Something happened when Cian turned five weeks. He started staring at us with wide eyes, analyzing the shape of our hairlines, the shadows of our ears. Then his eyes, travelling over our faces, would unexpectedly meet ours (though they were there, of course, rapt, waiting for him all along), and his head would suddenly rear back, his eyes growing wide, as if thinking, “Oh, hello! Wasn’t expecting to see you there!” And then the smiles started.
The SMILES. The gummy, open-mouthed, holy-moley-ain’t-it-great-to-be-alive smiles that transform his whole face and turn us into blubbering globs of cooing nonsense.
I don’t want to tell you that David gets most of the smiles. Because, you know, he’s the one up all night, bleary-eyed and barely conscious, changing poopy diapers and breastfeeding until his boobs fall off.
Something else happened at the five-week mark, too. Something remarkable. Something that would have had me turning cartwheels out of our room and into Cian’s, if I actually knew how to turn a cartwheel, which I don’t, which I’ve always blamed on my gangling height–I was convinced my center of balance was off or something–until I saw my 6’4″-tall husband turn one in the backyard one day last summer while joking around with the girls and well, that showed me. So, apparently, he can turn cartwheels and he gets all the baby smiles. Show-off.
But the thing that had me turning these metaphorical cartwheels? Cian slept. At 7 o’clock each night, no matter when he’d eaten last, he started to fuss and grow tired. So one night I took him to his room and sang him a song. I swaddled him in a blanket he’s pretty much horribly outgrown but not willing to give up. I fed him. And then…I put him down in his crib. I put him down in his crib and turned out the light and left the room while his eyes were still open. I know, it’s crazy. But a funny thing happened. He fussed for a little bit, I did a fair amount of pacing with the monitor in my hand, muttering ominous premonitions to David, and then, eventually…silence. And the very, truly, best part?
He slept from 7:30 to 12:30. Yeah, I know. Cartwheels.
So that happened. Our Cian, the one who had his days mixed up, who slept all daylight hours and wanted to have complete conversations during the night hours, slept. He slept until 12:30, then slept again until 3:30, then slept again until the rest of the house was up at 7:30. He slept and I slept and I practically danced through the days, singing with glee, hugging strangers and kissing stray animals on the head out of sheer joy.
And then he got sick and started projectile vomiting and has been spewing green mucus out of his baby butt for the last week, so that kind of ruined that, but still.
He slept. Which means that he will sleep again. And the sun will shine and I will smile and you know that novel I’m supposed to be readying for submission? Yeah, that will happen, finally, in a steady stream of work rather than the bits and pieces of note-scratching I’ve been doing that is like planting a seed of grass when I really want to landscape an acre.
But I’m telling you, this baby is the coolest kid on the planet, other than my other kids, and yours, of course. He doesn’t cry. He seriously doesn’t. He sits and hangs out, checking out the loud, dancing people around him like his entrance to this particular club was always a guarantee After a feeding he sprawls out on my shoulder in that classic milk-drunk pose I love so much, but the difference with him is that he throws his arms wide, holding on to me, completely comfortable in his role as last-born, youngest one to enter the fold. He is such a laidback, cool little baby. Especially when he sleeps.
A friend of mine, due to give birth to her third child any day now, just asked me to be honest and tell her how hard it is, really, to have three. And I told her, it’s hard. It’s really hard. And once she reminded me that she hadn’t really wanted the truth, and that I’d promised to sugar-coat the awful stuff, I back pedaled. It is hard. Really hard, and I can’t say it’s not. But everything shapes and shifts depending on sleep, you know? A whole day is determined–tasks completed, parental patience, our outlook on life–by how rested we are. I just had my postpartum check-up, and my doctor asked me if I’d had any symptoms of depression. I laughed and told her that depended on how much Cian had slept the night before. She laughed, too, and nodded.
Sleep. The promise of sleep. It’s amazing how simple our needs truly are, when we get down to it. And now that I’m awake, the sleep? Well, that’s almost as good as the baby smiles.