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August 21, 2013 / ginavoskov2013

In Sync

For the past several weeks, every single night without fail, I have woken up exactly two minutes before Edith has woken up. She wakes up often over the course of a night, either to feed or just because she’s in between sleep cycles, and I have begun waking in anticipation. She has the ability to drift back to sleep at times without any interference from me, but I never know when that will be. So I wake up and wait. Maybe twelve times a night. You can imagine the state I’m in when Dennis leaves for work and the construction sounds begin at exactly 7am on the school they’re building directly across the street. So directly across the street that I can hear the workers whistling.

I have come to dread nighttime. Whenever I wake up in anticipation of Edith’s movement or needs, my first thought is, “Fuck, fuck, fuck! Go back to sleep!” And I try so hard to fall asleep right then and there even though I know I’m fighting a losing battle, and, within two minutes, I hear a little noise coming from the bassinet. Then begins the process of trying to read the little noise while I’m lying down. Is it a noise that will indicate she’s waking up to stay awake? Is it a noise that is faint enough that it won’t wake her up entirely and she’ll drift off? Has her arm come out of the swaddle again? If it’s a grunt, it’s likely that I’ll need to feed her in a couple minutes; a cough, surely so. A sweet little sigh and I’m in luck–she’ll fall asleep. The danger in going to her at the wrong time lies in waking her up when she’s not ready to be awake and then I’ll have interrupted the sleep cycle and she’ll be pissed and I’ll be exhausted from feeding her when she didn’t need it.

There is so much thinking and deciding at night.

When people ask me if I’m getting sleep, I think they want to know if Edith is keeping me up. She’s not. I’m keeping me up. My body is so attuned to hers that it wakes me up just to listen to her. The concept of this is mystifying to me. How is it possible that my sleeping body knows that another sleeping body is about to wake up and need me before either of us is even conscious?

I was explaining this yesterday to one of Dennis’s colleagues who said, “The maternal instinct! How cool!” to which I responded, “Eh, I’m not so sure it is.” I mean, yes, in theory, YES, it is very cool. I am a mother who can sense her daughter’s needs before either of us knows she has them. We are attached, so much so that she can communicate those needs without language, without eye contact, without anything other than the space between us in the dead of night. The chemistry in the air changes to wake me even before she makes a single sound. It is pretty fucking primal. In many ways this instinct I have is my inner cavewoman, protecting her young from hungry smilodon.

Okay, in theory, AWESOME, but in practice? Fucking hell. Being this in sync with another human is no fun, especially in the middle of the night. The closest I can get to describing this phenomenon is when they say that women living together get their periods at the same time. In theory: “Cool!” But I don’t think it’s really something to celebrate. A super hormonal, cranky, bloated time multiplied by however many women are experiencing those symptoms–at the same time? In the same place? I have never high fived another woman about that shit. I retreat into the quiet and solitude of my bedroom and tv reruns so I can wait out the tsunami of hormones wreaking havoc on my logic and relationships. Dennis knows just to avoid, avoid, avoid and not talk about anything creative or financial for three to five days.

But there is no retreating from my Edith when our chemistry is in sync at 1:30am. And then again at 2:15. And then again at 3:45. And through the night, every night, for weeks. I have to listen to her breathing and her noises; I have to decipher meaning in them and go to her if she needs me–which she inevitably does. And who knows? This kind of synchronicity could go on for months and years. I could be 50 and bolt upright in bed at 2:15am sensing my daughter needs me. She’ll be sixteen, at some party, needing to make a tough decision and I will sense her confusion from so far away. And I’ll wake up and I will want to call her home, to hold her to my chest, to place kisses on her brow, to feel her body’s tension ease into sleep, just like I do now that she is so small and her whole body can fit in my arms and her little pink socks, a tad too big, need to be pulled up. My heart aches knowing that day will come and, rather than being able to reach over to the bassinet beside the bed and pull her close to me, I will have to sit in the quiet and solitude of a dark night, waiting for my little girl to come home. I will very probably regret the times I was upset at having woken up in the middle of the night just to hear her breathe.

 

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