September 14, 2018
The whirring creak of the ceiling fan. A staccato rise and fall of the cicadas. Crickets answering each other from across the lawn. A bird caws, another clicks. Traffic hum. A plane overhead. Late summer moans as I sit outside on our porch with my son, 6 months old in two days. He is in a bouncy seat, a circular plastic saucer of bright colors and things that go buzz and beep when he grabs, soft objects tethered to the base, to pull, large buttons to push and animals and clowns to pull from a padded arch. He puts it all in his mouth. Yellows. Orange. Red. Blue. All the brightest colors and noises. He is talking to the green piece, a large musical note shaped thing he is trying to get wholly into his gummy mouth. He squeals and moves his lips into shapes that start with “m” sounds, so everything ends up sounding a bit like he’s working out “mama” although I know it’s just random sound. He’s trying on his voice for size, taking it out for a ride, cawing like the bird, calling out to the fan. Swooping high and low in his tone arsenal. Mimicking me and his Dad and all the noises he hears inside and out.
At 3:45 am he woke me, as he has done for the last few weeks, so that it feels like a sign of something: 3-4-5. He touches my arm, curled next to me in the large bed, between me and my husband, as I’d left him there after the 2am feeding, which I know he doesn’t need, but I’m too tired to wait out his cries and I’ve been giving in to taking him out of his bassinet and bringing him into our bed, the only thing that will calm him these days. At 3:45am, I looked over. He was on his belly, propped up on elbows, staring right into my face, swooping his voice “Moooooomamamamamooooahhhhhhh!” Seeing me seeing him, his wide grin burst out across his cheeks and he squealed. My husband, sleeping, grunted and rolled away from us. I propped my son up nipple-height to feed, once again, as I listened to his cooing before his fingers loosened, his arms slackened, and his mouth slipped off my breast into sleep again.
It is 9am and he has eaten oatmeal and had milk and I’ve changed 3 diapers in the past hour, wiped green sludge off his back, my hands, gone through about 20 wet wipes warmed by the contraption somebody gifted us. Put cream on his backside over the redness. Sang my morning song I make up every day for him that always says hello to the sun, the birds, the trees, our dog. I balance him on my hip as I wash my face with one hand, brush my teeth with the same. I forgo brushing the hair. It stays wound in a high top-knot secured by any band I find near my bed or on the sink. It feels like an accomplishment to have learned to brush my teeth while holding him. I set him down in his swing, another thing to buckle him into as he bucks his back and grabs hold of whatever is near to pull him out of the thing I’m trying to strap him down into. He is impatient to move, to talk, to be a part of the world that has opened wider to him in the past week. He stares at our dog, Flo, and endures her licking his fingers as if he is one of her own. He does not like to be stuck in anything: a car seat, a swing, a crib, a bassinet. I put him down on the floor, on a blanket on the rug and he rolls over, pushes his knees underneath him and rocks back and forth, knowing that forward is the way to go even if he’s not yet figured out the mechanics of knees and toes. He continues his conversation stream to the rug, to the wall, to the chair, to the light streaming through the window.
I sit, laptop open, catching the ephemera I witness in sentences, in short bursts. It has taken me 43 minutes to write these last three paragraphs.
Mother-Artist-Protector-Writer-Weeper-Wife. They have all blended into one now. Before, it seemed, were the luxurious days of the freeing limitations of the one thing. The career. The answer to “what do you do?” at parties which pares us down to our essential worth in this world. Now, what am I but all of it, together, at once. And Mother is first now because it is up to me to keep him alive. Which means I can’t be kept to plans, commitments, dates on calendars. I keep flexible and hope my world and friends in it are liquid enough to give me room to feel my way into this new state of being.
6 months. In recovery world, when someone reaches the goal of being 6 months sober, they get a blue chip. A brilliant blue coin. “6 months…days and nights and concerts” someone may say. On Day One (the silver chip), 6 months seems like the impossible task: forever away. One day at a time is a no joke kind of promise you make to yourself: to not look too far ahead on that road. To just look at your feet. Stay on the mat. Stay in the breath.
I didn’t imagine I’d make it past 2 months. I barely remember those days. And nights. Now it all seems to be speeding by and I catch myself in the in-between spaces of his needing me. Like a breath. My own. I write what I can and hope to juggle the puzzle into sense later, while feeding my son with one hand and brushing my hair with the other. It’s a high wire balancing act. No net. Just faith in the flight.