Here you are to create the “before” and “after” that I’d heard about, cutting through the center of our lives, tiny as you are. But I don’t know who you are, really, and so I return again and again to a state of wonder while I examine the black whorls of your hair and listen to the quiet catches in your breath. We say to each other, “what is this thing?”
Sometimes when we are too tired, because we had grown used to restful nights before you came, we think you are wily in your ability to bring us to the edge of sleep and then jolt us back into heavy-eyed vigilance. The cries that are overwhelmingly precious in the daytime turn equally exasperating in the dark. Stretches of feeding and swaying and singing drag on until you have us believing you’ve finally dozed off. We engage this happy illusion while we lay you in the bassinet, while we tuck the blankets tight around the smallness of you, while we tiptoe back to the bed, lie down, and begin to drift into coveted sleep. That is when you know to shatter our dreams with a good strong wail. You follow with a pause long enough to convince us it was a false alarm, but once you detect that we are no longer alert, you commence the next round of wails, this time without pause.
Clearly we are still naïve, because we are always the ones adjusting to you, and never the other way around. We sleep with the light on and music playing because you seem to prefer it, which means that even when you are sleeping, I lie awake under my eye mask, listening to the lyrics of the latest playlist we’ve created in your honor. Incidentally, we’ve found that you favor classic rock with long guitar riffs over gentle lullabies played softly.
I swore not to become engulfed by you to the point where I forget the world, but now I can’t seem to think of anything else. I’m never bored of you either, as others surely are. Your mouth alone could have me captivated for hours with the way you part and purse your lips and stick your tongue in and out, continually testing and tasting the air.
I know there is a bigger life ahead and I know that I will rediscover the exquisite interior of myself that I had carved out before you arrived, but for now while you are small and dependent I don’t mind interrupting my life to lean over and inhale your sweet milky smell or watch your eyes follow the movement of my hand as they learn to see.