The edge of my thumbnail is jagged. I must have snagged it on the door or a drawer earlier in the evening. I run my pointer finger over the rough surface and then lightly press it against the soft fleece in my arms.
Four weeks ago I could have bolted out of my chair, snatched a nail file and fixed it. Four weeks ago I could have filed away the imperfection until the surface was smooth. But right now I’m rocking him. It’s been an hour and he won’t go to sleep.
Four weeks ago things were different. Four weeks ago I slept more and cried less. Four weeks ago I took long showers and walked the dog and rubbed lotion on my stretch marks and wondered how much longer I would have stretch marks to rub.
They say it goes so fast. And already he has grown out of a couple onesies that now hang in the back of his closet. Already he looks different than he did when we brought him home from the hospital. And even though the tiny ducky onesie he wore once doesn’t fit him anymore, these four weeks have felt like an eternity. Especially at night. Especially as 2 a.m. becomes 3 a.m. It feels like it will never end.
I try to feed him again, thinking maybe he wants to nurse to sleep as he does so well during the day. He ultimately refuses, latching on then pulling off. It hurts. Even though they said it wouldn’t or that it shouldn’t. A few weeks in, and already I want to quit.
I stroke his cheek to try to calm his cries, and then take him to my shoulder. I breathe in his sweet baby smell. Everyone always talks about the sweet baby smell, but I honestly hadn’t noticed it until recently. I close my eyes and pat his back as he starts to quiet. The silence and his warmth are a glimpse of the lovestruck early days of motherhood I am told I will have, and yet feel guilty for not fully experiencing.
They also say it gets easier and to hang in there. By about 12 weeks my milk supply should be more representative of what he needs. He’ll be a bit more predictable and may even resemble a schedule or routine. They say I’ll feel less awkward and more confident. He’ll interact with me — look at me, smile and coo.
Sometimes I wish for those days. Sometimes I wish for him to grow up. Just a little. For both of us to be a bit more skilled at this breastfeeding thing. For him to look at me and recognize me and play with me.
And then he scrunches up his legs, buries his head in my chest and falls asleep. And I look at him and cry because he’s so little and sweet, and I’m overwhelmed with guilt for wishing his newborn days away.
It’s been almost two hours now. The house is quiet. There are few things as lonely and beautiful as being the only one awake in the world with your baby. His eyelids are heavy and he’s been fighting sleep for a while. Finally he gives in. I can tell because his breathing is deeper and he lets out little squeaks every now and then.
I could probably go back to bed. I could probably set him down and he wouldn’t stir. Four weeks ago I was not this accustomed to 3 a.m. Four weeks ago I had no idea about any of this. About the sleep deprivation or the waves of emotion so high and so low…..even though everyone warned me. I had no idea how much I would doubt myself every second of every day, and how I would say out loud, “I can’t do this.”
He is still and content. I study his little face — his tiny nose, his perfect mouth, his cheeks that get chubbier every day. It’s one of those rare moments that gives me peace. That makes me feel like I must be doing something right. And even though I begged for him to go to sleep, now I don’t want to put him down.
“Maybe five more minutes,” I tell myself. Because right now I’m rocking him. And he just fell asleep.