we deserve in a cosmic circle of gene expressions? Or is every child a particular challenge we happen to receive, as we look wistfully to our left and right, at that baby hanging out in the stroller with not a thing in their hands to occupy them, not even crying. WTF? We think. Why me?

Worst Ever

Sleeper, that is. I have her. I birthed her and I care for her. Along with my tired husband.

She is 10 and a half months old and she has never slept through the night.

I don’t know what is wrong. But something is wrong. She doesn’t want a bottle  in the middle of the night and she’s not calling for us. Because she cries in her sleep. And if she cries long enough she wakes up. Then she tosses and turns. And cries. Then she comes in our bed. Then she tosses and turns and cries. The she goes back in the crib. Then she cries. Then an hour later she cries again. Then I cry. Sometimes I throw myself on the floor in my bedroom in desperation. Then she cries. Then she screams. Then we give her a pacifier and she sleeps a bit. Then she cries. Then she wakes up at 6:30 am for the day.

I just described every night of the last two months. Before that the waking was once or twice a night. That was liveable. Before that was the horror of the first two teeth. Before that was just horror. Two hour round the clock wakings for the first six months of her life.

Did I use the word “horror” enough?

This is (almost) ruining our lives.

Tomorrow is Monday. I’m going to call her pediatrician and ask about allergy panels, any physical reasons for sleep problems, anything we can look at, test, investigate, do. Then when she is over her cold, and doctors say she’s fine, there might be a terrible period of letting her cry and seeing if that helps. I don’t know if it will. My daughter doesn’t cry herself to sleep: she cries herself awake.