By Olga Alvarado-Cofresi
Alexandria VA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 1, January-February 2001, pp. 16-17
It's 8 AM. I take my baby out of the sling and nurse her to sleep for her first nap of the day. I'm thrilled that I will get to sleep again, but it takes me a good half-hour to unwind. The cold I've been fighting is catching up with me, my eyes are heavy, and I start to doze. A gas mower starts its engine, a neighbor tinkers with a hammer, and the trash truck beeps and bangs outside. I'm awake and quickly cover Luna's exposed ear and pray that she doesn't wake also. I look at her eyelids—holding my breath. The voices in my head start their usual cheering, "Sleep, baby, sleep! No, don't open, no, no, no, not yet! Close! You can do it, come on!" A grunt and groan later, two beautiful large grayish brown eyes stare back at me and a toothless grin stretches across a lazy face. My heart melts.
It's noon and we're in a different room—a darker and cooler one. Luna is asleep and still on my breast after another half-hour of sucking. I am sure my bladder is going to explode. My nose itches. I lay still, my back aching from lying like a snake. But I look at her and smile. She looks like an angel. She finally unlatches with a look of utter contentment. She sighs, and rests her cheek and hand on my breast. Now how can I move? After almost four months, I still can't bear to do anything when she does this. I wish I could take a picture of the moment and capture not just the precious image, but the unconditional love I feel and the serenity and security she feels.
It's been awhile now—surely she's in deep sleep. I slither off the bed and barely touch the floor as I leave the room, one last glance toward her to confirm she's asleep. In less than five minutes, I've heated up my lunch, used the bathroom, blown my nose, emptied the dishwasher, tripped over the cat twice, and logged on to the Internet for my daily email fix. Suddenly, the UPS guy bangs forcefully on the door and rings the doorbell repeatedly. I sprint frantically to the door before he does it again, grab my recent order of parenting books, wave hello and goodbye and shut the door in his face before he knows what hit him. I tiptoe to the room to find Luna staring up at the ceiling fan, talking to it. Spit-up runs down the side of her cheek and into the creases of her neck. There is a tiny bloodied fingernail scratch on her forehead. She sees me and smiles.
It's around 4:30 PM and she's been sleeping for a good 45 minutes. I feel triumphant because I've cut her nails very short, not minding the painful position I had to get into to do so. I finally relax and decide to nap as I realize I'm exhausted from hourly feedings and many walks around the house. The made-up songs I've been singing to her start playing in my head and soon I drift off as her silky hair tickles my chin. As I'm starting to dream, my partner, Brunie, opens the front door, greets the cat, and announces loudly, "I'm home!" Like a mirror, I see Luna's eyes as soon as I open mine. Were both wide-eyed and still tired. I hear again, "I'm home!" Yeah, we know.
It's 7 PM and she is exhausted. I nurse her and hope that she falls asleep soon because my stomach is growling. She does and by 7:30, I'm able to sit down, eat dinner, and talk with Brunie. Luna finally sleeps.
lt's sometime between 8:30 and 9 PM. I'm ready. My body is crying out for sleep. I sink into the bed next to my sweet baby and quench her need for a quick feeding. The room is dark. My throat hurts and I feel worse. I turn on the sound machine to ocean waves and imagine myself by the shore, sun beating on my shoulders. I close my eyes and smile when I feel two tiny feet land on my thighs. I hear Luna's breathing. She is in deep sleep. I join her.
I'm dreaming that I am looking down through a large window at a basketball game. The crowd stares back at me, and I realize I'm not wearing a shirt. But then—what's that sound? A horse? A pig? I open my eyes and realize it's Brunie snoring. The sound echoes in my ears, bouncing back and forth, getting louder and louder. It's 10:30 PM and I'm awake until at least midnight while everyone else sleeps. At that moment, I wonder if my other stay-at-home mother friends are going through the same kind of things at this hour. Maybe I can call one of them, but I choose not to.
I hear distant ambulances. The house seems alive with sounds. Is someone breaking in? I imagine myself kick boxing the intruder. My heart is racing with the thought of someone hurting my baby. I look over at Luna's tiny silhouette and am filled with both love and fear. She is ready to breastfeed again and I want to give her more than milk; I want to give her the assurance that nothing will ever hurt her. I thank God for our lives. I caress her small head and let her hang onto my index finger while she sucks in her sleep. She relaxes me and I fall asleep.
It's 4 AM and the cat is meowing outside the bedroom door. I want to scream, "Shut up!" I'm holding my breath again. The baby stirs and, like a fish out of water, Brunie turns this way, then that way— flip, flop. I'm sure Luna will go flying off the bed, but she doesn't. I muster a, "Shhh", and the cat eventually stops meowing. All is calm again.
It's 4:30 AM, and I wake up to the sound of Luna talking to the shadows. I smile and whisper, "Hi baby," and she looks over and squeals with delight. A change of diaper and a nursing settles her.
It's about 5:30 AM and Brunie is getting ready for work. I'm reading The Runaway Bunny to Luna who is now wide awake.
It's 6 AM. She looks sleepy and acts cranky. I've breastfed her twice since 4:30. I just finished playing the guitar. I sing, I dance, and I itsy bitsy spider a few times. She gives me the cue and I breastfeed her yet again. She resists her body's signal to sleep.
It's 7 AM and I put her in the sling. With my hair in a mess, we go for our daily walk, and I point out the birds, squirrels, and dogs to her. I take my time.
It's 8 AM.