It’s been weeks now, maybe months. I wake up in the dark, at two or three, and I lay. I listen to creaks of the house. I stare at the ceiling, watch the slice of light from the street lamps that comes in-between the cracks of the shades. I nudge Vinnie to roll over, as though it’s his snoring that’s stirring me, that’s keeping me awake.
At first, I would lay and give audience to every terrible thought, every what-if, every failure, every wish-I’d-done-that-better, as if more than a decade of motherhood has replaced any idealistic whimsy with foolish worry.
At first, I would toss and turn. I would pull the blankets tight. I would throw them off all together. I would look up exercises in how to put your body back to sleep – breathing techniques, pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and inhaling, counting the moments between wake and sleep.
Last night, I sliced cucumbers, lemons and limes, and dropped them into a porcelain pitcher. I covered them with cold water and set it in the fridge for today. At three-thirty, I wiped down the stove that I had neglected to clean before bed, and I walked in to check on the girls, when I heard them whimpering in their sleep.
Lila startled as soon as I entered. She asked for water and she asked if Daddy was home yet. Yes and yes. When she asked if she could come to my bed, No.
Everyone in the house is fighting something. We have colds, aches, stomach bugs, anxieties, fevers, sniffles, too much to accomplish, too little. Perhaps everyone in our house is having their own three-AM moments, just not here with me, in the dark.
I thought of this, while I considered emptying the dishwasher at four, but then didn’t want to be too loud. I looked at the pots and pans I’d used to make dinner, and I thought of the hour spent, chopping, stirring, mashing, baking. I thought of the flurry of bodies around my dining table, the rush of first and then second helpings, and then how the bits of mashed potatoes and meat felt between my fingers as I wiped up the mess. An hour of preparation, ten minutes of devouring, and then…nothing. Leftovers for lunch today.
And tonight, we’ll do it again.
I walked out to the living room and stretched.
Four-fifteen AM and I simply stood, listening to my own heartbeat.
I did not worry about my slumbering family. I did not think about what would come after sunrise. I knew. I know, mostly, every night, what the next dawn will bring. Tomorrow will be much like the day before. It will be the tapping of pencils at the table, it will be the sounds of book pages turning, kids fidgeting, Khan Academy explaining math to my four year old.
There will be dishes to clean. Photographs to edit. Meals to make. Counters to wipe.
It will be loud. It will be full. It will have mistakes. It will have spills. It will have moments where I want to snap (and moments where I do). And it will have moments where I want to pause the world so that I can have the sweetest hug or cuddle or cute-kid-moment last, forever.
I breathed deeply in the dark and leaned down to the ground, touching my toes.
This is my (less-than-glamorous, not-always-interesting, just-the-way-it-is, and probably-not-worth-losing-sleep-over) life. This is my motherhood.
Before five, I went back to bed.
And I slept.