*taps mic* Is this thing still on?
I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at this blank page over the last couple of months. Well, the last eight months. The eight months since there was a day where we didn’t have another baby and then, suddenly, we did. (Not very suddenly, from where I was bellowing.)
I have done the phase with a first baby, where everything is new and the fear and love nearly swallow you whole. I’ve done the baby-and-toddler phase, too, where I think back and all I can remember is sprinting, hands out, all my pans boiling over. But I don’t think I’d ever before had a baby that shook me loose from my moorings like this. Not like this one has. I looked up one day and found myself down the river, not a soul in the water, halfway out to sea.
This is fanciful. Let’s get it right: not sleeping for eight months has felled me. Is that it? I put words in the wrong places, helplessly, angrily, and wait for them to decipher it. To decipher me. No I don’t mean bath, sorry, I mean coat, sorry no, I mean reading book. Sure, let’s watch this. I don’t think I want to watch this. I think I want to go to bed. Do I? I have not been able to put pen to paper (or key to keyboard) in all this time. I speak a different dialect than I used to. People ask me how I’m doing and I say ‘oh, fine, you know. Tired’. It’s true and at the same time, not even close to it. But I can’t think of anything else to say.
She’s asleep in the next room, and she’s the most beautifully perfect thing I have ever seen. She holds out her hands to me, palms open, so I’ll mend what needs mending in her tiny universe. It feels like something holy. She stamps when I hold her upright, jellied thighs a-quiver. She sleeps with both arms over her head, abandoning herself to unknowable dreams. She will not crawl. She will not roll. She will not be silenced. Her hair is a reddish blonde and her eyes are blue.
But I get to Thursday and can’t think of a single thing I’ve done, and the week’s already nearly over. I feel like I will come out of this, years later, and find I’ve babied myself out of the job market. I always thought I would be a writer when I grew up, and now, grown up, I wonder if I’ve bartered my brain cells for bottle feeds and that maybe I’ll have to find a new dream.
I read an article back in the summer, back when her hair had fallen out and her first teeth were in and my body had started to bleed on schedule again, like it was ready to move on somewhere I couldn’t follow. It was about a mother. ‘”They will only be this young once”. I know. But I want to say, “So will I”‘. I sobbed when I read it. I’m tearing up now, reading it again. So will I. So will I. I think that’s the difference with this baby, this go-around: I feel like I’m running out of time.
Last night I drifted round the house to the sound of her monitor lullaby, putting things to rights. We’ve had that monitor since Henry, and I could see all my selves in all our rooms, picking up books, folding clothes, scrabbling somewhere on the continuum of doing things for them and doing things for me. I used to sing Henry’s name to the lullaby, absentmindedly, wetting sponges to scrub porridge off tables, knowing he was safe and sleeping. Hen-ry, Henry Jeff-coat. I’m very fond of it. But I’m halfway out to sea, these days, and I know that one day soon I want to sing a different tune.