Things I Think About at 2 AM

1) Motherhood is exactly opposite of marriage in that the longer we’re married, the closer we become – the more we belong to each other. But as a mother, my child started out belonging to me as much as she ever will – she was literally living inside my body, we physically couldn’t be separated. 

And then she was born, and I can put her down and walk away, but still we’re very close and especially since we’re exclusively breastfeeding, we can’t be apart for very long. The most natural place for her to be is in my arms. 

But as time passes and she keeps growing older, she’s also growing away from me. The longer she lives, the less she’s mine. She becomes more and more independent, belonging to herself. And she builds other relationships and belongs to those people too. 

And I have to not only allow it to happen, but encourage it and sometimes make it happen. Because I love her, and the only healthy path for her is to grow up. To no longer be a baby, dependent on mother for everything. 

To be her own person, instead of mine. 

And obviously at this point she’s just three months old and still very much dependent on me. And this isn’t an “I’m shoving my child away so she’s independent” thing. This is me realizing (with some surprise, honestly) how easy it would be for me to try to keep her my baby forever. Because I have so much affection for her and she’s so deeply embedded in my heart. Like she grew from nothing in there. And now I have to figure out a way to disentangle her gently from my heartstrings before they become prison bars around her.

I’m not trying to rush this in any way. I want her to stay my baby as long as is healthy for her. 

But these first few tiny steps we’ve taken down the path towards adulthood feel much more like moving towards losing her than I thought they would.

2) I came across a joke that should have been amusing, because it was rather clever, but wasn’t amusing to me, because I fully disagreed with the message. And for some reason it bothered my brain enough that I thought about it in the middle of the night.

And the botheration became a theory.

Take note of the kind of people who make the jokes you find funny. 

Because for a joke to be funny, it has to surprise you enough that you can be amused by it, but it also has to be true enough that you don’t reject it because at best it’s senseless, at worst it’s offensive. 

This means that the type of people who make the jokes you find funny are also the type of people with whose worldview you agree, at least a little. 

And it’s worth asking: do you want the kind of life that worldview has created? 

3) To me, success – winning – feels like relief. 

Because it means for at least a couple minutes I can stop trying, without…

Oh. Ugh.

It’s because my energy has been less focused on working towards success and more focused on working away from fear of my own laziness. 

It’s annoying when I think I’ve realized something vaguely interesting about myself, like the idea that winning feels like a relief to me rather than like a happy thing, and then upon closer examination it turns out to only be another manifestation of an issue that I’d previously discovered and discarded. 

Some things I have to discard many times.

4) Probably less interestingly, I often think about my work and my to-do list for the next day. What we’re going to do and what we’re going to wear. Tasks that need to be completed, and wording for messages that need to be sent.

5) The thing I think about most is my baby daughter, for the rather obvious reason that taking care of her is why I am awake and consciously thinking about anything at 2 am. And I want to think about her, because I don’t want to miss this.

It surprises me how these nighttime feedings feel so precious to me, ever since the beginning. I think I expected it to feel exhausting and difficult, but only the moment where I’m actually waking up feels difficult and I’ve learned not to draw that moment out longer than necessary. And I know that I’ve been fortunate in that so far she’s been the kind of baby who isn’t unnecessarily wakeful at night, so I haven’t been constantly exhausted the way many new mothers say they are. I did what I could to encourage her to sleep well, of course, and still do, but I don’t know if that’s why she does or if it would work with a different baby. Parenting is delightfully non-formulaic like that.

I had one small inkling that I might enjoy taking care of my baby at night, but I didn’t trust it because I tend to be suspicious of my optimistic inklings. I found this inkling when I was sleeping at my sister’s house shortly after my youngest niece was born, and I woke up in the middle of the night to hear her crying and suddenly I wished she were my baby and I would be the one taking care of her. This was the only time in the last seven years of my marriage that I actually wanted a baby. It was over four years ago, also, so clearly it didn’t stick.

But I was right that time. I enjoy being the one to take care of my baby during the night. The way she totally trusts me amazes me. She’s so beautiful to me, and I can just look at her for minutes on end. The curve of her eyelashes on top of her round cheeks. The movement of her jaw as she eats. The short dark lines of hair traveling across her head. The placement of her perfect little hands, a little different every time. 

Sometimes I sit in the feeling that we’re the only people awake in the world. I know that’s extremely not factually accurate, but as a feeling, it’s enjoyable. Sometimes I think about the thousands of other mothers across my side of the globe who are awake too, caring for their babies. Sometimes I’ll look at my sleeping baby in my arms and my sleeping husband beside me and I feel so incredibly grateful that this is my life and these are my people.

Usually she doesn’t fully wake up, but every once in a while she will and then she’ll smile at me, her eyes so dark and big, like there’s no one else with whom she’d rather be sharing this midnight moment.

Sometimes after she’s done eating, I’ll hold her against my chest, wrapped in my arms, feeling the gentle push and pull of her little body against mine as she breathes, the soft movements of her mouth as she sucks on nothing, her tiny arm hanging down my side like a half-embrace. She’s fully asleep and I’m tired and there’s no reason not to put her in her crib except that right now she’s my baby and I’m holding her.

There’s a limited number of nights we’ll spend together like this. 

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