Saturday, August 25, 2007

midnight poem

It's midnight. After a long and exhausting week. But I'm so depleted I can't sleep. This is the only solitude I seem able to gather around me. Once again it is Swee'pea's (lack of) sleep that has put me over the edge and made me question my sanity.

I've been trying to hold the pity party at bay, trying to keep it contained. It seems everybody's dealing with illness and impending or recent loss, and my problems mostly feel pretty small compared to those. Still, we're dealing with a lot of change and uncertainty and we have no back-up, no-one to bring Swee'pea to when I'm at my wit's end of a long day and Sugar D still isn't home, no family to babysit while Sugar D and try to re-connect on a date (we've been out alone together twice since Swee'pea was born, each time for only 2 hours; once this past July and the first time for our anniversary last August).

I've taken a relatively large amount of time to myself today, a bubble bath with the first Harry Potter (yes I'm ridiculously late to that party), an evening walk in the park, where the low sun glowed through green leaves, striping the park acid while salsa dancers pulsated to the latin beats in the gazebo. But when I got home with Stomp the Yard for more me time, Swee'pea was wide awake. Determined to bring my plans to fruition, I spent the next two hours trying to get him back to sleep, walking with him, lying in bed with him, crying with him. He finally fell asleep after a couple of emotional eruptions (mine) arond 10:30. I was too upset to concentrate on Stomp the Yard and have just been working on a wallowing playlist.

Woops... I hear him calling for me again. Oh, he stopped. I am really struggling with being the only caregiver all week long except for an hour or two after dinner, and even then he often only lets me put him to sleep. And I feel selfish because I know Sugar D's not having an easy time either. But I'm just totally. tapped. out.

Last night when I went to bed, Swee'pea was already in his crib (finally! I think that was the only night this week that he went to sleep before us), and a distant storm was passing by. The thunder rumbled benignly with almost as much rhythm and reliability as ocean waves, and I savoured the sounds while I waited for my mind to quiet. I felt cocooned in a lullabye. I noticed how the strobes of lightning penetrated my closed eyelids, and thought about the word strobe. I enjoyed the feeling of no chubby hands or feet scrabbling against my belly, no softly-haired head on my shoulder, nothing but the cool cotton sheet resting like air on my skin.

Then Swee'pea woke up. He fell back to sleep fairly quickly once he joined us, but I was back to curling myself around him, not altogether comfortable. I woke up this morning thinking about how much more easily I fall asleep when he's in bed with us than when he's in his crib and I have an expanse of bed around me, but how much more rested I feel in the morning if he hasn't spent the entire night with us.

The other night I was also on the edge, more likely over the edge. I complained to Sugar D about how hard everything felt and why can't Swee'pea just sleep for God's sake?!? and I need some space, some escape. He broke in to ask me why I want a second child if it's so hard. And that felt like a low blow somehow, like dirty pool. I started to attempt an answer, but I couldn't, and I just told him his timing was really unfair and he agreed. But the question lingers in my mind.

Tonight the three of us laid in bed, Sugar D too depleted to respond to my railing, and I felt so alone crammed into that bed. I cried and I couldn't keep my tears to myself. I made those wimpy crying noises and my body shook, and then Swee'pea started making the same noises, starting with the same sniffles and quick, sharp intakes of breath. This crying was much different from his earlier screams and wails, and when I looked at him he was watching me with big, scared eyes, unsure what to make of his weeping mother. His weeping overtook him and he hugged me and I tried to tell him it was ok, that I was just sad and it didn't have to be scary but I couldn't get the words out. He settled down, and eventually slept, but it took a long time and I just laid there, rigid, feeling trapped and horrified at feeling trapped and shitty for taking it out on Sugar D yet again.

Here's part of a poem my coworker shared with me recently, a poem that spoke to me immediately and has haunted me since. It seems particulary apt tonight.

I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Adrienne Rich, from an Atlas of the Difficult World

I'd still love to hear your comments on my daycare situation.


flutter said...


I am here, too.

niobe said...

It's a rough situation and there's really only so much that one person can do without feeling at her, y'know, wits' end. I can't tell if once Swee'pea starts daycare the demands on you will ease or whether it's a matter of waiting until his sleep solidifies a bit more.

slouching mom said...

(Love that poem.)

Oh, oh, oh. I can see why it's tough, I can see that it's tough, and I'm sorry.

Serendipity, baby! said...

Four hours in two years? Anytime you're in the 'shwa PLEASE drop him off while you eat out and relax together. We'll tire him out as much as we can for you. (and I actually mean it)

bubandpie said...

