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05/08/2005

A mother's day

I woke at 10 this morning, warm and lazy, luxuriating in the barely remembered joy of sleeping late. I sat bolt upright in bed, however, when I woke enough to realize I had no idea what Charlie was up to. I ran down to the kitchen, where Paul was cooking a pound of bacon just the way I like it (chewy, not crisp) and making conversation with a calm and happy Charlie, who smiled up at me from the safe embrace of his bouncy seat.

Paul was eager to report that Charlie had wakened him no earlier than 8, and not with his usual screams. No, he'd been cooing musically into the baby monitor. And not only that, he hadn't made a peep after I put him down at midnight. That's right — not only did he let us sleep in, he slept a solid eight hours in a row. I smiled disbelievingly at Paul. Charlie smiled sunnily at me.

It was the best Mother's Day ever.

Okay. Now. Put down the crack pipe, people. Here is what really happened.

7:30. I wake to the sound of Charlie shifting in his crib. I vault out of bed so that I can warm his bottle before his impending screams wake Paul.

7:32. Too late. Charlie is screaming. I am walking him around the den, fast, hoping that the gentle joggle of my gait will soothe him for the next few minutes.

7:33. The gentle joggle of my gait does not soothe him for the next few minutes.

7:36. The bottle is warm at last. We sit on the sofa and Charlie drinks peacefully.

7:39. Charlie begins rehearsals for his upcoming Riverdance audition, frantically churning his legs while keeping his upper body absolutely still.

7:42. Charlie begins to growl.

7:44. With a grunt of satisfaction, Charlie presents me with his Mother's Day present: a homemade craft project. It is green.

7:45. Diaper change. I am swift and efficient. He is trying to decide whether to laugh or yell. Normally I would lean over and plaster his face with a barrage of noisy kisses, which usually tips him over squarely into laughter. I can't do this now without dragging my bathrobe across his shit-smeared scrotum.

7:45. Charlie has decided. Yelling it is.

7:46. Back on the sofa with the bottle. Charlie only noodles around, chewing the nipple, thrusting it out with his tongue, dribbling his drink down the slope of his cheek into the crease of his neck.

7:48. I make the executive decision that mealtime is over. I know what: we will go to the baby gym for our morning workout!

7:50. Charlie would prefer not to.

7:50. Small Bartleby and I go instead to look at his mobile. He happily — or irritably — kicks his heels fast against his crib mattress. It is a mesmerizing tattoo, and I am lulled into a stupor as I glide in the Dutailier.

8:00. Fretful noises drown out the melodious notes of the mobile, and I go to pick Charlie up. I gather him against my chest, retrieve his pacifier, and return to the glider. We rock. I sing. He frets, yawns, squirms, cries, but his protests are feeble.

8:15. Charlie is mostly placid. I rise and put him in the crib.

8:16. I rise and remove him from the crib.

8:17. Paul enters with toast and coffee, my Mother's Day breakfast, then goes back to bed at my behest. I am glad I tried not to wake him; he tells me he was up with an angry, unfriendly Charlie at 4.

8:17 - 9:30. Rock. Sing. Fret. Yawn. Squirm. Cry. Into crib. Out of crib. Into crib. Out of crib. Into crib...

9:30. I bolt my toast and my now-cold coffee.

9:32. I creep out of the room and into my sewing room for 40 minutes of respite.

9:50. Clearly Charlie cannot tell time. First I let him complain for a few minutes, hoping he'll soothe himself. When he doesn't, I attempt to settle him again, patting him rhythmically and "sssshhhh"ing him as he lies in his crib.

9:55. Nothing doing. Crying. I pick up Charlie and rock him, holding him close, willing him to settle back into drowsiness.

10:10. More food? No. More mobile? No. More baby gym? No. More walking around the house looking out windows? No. More quiet conversation and meaningful eye contact? No. More crying? Yes, thanks!

10:30. Paul is up for good, and offers to take the boy. I suggest that he get breakfast first.

