I may have already said this, but Sparrow and day sleeps don’t go together. At all. He ends up sleeping on my back in the ergo, or during pram walks, or in the car. Last Thursday I tried for an hour to get him to sleep in his cot because I needed to breathe. Because I wanted to write, and drink a cup of tea, and stare out the window without a wriggly baby on my hip. When I had those I-must-be-alone-right-this-second feelings with Monkey I would assume it meant I was a bad mother. Despite years of therapy and a pretty decent amount of self awareness, my ability to descend (not descend, that almost sounds gentle – to plummet) into guilt, shame, and bad-motherness is extremely well developed.
The hour was interminable for both of us. I should have given up sooner. I turned off the music and the heater, lowered the cot side, and picked Sparrow up. And felt desperate and alone. And like a cliché. Woman in house alone with baby, going quietly mad. So I changed his nappy, rugged him up, and put him in the ergo on my back. At least that way he’s behind me, I thought, and I am facing outward. At least I can walk. Woman with baby walking has to be better.
While I walked I listened to the podcast that currently helps me to stay sane – a Buddhist psychologist named Tara Brach. On joy. It’s far braver and harder to live in joy I heard. Sparrow wriggled and grunted on my back. Joy is a complex thing, it is an expansive saying yes to this moment, here. Yes, I tried, my chest cracking with the weight of one deep breath. Sparrow grabbed for my scarf. Sleep, baby.
I felt behind me for his kicking legs, thinking that if I could still them he might settle. My left hand brushed icy skin. Sparrow has these things called huggalugs; essentially baby leg warmers. The left huggalug, and with its left sock, had fallen off along the way. No wonder he couldn’t sleep. By the time I discovered it we were a few kilometres from home. So I pulled the sleeve of my jumper over his foot and ankle, and warmed his toes in the palm of my hand. Five minutes later, he slept.
Tara spoke on and I let the idea of joy wash through me. I tried to see the creek, to look at the sky instead of the path. I turned towards home, Sparrow’s foot still in my hand, and scanned the path for the huggalug. I was ten minutes from home before I found it. Those green and blue stripes unmistakable on the side of the path.
The movement of crouching to retrieve it made him stir, but not wake. Fifty more metres gave me his sock. I stopped a couple on the path and asked them to put the sock and huggalug on him. They said they had seen those, and wondered who they belonged to. I remembered that, before having babies; wondering why there seemed to be so many baby socks in the streets. Sparrow’s foot now warmed, I kept walking, and listening, and he stayed asleep long enough for me to get home and make a cup of tea. And to drink it, still hot, while staring out of my callistamon framed kitchen window. Joy.