Every night we have a plan. Most nights it is executed flawlessly. It is a dance where someone cries or calls out and we both go stiff. One person touching the other with a firm hand.
“Don’t move,” the firm hand says. “Don’t breath. Don’t cough. Don’t crinkle the sheets. Wait.”
We listen. Is the voice muffled? Are they laying down? Are they covered? Or are they sitting up? Do you see her eyes peeking above the crib? I see almost nothing it is so dark. Is she getting too loud? Will she wake her brother? Is she moving in the crib because he is getting too loud?
Sometimes they settle and I fall back asleep without even knowing. Most of the time the firm hand becomes a pat.
And even then it is a seamless dance that most of the time interrupts sleep very little. Or maybe it is just something we’ve gotten used to. The 11 pm freeze, 4am wake up, the 6am alarm.
And then other times It’s 2:30 am and I’m cradling my 24 lb 10 month old like she’s a tiny baby, her giant noggin nestled into the crook of my elbow, and I’m humming and swaying and humming and swaying. And I close my eyes and sway and think actual thoughts that go like this, “Could I sleep standing up?” And I’m impressed with my ability to hold her like that and rock and sway and hum, because she is heavy, but my arms can take it. They can take it now. I mentally pat myself on the back for all of those recent pushups.
And I’m tired. I am so tired. And of course I’m also on my period. The new mother-of-2-periods that threaten to wash me away every month. And I’m swaying with my feet rooted firmly in the ground, in the very dark night, humming, and all the while feeling with certainty that my overnight pad is over flowing, but there is absolutely nothing I can do about. And I don’t know a more glaring image of motherhood than this.
All the while, Kamel is in with the toddler who is awake because who knows. Maybe because he got a new pillow yesterday. Maybe because his little sister will not stop crying. But I’ve bought Kamel some time, I think. If I can sway and keep her silent for thirty minutes I bet Gabe will go to sleep and then we can handle whatever insanity is happening with Fae.
This is not the first time we’re up with them. This is the third, maybe? But in the night you lose count. In the night you are just hoping that each time is the one and only, the last, the fluke.
Before this moment we had both given up. Gabe was crying out for the 4th time, Fae was crying in her crib, and we both burrowed under our pillows and hoped they would just exhaust each other. Maybe we can wait it out? But it just got worse.
In the night teamwork is paramount. Being on each other’s side, regrouping, and knowing when to throw in the towel. Ever night can’t be a winner, sometimes the game plan is thrown out the window. And you’re standing in your bedroom, being ruled by a tiny dictator who wants to only be held like a baby and swayed and hummed at. Tomorrow will be better.
**Editor note: Eventually I gave up, and Fae cried in her crib for 20 minutes until I brought Gabe a new pillow in his bedroom and Kamel took Fae, I took Gabriel to the bathroom, and finally got him settled in bed. The evening ended with both Kamel and I on the couch in the living room while Fae cried and passed out with multiple limbs sticking out of the slats of her crib. Because I am a ninja, I was able to stick those limbs back inside the crib without waking her up. And we got a solid 3 hours a sleep. The end.