10:30-10:40. I sit and cry, wretched as I remember yesterday's fantastic fluke of a two-hour nap, while Charlie pours his indignant complaints into the sympathetic ear of the Whoozit. (He is a fiendishly clever boy for being able to find an ear on that bizarre sport of nature.) I hope Paul's eating fast.

10:40. Paul returns and takes over. I retreat to my office.

10:42. I turn off the baby monitor because it's demoralizing to hear Charlie laughing and Paul praising him for being such a smiley boy after the morning we've had.

11:00. Charlie's in his crib. I hear the click of his mobile from my office down the hall. He's vocalizing, not quite crying. I creep off to shower, vowing it will be a long one.

11:01. The water pressure in the shower is so low that it's difficult to get wet all over. I'm out of conditioner and almost out of soap; I make do with the small sliver that is left. When I drop it, it lodges itself in the drain beyond the reach of my fingers. Water begins to back up in the tub. I do not bother to shave my legs.

11:15. Out of the shower but naked and wet, I hear Charlie crying in his room. I look in on him, expecting to find him alone, but Paul's there with him. Not interested in napping, and not so smiley now.

11:30. Now dressed, I join Paul and Charlie in the den, where Charlie is glaring at the toys dangling from the baby gym. As long as Paul makes the stuffed cardinal squeak and swoop around Charlie's head, he's quiet, if not happy; the moment Paul gives the poor wheezing bird a breather Charlie cries again.

11:45. Charlie is still yawning, crying, kicking his feet. I tell Paul I'm going to take him to his room to try yet again to settle him for a snooze. Paul insists that I take a break instead. I come and read Anne Lamott's latest article in Salon, and cackle desperately at this line: "I see that children fill the existential hollowness many people feel; that when we have children, we know they will need us, and maybe love us, but we don't have a clue how hard it is going to be."

11:50. Charlie has quieted. I hear the clunk of the catches as Paul raises the side of the crib. And then silence.

12:00. Paul enters and asks for a paper clip so he can monkey with the shower head.

12:00. If Charlie were awake, we'd give him his Prevacid, then parade him around for half an hour to distract him from his hunger. The best-case scenario is that he'll wake after his customary 40 minutes; that way we can give him his medication, jolly him along for half an hour, and then feed him before he's inconsolably starving. I decide there is something wrong with me when one minute I'm hoping he'll sleep for two hours, then the next I'm hoping he wakes as soon as ever.

12:10. Hurrah! It's past noon! I could have a Bloody Mary. I could, that is, if we had any tomato juice in the house. I wonder if I could concoct an approximation out of that expensive jar of pasta sauce I've been saving. I bet no one has ever invented a cocktail with butter and chanterelles in it.

12:20. I hear Charlie grunting on the monitor, half an hour after the beginning of his nap (and I use the term loosely).

12:30. Charlie has been dosed and is being raced around the house in Paul's sling. It's chilly and windy out, so we won't take him today for his usual walk around the neighborhood.

12:40. I take over so that Paul can experience the new and improved shower. As I lope around the house with Charlie held safely vertical in the Baby Björn, I hear Paul scream as his skin is flayed off by the force of the spray.

1:05. Charlie can eat. I free him from the Björn and feed him. As he gulps, he lets out a veritable fanfaronade of flatulence. I dare to hope gas is what's been making him so pissy all day, and give him a dropper of Mylicon.

1:45. After naps even worse than usual, Charlie is clearly exhausted: he's falling asleep with the bottle in his mouth. I put him in his crib. He wakes fully and cries. And cries. I pick him up and return to the rocker, putting him face-down against my chest, and start to pat his back in a comforting rhythm.

1:45:15. Charlie spits up down the V-neck of my T-shirt. I feel the warm undigested milk pooling in the band of my bra.

1:45:16. I say to Paul in my best Exorcist voice, "TAKE HIM." Paul does with alacrity.

