Down the rabbit hole

*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.

8 thoughts on “Down the rabbit hole

  1. Ah, this speaks to me and makes my heart ache a little too. My 9 month old is yet to sleep through the night, yet to roll and yet to crawl. She is high maintenance in every sense, but so deliciously lovely at the same time. How do you sum up how wrung out you feel, other than “tired”? I’m so with you and sending you loads of patience, strength and hopefulness. xxx

  2. So beautifully put. I love your blog! So many times over the last couple years you have written words that have echoed in my heart. You have a gift and talent for illustrating emotions and feelings. Thank you for sharing. It has lifted my heart, made me feel less alone and gave articulated expression to swirling emotions. Hang in there thru the sleep deprivation! It truly is a form of torture…thankfully the wee ones do ebentually learn to sleep. May the Lord guide your hands and heart as you care for His little ones and for yourself. <3

  3. ‘So will I’… that’s exactly it. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on this feeling but yes. We just keep on sacrificing everything. And I only have one! I really enjoy your writing, I’m glad you’ve managed to put key to keyboard finally. Remember, your writing won’t fade with age, it will be there waiting for you whenever you’re ready x

  4. Good lord, you don’t have to worry about being a writer, when you can write something as “bartered my brain cells for bottle feeds”. As another commenter said, your writing will be waiting for you when you (and she) are ready. Hang in there.

  5. Hi Rachel,
    You write exquisitely as this post very clearly demonstrates!! It’s part of who you are and it might be having to take a back seat at the moment, but it’s not gone. It’s just sleeping (while the rest of you can’t!), storing up experiences and wonder which you will unleash in good time. Can’t wait to read more.
    Sam xxx

  6. Exquisite! You have somehow managed to sum up (so beautifully) much of what I have been feeling over the past year. Believe me, though, the work will be there – when you are ready for it.
    Hope you get some sleep soon *shares some tea and carbs*

  7. Oh, I feel you. My third baby has just gone 1 and I have completely stopped functioning properly. I can’t talk, or elucidate anything clearly, i’m tired and grumpy. I still have aspirations, career dreams but will I ever achieve them with a very young family-I don’t know. But, it’s good to read of someone else figuring it out and feeling the feels too with a nest of 3. Thank you.

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