We brought Addyson home from the hospital after spending one night in the NICU and one night in a regular room. She was jaundiced and had to sleep in a bilirubin bed that would send light to her body throughout the day. I laid the entire bed onto our Queen-sized bed with Tiffanni, “There’s no way that she’s not sleeping with me.” And I slept on a couch that I pulled into the bedroom and sandwiched between our bed and a wall. She and Tiffanni glowed all night long and slept like the world only existed in that room. I woke up every hour or so, stood up, stared at them, and tried to make sense of what we had done. I thought that it was just the dead of night why my brain couldn’t connect any logic to the reality of how 9 months before, Addyson didn’t exist and then there she was in our bed- from nothing to life. But I’ve never been awake enough to wrap my brain around life and living.
Carsyn surprised us 13 months later. Two babies, two baby rooms, pink and purple everywhere. Bows and skirts, stuffed animals and onesies. Tiffanni loved being a mom. She could get both of them laughing long before What To Expect said they were supposed to be. Every night I would walk into their rooms and just stare. Life lives here. The experts said that they couldn’t keep a blanket on them, so we were to dress them in their blankets. I love onesies. Zipping them up into their “blanket” every night before bed, right after a bath, clean, soft and perfect. We were lucky, our kids just slept. For hours. I would usually visit several times a night just to watch them sleep and breathe and grow. In the moonlit rooms, eyes adjusted to light and life, my babies, our creation- the greatest thing I had ever done.
Brayden surprised us too. Not a surprise in that, I know how it happens, just a surprise in that, oh, this happened. We had just finished building our first house. Moved in in November and Brayden made his grand entrance, or exit depending on your perspective, in January. Bray tried to be stubborn and not sleep for a couple of nights. Some friends of mine told me about a book called the No Cry Sleep Solution, with Amazon reviews attesting to its borderline abusive strategy, I picked it up. Third babies suffer through a different criteria of parenting. The book said, “Let them cry. They’ll learn your schedule.” So I did. But that little jerk with foghorn lungs was too loud. Tiffanni begged me to go check on him. “We can’t. The book says it’s like starting over each time.”
“What if he’s choking?”
“Then he’s probably not crying.” I had to come up with someway that she wasn’t so alarmed by his crying. So I did what every parent would naturally do, I put his bed in the closet and shut the door. Then shut his bedroom door. Then shut my door. And peace reigned. Not even his fire alarm cry could penetrate all of those doors. And we slept. It took two nights and he was sleeping through the entire night. Hopefully DHR isn’t reading or the statute of limitations has passed.
Don’t get me wrong, I stood and stared over him and watched him sleep just like the girls. I would bend over the crib rail and hold his hand. And his fingers would instinctively curl around my finger. Warm and soft, oblivious to anything in the world, life in my hand.
I still go to their rooms and hold their hands, watch them sleep. I have to be careful because sometimes it plays to my fears of loss, but there is no greater time of day to stop and be still and breathe in life.
With Tiffanni, some days are hard. Her needs are exhausting and her new quirks often exasperating. She needs help all day long, every taken for granted chore. Each night we start her bedtime routine. A bath, teeth brushed, she insists on chap stick, and medicine. We get her changed and a last chance to use bathroom, and I walk her to the bedside where she waits on me to brush the unseen, imaginary crumbs off of the bed. I turn off the light, turn on the fan, and turn the tv to the Food Network. And around 8pm I tuck her in for the evening. Within minutes, her body has stopped moving and has settled in for the night. And she sleeps.
I look at her and unlike my kids, where I feel the moment and dream of the future, with Tiff the past comes rushing back and I remember it all at once. With each breath she inhales and exhales romance and giddy and star-crossed lovers, dates and anniversaries and babies, moments and vacations and rendezvous, touches and desire and exhilaration, all that once was and the memory of all the “will be’s” that won’t. Twenty years worth. In that moment, in that space, the pain escapes and the stillness settles. My daily frustrations forgotten, an anticipation of the next day’s concerns yet to begin, and the moment suspends- it’s easy to love a baby.
Life is still here. A different kind of life. But life.