She needs to go down, I told my husband a few weeks ago when Fiona wasn’t falling asleep on her own. Go down, like she should descend a spiral staircase. Instead, the black and white video monitor showed a grainy, miniature version of her rolling back and forth in her crib. Her whine was escalating into a cry. Our two-week-old baby was also awake, and my husband was bouncing her on the couch, and her cry was not an escalation like her sister’s, but an exclamation point out of nowhere, like an exclamation point that burst forth in an otherwise calm field. She’s fine, she’s fine, she’s fine. Then, HUNGRY!
I can’t handle this, I said to my husband. It was eleven at night. She needs to go down, I said again, infuriated and gesturing to the monitor, as though my need for Fiona to fall asleep would get her to fall asleep.
* * *
Last night, two weeks later, it was 11 PM again, and my four-week-old daughter was curled in my husband’s arms, fed and asleep and warm as a new loaf of bread, and the video monitor showed Fiona rolling around in her crib again. Maybe it was the sleeping state of my newborn. Maybe it was the two-hour nap I’d had just a few hours before. Whatever the reason, this time I did not protest Fiona’s wakefulness. I went to her room, picked her up out of her crib, and asked her if we should rock. She nodded. She nods at everything right now. We sat in the rocker. Her body is so small that a stranger that day had asked, rather un-tactfully, “Is she okay?,” but compared to her newborn sister, Fiona felt like lead against my body. How far we’ve come from four pounds, twelve ounces.
We rocked. I sang Feist. I sang a kid’s song. I sang “The Sound of Music.” I sang other songs I can’t remember because it is four AM right now and I’m now up for the newborn and I’m in a fog of parenting I know—I believe—is temporary. But it was sweet, this moment that happened just five hours ago, when I rocked my oldest baby and rocked her and lulled her into a half-eyed drowsiness. I kissed her head. I sang her songs. She looked up at me every few seconds and watched my mouth form the lyrics. Then she looked down. Then she pressed her head into my body. And with the weight of her against me, I received that rare flash of insight amidst the relentless, brutal work of parenting, an insight I don’t always get when I’m spooning yet another bit of pureed carrot into Fiona’s mouth or changing yet another diaper as I also fend off yet another sudden samurai kick to my chest. With her body folded into mine, with her head trusting the weight of me to keep her, with her eyes thanking me for not-too-off-key songs, mothering her revealed itself as this: an honor.