I wake up at 5 am, no, wait… I lurch out of bed, leaving a panting, flailing creature behind to look at the clock in the other room. I wake up at — fuck, no. I go back to bed, swaddle Rowan and stuff a nipple in her mouth. I do not wake up at 4:10am. NEVER AGAIN, I swear as I wait for her to wake up again, unable to fall back asleep.
I get up at 5:30 am and immediately turn on the lamp settled on Jason’s dresser across the room. I have read that turning on a light battles the ensuing depression that comes with realizing you have to get up, and there’s no sun to get up with you. Rowan wiggles, and blinks like a mole. Then she skrees a few times, as I wrestle her dripping diaper from her dancing extremities. She pants and poops as soon as I remove her diaper (20 minutes earlier than she usually does), and shrieks in delight at the whole affair. The green/yellow curdy arc flies through the air and lands on my shirt, my pyjama pants and my 500 thread count sheets. I think about swaddling her again as I take her out into the living room, where I have also switched on a light after checking the clock once more. Instead we hit the living room floor and look at toys. Or I look at toys while she kicks and punches me, skreeing and babbling away; my precious little ban sidhe.
I brew 3 tablespoons of legal narcotics, purchased from a guy I know in town in our two cup-but-who-are-we-kidding french press: our most valuable wedding present. The skreeing monster calls me back to the living room, demanding interaction and praise. I turn her on her tummy, and muster up the most excitable voice I can as I desperately try to tell her that she is doing the best job in the entire history of learning to exercise one’s neck muscles. She doesn’t believe me, though she’s still holding her head high, and rubs her face into the blanket. Thankfully, she turns over, as I gingerly sip my hot security blanket and grin at her. She skrees.
I have errands to run, so I start biting a nail to help me formulate a battle plan. If I change her now, feed her in twenty minutes, burp her for an eternity, change her again, change her shirt after she vomits up half her impossible to obtain liquid life, get myself dressed, get the wrap sling tied, get my shoes on first then start with her layers of outerwear appropriate to a four month old living in Canada, put a Nuk in her mouth to shut her up from whining about how many layers she’s wearing and get the hell out the door, I can leave in about three hours. NEVER AGAIN, I think.
She enjoys the walk and I praise her love of trees and clouds, laugh at her confused inhale when the wind brushes her nose, hold her close and kiss underneath her eyes as she falls asleep from the familiar mother jiggle she enjoyed before the reality set in that This is It. I want to keep walking, but the Nursing Conundrum means I have a one hour time limit on all excursions so I beat it home and try to dismantle our excursion get up as carefully as I can. Wouldn’t want to wake The Dragon.
She sleeps for an hour, during which time I look up recipes for butternut squash, flip through a few albums on Facebook, reply to emails, look at houses and buildings for sale, eat a piece of fish and curse myself for not taking a shower when I hear her familiar grunts and fumbles for her fists. We return to the living room floor and sing her the alphabet and read her a rhyming couplet by Thomas Hood called ‘The Devil Ship’, wherein a castaway mariner is scooped up by a ship full of sooty so and so’s he takes to be devils. But they are, in fact, coal miners and have a hearty laugh at his expense. She does the same and I marvel at the power of rhythm. I go through the motions of looking at mirrors, changing, feeding, massaging little feet and hands and drinking litres of water as I dry up and my hands start to resemble that of a lich. She is tired again, but this time stubborn about it so she yells at her sleepiness from her bundled up napping spot and grows frustrated when it won’t leave her alone.
She finally drifts off and I race to the washroom without hovering around and hmmmmmming outside the bedroom door as I always do. In the washroom, I disrobe and mistakenly catch sight of my reflection. My hair can only be described as ‘hairlarious’. I look at my breasts whose size and shape change a minimum of ten times a day and I consider plastic surgery. Just a lift, I think. Then I wonder whether it would feel better to have tits in my armpits, or just tucked into my socks, giving me the pretense of flatness when all of this sustaining life directly business is over. In the end, I know I don’t have the guts to go through with surgery so, I think about where I’ll find the courage to age gracefully — just as I am.
The water pelting from the showerhead is so warm and inviting, I don’t get into it all at once. Instead I start with my toes and whatever else is poking out (including my forehead) and slowly, slowly step all of the way under. I sigh from my pores and take my time with the function of bathing. I stand around, admiring my toes and noticing the pronounced dip where my abdomen was split in two. A split that goes more places that one first suspects. Sometimes I will hop up to go get something and I feel two sharp pains encircling my girly bits, like I’m wearing a four year old’s undies and they’ve been soldered on with skin welding technology. I remember the birth, then, and wistfully run my hands through my hair at the thought of how small and wondrous, how perfectly anomalous she seemed, when handed to me after we were cut in two.
It’s then I realize I didn’t dance around to check on her eighty times before heading to the shower. The one time I did not do this, I went into the room once to get a sweater, leaned over her and found her quietly choking away. Babies do these things, I am assured, but it doesn’t make me feel better. I linger a little longer under the water and race through drying myself and redressing. I don’t look at my hair or my face and instead just quickly put on some moisturizer in upward strokes, because who wants to encourage gravity? Hint: not me.
She is not awake, so I lie down beside her and wait for the upcoming battle where she will gnaw at my nipples with her made of diamonds gums and skree and whine about how annoyed she is that these are the boobs she got. I breathe all the way in and all the way out, and I watch her sleeping face be impossibly adorable. I see her father’s face, my mother’s face, even my sister’s face. I touch her nose and she opens her eyes and reaches out to grab my face, a giant smile on her lips and in her eyes. I want so much at that moment for her to always need me that I vow to prepare myself for the day she’ll be embarrassed by my very existence and draw her close. She surprises me and nurses without argument, holding onto my fingers and I wonder what I might name her brother or sister….maybe.