I don't think the decision to have a second child should be especially related to how easy things are with the first one. It's not something you do because you assume that you can handle it or take everything in stride, anymore than having the first baby is.

I know that some people have babies because they actually want to have a BABY, but that wasn't my motivation, especially the second time. I had my second child because five years from now I want to have two CHILDREN - and the baby years are just the hoop I have to jump through to get there.

(That said, I could write a whole essay - and have done so occasionally - about the ways that two are easier than one, and two closer together best of all...)

Suz said...

There's nothing like that depleted feeling left by a non-sleeping toddler and Rich's poem captures it perfectly.

Kyla said...

Oh Sin. It is genuinely difficult. Sleep is so is time in which you are just free to be. Without it you do become tapped out.

I lived this life...this life of no sleeping...of no time to myself...while we were in the hospital. And honestly? THAT was the most exhausting portion of our stay. The fact that she just couldn't sleep, and neither could I. I was on duty all day and all night on my own...and it is truly exhausting. It gave me just a peek into your world, and it really is hard. I'm wishing you peace and sleep, Sin. Hang in there.

jen said...

it's so unbelievably hard sometimes isn't it...and so lonely in the midst of it because of all the emotions that come with exhaustion and lack of remembering who we are.

it will pass. it will.

Bon said...

oh, dude. that kind of crying, the so-alone even though i'm not alone and maybe because i need to be alone for just a bit kind...oh, i get it. and no wonder you're tapped out, with no backup, no breaks, plus no evenings to yourself while he sleeps.

whatever it's worth, you write it vividly and beautifully.

as does Adrienne Rich.

bubandpie said...

Hey hon. I've got an award for you (attached to a kind of optional meme). Come see!

kgirl said...

Oh, I so know how you feel. I have been there, I have, and it truly sucks, especially in the middle of the night, when at that moment, you don't know how it won't always be this way.

But it won't. I promise, I promise, I promise.

And I'm sure you know that too, which is why baby #2 doesn't seem like such a crazy idea.

Aliki2006 said...

My heart breaks for you--it's SO hard. I also feel I walked in your shoes, oh how I did--right down to the feeling of stretching out in bed without a little one to be mindful of.

I remember the tearful, guilt-ridden nights.

It will get better--because if Liam could learn to sleep, anybody can.

Mean Mommy said...

I'm a new reader and have enjoyed your writing.

I am in exactly the same situation with my 10 month old, who, as I type, is being coddled back to sleep by her papa at 1 o'clock in the morning. This is her 3rd time up tonight. It is so. so. frustrating. So much more so solo, I'm sure.

Not a reason not to have another, though, as in the grand scheme of things, these first months (or years) fly by. And not every child is an awful sleeper.

Love love love that poem.

Christine said...

this whole thing is so rough, so draining. jen is right--it will pass and you will sleep and he will sleep and it will be right. hang in there.

Beck said...

Babies ARE hard. They are. But each baby is DIFFERENTLY hard.
Does your little guy go to a home daycare? Would you homecare provider be willing, maybe, to watch him some weeknight while you and your husband had a date?

nomotherearth said...

Oh, I so wish I could help you out here. I would definitely babysit Swee'pea for you if you were in TO. I betcha he and the Boy would get along famously.

Having/wanting #2 has nothing to do with how easy or hard the first one is, it's about how you see your life in the future - as a family of three or four? Babies do grow up, and they do eventually sleep. That, I know.

Anonymous said...

It is a tough time, but remember that these things pass, and everything will get easier.

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NotSoSage said...

Sin, that was a lovely poem. A way to make you feel less alone when you read it.

edj said...

I have been there, when my kids were small. There is nothing like the exhaustion of the mother of tiny ones. But hang in there; it WILL get easier. Eventually, this will be a memory too.

Jennifer said...

The fact that it can be so difficult really has so little to do with the love of it all -- or wanting another. Somehow, the being exhausted and overwhelmed and needing a break can stay completely separate from the loving and appreciating and the gratitude. Motherhood is so unlike any other emotional ride. It's wonderful and crazy. (And I do mean crazy.)

And now I'm off to comment on your daycare dilema, as I've been there!

Mad Hatter said...

Oh Sin,
I am so sorry to have been out of commission when you wrote this. It's funny but when I was in Edmonton, sleeping with Miss M and Len in a double bed in my brother-in-law's freezing basement, I completely lost it one morning. As my sobs became obvious to Miss M, I had that terrible feeling of guilt intermingled with clautrophobia and it was too much to bear. I tried to explain: "Mommy is sad" but Miss M couldn't understand. Later that day, she reminded me of how sad I was in the morning and the waves of guilt and righteousness overwhelmed me again.

Shit, it can be so overwhelming to be human.