I'm sitting in the dark as my six-month-old baby sleeps swaddled up in her Fisher-Price Snugabunny swing with her Wubbanub. What is she dreaming of, I wonder? Milk? My boobs? The TV that she loves possibly better than anyone else? The swing that rocks her repeats the same electronic melodies over and over. I have unwittingly memorized the 10 songs the swing plays in rotation, and could sing them for you at the drop of a hat. My mind is muddled and dull from exhaustion, yet somehow those songs have wedged their way into my brain and won't leave. Still, the mechanical whir of the swing comforts me.
I feel so, so happy, sitting here in the dark at my "kitchen" table. I say "kitchen" because my two-bedroom apartment has no actual dining space and already feels much too small for the four humans who cohabit here. The baby swing takes up way more space than we can afford, but it's worth its weight in sanity. If it keeps the baby quiet, it stays. But we are bursting at the seams. Still, I am contented.
The baby is sleeping, so I should be sleeping, right? At least that's what everyone says. But sometimes, moms need those precious nap times to daydream about going to a spontaneous happy hour or wandering into brunch on a lazy Sunday. Moms sometimes need time to forget that they're moms.
I look out on the 70-degree February day — a rare treat here in New Jersey — and think about the day ahead: I'm about to pre-load the washing machine, but I won't dare start it until naptime is over. After that, I might throw the baby in the stroller and walk — WALK! — the half-mile to Target to browse the aisles and buy things we "need" (wink).
I recognize that today, just like most other days, I haven't had a meaningful interaction with an actual human being other than to tell my husband to have a good day, and to order avocado toast at the coffee shop. I won't speak to anyone (other than an annoying insurance agent who is still messing up our NICU bills) until it's time to pick up my toddler from daycare.
And then it's two hours of trying to feed, bathe, entertain, and cherish my toddler while not ignoring my baby. They're only 20 months apart in age and they both need me. A lot. If I'm lucky, only one of them will cry at a time. Once, all three of us cried simultaneously. It is exhausting.
Bedtime, blessed bedtime, comes for my toddler at 7:30 p.m. When she was my only child, I used to get relief — and dinner — by 8 p.m. Now that I'm outnumbered, there is little relief — or food. The baby has decided that her witching hours are 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thanks, baby.
My husband will arrive home anytime between 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. to an anxious, overtired wife and a disaster of a house. Because, of course, no matter how clean it is at 4 p.m., the toddler will wreak havoc by 7 p.m.
Uh oh. The swing music has run out and the baby is looking at me.
I pretend not to notice.
Thank goodness. She's going back to sleep.
On a good day, I'll only text my husband once to ask when he'll arrive home. Right now, he is my only lifeline to the outside world. When he comes home, I pepper him with questions: "How crowded was the train today? Did Dunkin' Donuts get your order right? What did you eat for lunch?" I'm not sure if I'm actually interested in these mundane details or if I've completely forgotten how to have a normal conversation. It's not like I get to practice much these days.
I truly, truly adore my children from the bottom of my heart. (With all apologies to your children, mine are obviously the smartest, most attractive, funniest, sweetest kids on the planet.) Which is why I feel like a terrible person for counting the minutes until bedtime.
I never really knew how alone I could feel while being constantly physically attached to one or two tiny humans. It is a strange paradox.
On the other hand, I never knew how insanely proud I would be when my toddler said, "Excuse me," in the proper context when passing a stranger on the sidewalk. I never taught her that. How did she know to say it?
So for now, I'll sit in the dark, let the mechanical swing noise wash over me, and tell myself that I should enjoy the peace and quiet. I know it won't last forever. None of this will.