1:50. After changing my bra and my shirt and composing myself, I return to Charlie's room and offer to take him back. Paul, perhaps fearful of my preternatural calm, declines and suggests that I go make myself some lunch.

2:00. Charlie is asleep. Paul comes downstairs as I'm stirring the pound of spaghetti I plan to consume in a single shameful binge. "What made you so sure," I ask, "that I wouldn't drive to Kansas?" "Not enough gas," he grimly says.

2:25. Finish spaghetti. Think about the pound of bacon in the refrigerator.

2:30. Charlie is shifting. Paul creeps in to shush him. I hear Paul's soothing "ssshhh" on the baby monitor.

2:31. Silence. I suspect Paul has slipped Charlie a mickey.

3:00. I call my mother. I haven't called her before now because I didn't want her to hear Charlie screaming incessantly in the background. I spend most of the phone call whimpering. I think she believes I'm exaggerating, or coping badly with an ordinary situation, because she keeps saying things like, "Well, they're supposed to cry sometimes...!" Note to self: next time don't wait until Charlie's sleeping to call, so that she can experience the magic.

3:45. While I'm still on the phone, Charlie wakes. It does not escape my notice that he slept for nearly two hours. I go into the den, where he is pumping plastic in the baby gym with Paul as his spotter, to inform him that he is the finest baby alive. He smiles at me.

4:30. We go to the grocery store, our first ordinary errand with baby in tow. Paul puts Charlie in the sling, I push the basket, and we do our shopping without incident. Without incident. No yelling. No crying. Nothing but big-eyed rapt attention.

5:30. Charlie falls asleep as soon as he's buckled back into his car seat. I notice the time as we pull out of the parking lot and breathe a sigh of relief. By the time we get home, it will be time for bath, bottle, and bed.

6:00. Charlie is out cold. We leave him in the car while we unload the groceries. Seeing that he's still asleep, we leave him there while we put the food away. We debate the wisdom of leaving him out there until he wakes. I cite the appearance of a badass-looking raccoon in the vicinity to support my plan to rescue him. I only embroidered a little bit; it's probably not exactly true that the raccoon had a switchblade in its pocket.

6:15. I finally go out to the garage to peek and see that he's sitting quietly in his car seat, eyes open, playing with his own fingers, minding his own tiny beeswax. I bring him into the house.

6:15. I take Charlie upstairs to undress him while Paul readies the bath. I blow noisy raspberries on Charlie's bare belly and get a rollicking chortle in return.

6:16. I deposit a series of noisy kisses on Charlie's cheek, making him emit a magnificent belly laugh.

6:16. Charlie pees copiously and joyfully on the terrycloth cover of his changing pad. I give mental thanks to my friends inside the computer who sent spares, then whisk Charlie downstairs to the kitchen where his bath awaits.

6:17. Charlie is agreeable at bathtime. As usual, I pour water over his head without covering his face. It seems he is starting to like that, because he smiles as the water rolls down his cheeks.

6:30. Paul gives Charlie a relaxing massage and dresses him in my favorite footie pajamas.

6:35. I sit in the glider and offer Charlie a warmed bottle, which he politely accepts. He eats and burps without incident.

6:50. I bring Charlie up against my chest again, certain he couldn't possibly be so rude as to sully my décolletage again. I pat him as he squirms a bit, trying to crawl up my chest as if it were Everest and he a well-paid Sherpa. He calms to the sound of a lullaby, and finally sighs his surrender into relaxation.

6:55. I put him in his crib and cover him with a fleece blanket. He is awake, but ready.

6:56. Silence.

And that was my day as a mother.

I should, however, add that as of now...

10:08

...I plan to take a shower under the blistering jets of our newly enhanced Speakman, if only to allow the jetting torrents to chisel off the spit-up that has hardened in the valley between my breasts.

Good night, and happy Mother's Day. May all of my friends here someday enjoy the wonder of such a day, but only from 3:45 on.

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