“I hope you’re getting some sleep” is the polite and expected thing to say to a new parent. It’s spoken as a sympathetic punchline. It’s “I hope you stay warm out there” chirped to someone who has to work all day in the snow, or “I hope you don’t stay too late” to a co-worker who will no doubt be eating sad, soggy noodles at their desk.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here is inscribed above our bedroom door; where once we went to rest, now we go to toil, to take sleep in gasps like someone battered and tugged under by the surf takes breath, to float in a derangement of darkness and night-light green and changing-table-lamp yellow and daybreak, he wails or coughs or caws for food, we hum lullabies and mutter consolations to him and ourselves, ‘Forest Rain’ app on loop, too many smells, the witch hazel of our homemade baby wipes and pee and poop and pillowcases laced with soothing lavender which smell like lavender and sour milk, night after REM-shattered night in the asleep-awake bardo.
And I don’t even have to breastfeed.
Is it hard? Yes. It’s like solving a Rubik’s cube with panels that change colour.
Is it fine? Yes. The act of ‘getting some sleep’ is hard but the sleep itself, when had, is the deepest I’ve known for years. The good shit, the Heisenberg Blue. Our bedroom bardo is also home to Elysian naps… ones I steal and those I witness; as I write now, our son lies next to me, duvet tucked under his armpits like a real boy. He sleeps facing mum who sleeps facing him, her hand rested on his belly. Their faces are tranquil and beautiful, so soft and aglow they looked like a Rembrandt, my Madonna and child…
I stop here, even though there’s more to write about sleep, even though I’m very very uncomfortable leaving that last paragraph’s art-wankery unedited. Mom and baby are under. A chance for the rare joy of us all sleeping at once. I risk moving our boy to the safety of his bassinet and he doesn’t wake. Jackpot. Good night.