Alone time

Week 5 of Baby: 11/19/2007


I'm sitting in a cafe close to our house. Aron and Sylvia just left, with Lena in tow, to go grocery shopping. Lena has been fed; Sylvia has a "special, special" treat of a juice box, and Aron has a cup of coffee in hand. It's my first hour alone in a month.

I haven't craved time to myself in the way I thought I would. Time without Sylvia, I've craved--the quiet that descends on the three days she's at daycare can feel like a blessed relief. The house reverberates with her "And then, Mama? And then if I go 'Bonk!' and hit my head?" as I'm bent over her feet, trying to wrestle her shoes--"Not those ones, Mama, this ones!"--onto her squirmy feet. And then the second she and Aron step onto the deck and I close the door behind them, airlock silence descends, and all I can hear through the glass door is my own laughter as we blow kisses at each other. Lena gurgles in the bouncy seat where Aron has placed her, we take up our positions on the couch or in bed, and I think about how long it might take me to be showered and dressed, if I'll be able to fold another tenth of the clean laundry spread all over the floor, if the slight shading on Lena's head is the beginning of cradle cap. You know, the big questions.

I'm still utterly besotted by Lena, and very complacently happy to sit around with her. I haven't had the urge to foist her in Aron's direction and run, the way I did in the early days of Sylvia's life. And frankly, I can't believe that she's 4 weeks old already. As I said to the pediatrician yesterday, the first month of Sylvia's life lasted approximately forever. "Interminable," she added. (She's the mother of three.) We shook our heads in tandem, looking down at Lena. The time warp is probably due to how much more calm we are this time around, accepting of the sleep deprivation and the upended nature of things; but it's also thanks to Sylvia herself, who keeps us so tethered to the normal flow of days and weeks, some semblance of a routine. I'm grateful for it, even if it has made things speed up--I wouldn't exactly trade those early, bizarre weeks of first-time parenthood, since I think they probably taught us something important, or at least, that they're a hurdle we all have to get over. But I also wasn't exactly relishing the thought of repeating them. So yay! We didn't have to.

But finding myself here now, alone in the cafe, I'm ... loving it. All of these adult individuals, immersed in conversation, in egg and cheese bagels, in the New York Times or their laptops or novels! I missed you, fellow adult individuals! I missed you without even knowing it! When I proposed this plan this morning to Aron, he joked, "You won't fool anybody--they'll see you coming a mile away." After ascertaining that he was not, in fact, talking about the kangaroo pouch I'm carrying around, trying to be proud of it--I said, "Oh yeah. I'll be sobbing big hormonal tears in my latte," secretly wondering if it was true. And it's not! It's really not true! I'll see Lena in an hour; this is good for Aron, to see what it's like to take on both girls at once; and come on--it's been a month. It's time. (The amount of "caf" in this decaf latte might be helping, too.)

One might think--I know I did, when I was pregnant--that the time I spend with Lena would be very close to time alone. After all, she sleeps, on average, 20 hours a day. And it is, in a sense... if only I could bring myself to put her down. I wasn't like this with Sylvia--she'd fall sleep, and usually, that would signal me to put down the baby. In her crib, bouncy seat, or at least in a sling. It must be that Aron was usually around, and now he spends most of his working days either at meetings or in that handy-dandy cabin. There is no one to witness my natural instinct, which is to stay put, and hold on. I know how soon this won't be possible, when she'll twist and turn and laugh and point and cry in frustration when I won't put her down. She does cry during the day, but it's the sort of cry that demands more holding, nursing, burping... not less. And I'm all too happy to comply.

Next week, we have a sitter coming to spend a morning with Lena. In a few weeks, I'll up her hours to two mornings a week. By three months, she'll be coming three mornings a week. When I first made this plan, when I was pregnant, it sounded like nothing--three puny mornings a week to get work done, or anything else that would be easier to accomplish without Lena attached to me? But now, as my hour is winding up, the dregs of my latte sit cold in my cup, my breasts are starting to tingle, and I'm missing the feel of Lena's nose on my neck, it sounds just right.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy--and now, life with a new baby.