Every evening I wonder if perhaps my son will sleep through the night.
Infants are unsympathetic bosses. They observe no statutory holidays or EDOs. Their expectation is simple and absolute.
“Wake and attend to me. I will continue asking until you submit.”
They are not ashamed if you turn to friends and professionals for advice on how to manage them. They are uncompromising.
When I hear his call, which is generously only once a night now, I swing my legs out over the side of the bed and trudge down the hall to lift his solid body out of the crib and fall back into our chair with the broad armrests where I will nurse him back to sleep.
I look at his little face and question how it is that I am in charge of this new person. Me. Of all people.
While fantasizing about one, single undisturbed night of sleep, I squeeze his sweet pork chop foot and think of how – at some point in the future – I will disbelieve that this ever happened. That it was me who this tiny human reached up for each day. It was me who read him poetry and laid him in a tub of shallow water to wash the pancakes out of his hair. It was me who gave him empty egg cartons to play with when his toys failed to interest him.
And I will remember this moment and wonder how it all went so quickly.
“Would you say he’s a COVID baby?”
“He was conceived and born during the pandemic, so I suppose he is, but what do you mean by ‘COVID baby’?”
I say it as if I don’t already know what they mean.
“He doesn’t see faces. Just masks.”
I shrug. “He sees my face.”
The neighbouring concern that he’s not socialized enough does cross my mind, even though I don’t worry that it’s true. Sometimes Blake and I discuss it. Once after batting around the idea I ended the conversation by saying, “Margaret Atwood spent her childhood living half the year in the woods of Northern Ontario. She’s smart as a whip and richer than the bank. He’ll be fine.”
The truth is that I like the effects of the pandemic to some degree. In the before times I had innumerable surprise hugs from strangers at shows. The hugs could be awkward or sometimes downright inappropriate. But now there is a COVID buffer. The rules have changed and even an infant has physical autonomy.
May this way of thinking never revert.
“Are you hugging? Everything is so weird now.”
Yes. And everything was weird before too. This is actually better. Hands off the baby. Hugs by discretion.
Trip was resistant to go to bed. He was restless and vocalized through his stories. He wouldn’t smile at his bear when I puppeted a conversation. He twisted in my arms and by the time I flicked off the light switch it was like wrangling a 17lb jackfish.
But bedtime is bedtime and I meant business. I stuck to the routine and sang him his lullaby. He grabbed my glasses and pulled them off my face in one swift movement. I kept singing.
He put his hand straight into my open mouth.
I turned my head and I sang.
He grabbed my nose. Hard.
I carried on. I’m a professional after all.
He grasped my bottom lip in his tiny hand and yanked down.
In shock – and perhaps admiration of his persistence – I lost my composure and filled the room with a laugh.
The protests stopped and he was caught off-guard with his own unexpected laugh. We smiled at each other in the low light.
I finished the lullaby, laid him down and he went straight to sleep.
I am Mom.
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This piece requires wide publication
It is beautiful and honest
You have a gift
The way you blend these sober reflections on life and motherhood with your sharp humor is really incredible. I love it. This is such a great piece — very moving, and very funny.
"No. Everything was weird before too. This is actually better. Hands off the baby. Hugs by discretion." Spot on, and hilarious.