In the dark, the moments stretch too long between sleep. All night we listen for your calls: puckering cherub lips, chirps, whines, and wails. Three weeks, now, without a full night’s rest. Three weeks since this whole ordeal began.
At first, we tried trading shifts in the night. In the orange and teal baby room, dim and quiet, three hours long and lonely—I thought of birth. How invincible I felt. I tried to make the strength translate. I can get through this sleepless night, I told myself. I can bear your endless feeding and howls.
Later, we were advised to work together. This is better. We sleep when you sleep. We wake when you wake. We stay in the nighttime cave as a tired new family. Daddy attends to your calls in the bassinet as I sit up to feed.
He carries you gently to me with kisses and calls you his angel at 3 a.m.
At my breast, you coo and snort with pleasure like a tiny animal. Milk pumps between your wide-latch fish lips and bubbles out the sides. Fingers knead at my breast, conducting your milk-duct concerto, paper-thin hang nails tickle my skin. You would rest right here all night hanging off my long, inflamed nipple like a perfect doll, but this is impractical.
When we try to move you it all falls apart.
You gurgle, spit up, hiccup, cry and Daddy tries to soothe you. He taps your soft furred arching back with rhythm, confidence. He bounces you on the orange birth ball, his bare chest pressed to yours. He changes your diaper and wipes your hairy head wet with spit-up.
The hours of the night pass this way. The foul emotions dance and play: dread, defeat, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear. I dream you escape the bassinet. I dream you choke on a purple macaroon. I dream you stop breathing. Even in my deepest sleep, I cannot release you.
Then you wake up in our bed where we let you pass the dawn hours, hanging your limbs on me like a koala joey upon a tree.
In the dawn light, you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, ever made.
The days go too fast.
I already miss your tiny, seven-pound self, all reflex and milk lips, and mine.
But the evenings stretch like years, and I think we’ll never make it out alive.