Rest when he rests, everyone says. But I can’t seem to quiet my mind. I feel overwhelmed with love for our newborn. Guilty for ignoring Lemmy, our Italian Greyhound. Anxious to catch up on emails and laundry and life.
And sometimes I just like to stare at my baby. That face! Those hands! How his arms dance in his sleep, conducting a silent orchestra!
My son Elliot is just a handful of weeks old. All things considered, he’s a good little sleeper. If only I could say the same for myself. Since I wake up for nightly feedings and diaper changes, my husband grants me a precious bit more sleep once Elliot wakes up in the morning.
The problem is…sleep will not come.
I lie back in bed while hubby closes the door and carries Elliot to the living room. I strain my ears to pick up any little noise my baby might muster. Was that a cry? Is he hungry? Is he alert? Maybe he could use some tummy time…
He’s just down the hall, but I can’t see him. Once that bedroom door closes, our small apartment feels like a labyrinth. He could be anywhere!
Twenty or so minutes pass and I get up to refill my water — a thinly veiled excuse to check on my son. It turns out those cries I heard were phantom noises. Illusions of a tired mom. He’s sleeping soundly in his swing, right next to daddy.
Rest when he rests. I remind myself of this momma mantra and I crawl back in bed. But I’m too anxious to sleep. My stomach is in knots.
Elliot and I went everywhere together for nine months. His hiccups and kicks were a secret between the two of us. He was with me when I started reading Moby Dick, when I stopped riding my bicycle, when I puked in the streets of Tokyo. (My husband and I had planned that trip before I got pregnant. Incidentally, my favorite Japanese food was peanut butter toast.)
Now I can’t get used to not being with him.
When I do sleep, it comes in fits and bursts and is riddled with strange, scary dreams.
A dream I had the other night: I’m feeding Elliot with my feet propped up on the kitchen table. My face is a sea of serenity, like the calm, collected mom I want to be. Everything’s dandy until a burly, fantastical creature — somewhere between a wombat and a mouse — crawls out from behind the oven. He has rough whiskers and a hungry look in the eye. Without warning he leaps onto the kitchen table. WTF.
I wake up terrified, a split second before the wombat mouse attacks.
I force myself back to sleep. A second dream takes over. This time, Elliot is swaddled in a gigantic stroopwafel, one of those crispy Dutch treats. He’s more or less a human Choco Taco. Soon a steady stream of syrup begins surrounding my precious little boy. No!!!
Again, I wake up terrified. My chest is sweaty.
I scold myself for not being able to sleep when it’s the one thing I need. I trudge out from the bedroom into the living room, fall into my husband’s arms, and describe my dreams in a mixture of tears and laughter.
My catnap is not meant to be, at least not on this morning when anxiety outweighs exhaustion. At least I have more time to stare at my baby.
All of it…the guilt, the worries, the willies exist for no reason other than love. Love for my little boy and for everything he’ll become. Love is a damn good reason, really. If I can I remind myself of that, I may sleep a little better.
In the meantime, I’ll continue sharing my absurd dreams with you.