This time is different. This time, I’m not going back to work in a week, when my baby’s three months old. This time, Rafael hasn’t traveled twice already. This baby sleeps more. And we live in a house in a quiet neighborhood, rather than in a walk-up flat in the heart of the beery Mission district. I have trees around me this time; quiet places to walk.
This time, I am different. I’m not a first-time mom. Talk about anxious! I was then. I wanted to do everything right, and always felt I was failing. I thought a baby was something to be managed, like I’d managed a career, relationships with lots of great friends, and the writing of my first novel. This time I know better. I know what a big change it is, and I’m no longer resisting.
I’m enjoying this time. How blessed we are! To have, of all things, time! And love! And healthy children! Even when I’m waking up in the middle of the night, padding down the hallway to feed Story Jane, I’m so thankful. I can kiss her sweet soft head. Hold her tight before I put her back down. Pray that she’ll be okay until the morning.
She’s a different sort than our son. “Alejandro was on fire this morning,” I mentioned to Raf. “He’s on fire every second of every day.” Rafael replied dryly.
And it’s true…there’s just an intensity to Alejandro. He’s a sweet, sensitive, and happy kid–and he’s had that intensity since he was born. His eyes were searching frantically for meaning before he could focus. “Don’t try to figure it all out tonight,” I remember pleading with him when he was about five weeks old. “Man, you’ve got like 80 years!” The wheels in our son’s brain, however, do not heed such advice. He wrenched his weak head from side to side, trying to understand every last detail, never giving up.
I was desperate for sleep, but he never slept for more than an hour at a time. I took him into bed with me, but when I opened my eyes, there were his: staring at me, farther from sleep than he’d ever been. I believe he was calculating the number of eyelashes on each of my raccoon-ringed eyes. Or perhaps he was simply considering the contrast between the pillow and my unwashed head? He had to go back into his own room, his own crib, with nothing to look at, if there was any chance of his sleeping. He needed “neutral space.” He now wants constant Star Wars-inspired action, but I’m still trying to figure out how to provide him with that sense of calm.
Story has felt different from the beginning. She nestles into my arms rather than pushing away, as Ali did. She’s seemingly content, like she knows everything will turn out fine. Her eyes are rounder than any baby I’ve ever seen. She’s super observant. She watches all of the chaos of our life with Ali with those big wide-open eyes. She smiles like mad when anyone looks her way. But she has a comfortable detachment, like she’s two steps removed from everything, whereas Ali is one step ahead.
This time, I feel calmer. I keep wondering whether Story’s getting it from me, or vice versa. I’m sure it goes both ways. How could Alejandro calm down when I was so keyed up? “Calm down!” When you yell that (even if it’s unspoken), it doesn’t work. But no blame, now. We are who we are, and these kids remind me there’s a lot of Nature involved. It’s not just Nurture, though they sure need a ton of that too.
My task now is to follow Story’s lead: to embody the belief that it will all turn out. It’s much easier said than done. I feel the familiar anxiety when I consider going back to work, and how much time I have left before then. How can we do it? What about the next time Rafael’s gone? What about when he’s gone AND I’m working AND we have two kids? See how easy it is to go cuckoo? I know you do.
Meanwhile I thank you, and the gods, and Rafael, and my job, for encouraging the time I have now. It is different, and so am I, and I’m going to take another walk.