Her baby boy is still in the car seat, almost asleep. He is resting his hand on a toy, gazing at her sitting in the recliner. His eyes are on her, yet focusing on nothing. They slowly close and she wishes they weren’t in this living room, droopy with exhaustion and alone. It’s hard to imagine that only thirty miles away, there is a living room filled with laughing girls gathered around their mother who is celebrating her 41st birthday, watching her get ready to leave and meet up with a few gal pals to watch an animated children’s film about a silly, lost fish.
That’s where she, and her boy, should be right now. The ladies were going to ride together to the theater as the girls looked after the seven month old infant. Being a mother, though, means that plans can change quickly and often. At least that’s what she tells herself. This is being a mother. It has nothing to do with the pinch that had started at the bottom of her throat when she was asked to go on this spontaneous venture out of the house. It certainly isn’t because her stomach had immediately knotted when she opened the text and saw the invitation to meet up in a hour. Being a mom means things don’t always go perfectly. Not being able to make events is just a part of normal parenthood. It wasn’t due to her anxiety at all. Right?
When she had gotten the invitation, she knew she should go and celebrate with her friend. The last time she let someone watch her son for more than a couple hours, though, it didn’t go so well. She knew her friend’s daughters were responsible and had plenty of experience with babies but the fictional hand that held her throat would not relax its grip.
Finally. The blanket feels welcoming yet unfamiliar, like a visit with an old friend that’s long overdue. However, this friendship finds relaxed interaction much sooner than that. They don’t have to catch up and explore what topics are comfortable enough for conversation. No, they can just be quiet company to one another. The lack of possible judgment makes every muscle in her body seem to exhale in relief.
Sure, her husband who lays beside her could make a judgement. If he were awake. But he looks so blissfully and deeply unawake that she needn’t worry. During the day, she looks to him for affirmation that she’s doing her job well, praise for her motherly selflessness. Yet at night she’s appreciative of his habit of heavy sleeping so that he’s unaware of her snapping impatience, no matter how infrequent, towards the baby’s fussing.
Why is she even thinking about judgment right now? Sometimes, she doesn’t know if she’s the one trotting inside the market fence, being lead in circles, or if she’s the one with the ball cap, saying, This one should go for cheap. She knows that she isn’t always one or the other. Yet the unfounded sense that she should be is constant.
He’s wiggling around and making little grunts. When he was first born, she would wake up when he was in the middle of a full on cry. She realizes at this moment that she hasn’t woken up to his actual cries in a very long time, that she can always hear him moving around first. That makes her sad. She can’t remember the last time she was in that deep, peaceful, luscious version of sleep that she took for granted as a teenager.
She looks over to her husband’s side of the bed and tries to look passed his comfortableness, in that fluffy blanket cocoon and pleasant obliviousness to any open eyes in the room, and looks at the clock on his nightstand. 3:24 am. She looks away and can’t remember the exact numbers she saw anymore. It’s always 3:20something, not sure why she even had to look. It’s a habit now, she supposes, to see how much sleep she’s gotten. After figuring out the math in her head for a few seconds, it isn’t much. Just like the other nights she had counted.
The babe’s still moving around and she feels like a robot as she removes the warm blanket from her body. It’s not exactly hard to get out of bed anymore. And she’s finally able to leave the lights turned off when all three of them are asleep in the room. She’s finding a routine. When they first brought him home from the hospital, she had kept a lamp on all night. She wanted to watch his breathing, make sure he was still alive. Some nights she lay with her head at the foot of the bed so she could see him better, when she watched him for so long that it became time to feed him again. In the hospital, she had requested that he stay in the room with her every night they had to be there. She didn’t trust anyone else to treat her babe with the love she did.