Dispatch from the Sleepless Planet

I did not breed a sleeper. Zaley turns six months old this weekend, and I haven’t written for the past six months. People at the AWP conference last weekend kept telling me not to feel bad about not having written, and I don’t, but maybe that’s the real concern. Every time I try to write, it ends up being about not sleeping and numbers of diapers and all the other stereotypical things new parents write about their babies and I would rather be thinking and not writing than writing fairly thoughtlessly about pedantic, poopy occurrences in these blurry, lovey, new baby days.  

I have been thinking about something. In Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, he writes about how when you do the same thing every day, time passes in an instant—days become months, months become years, and you look back and it has all flown past. But if you pack memories and novelty into your experience of minutes, time will unfold. This means that taking trips and going to new restaurants and having out-of-the-ordinary experiences will make a life feel longer, more lived. I am thinking this might explain why people must say the most repeated thing I’ve heard so far about parenting: “Enjoy this now! It goes so fast!” I don’t want this to go fast. I don’t want having a baby to mean that my life has turned boring.

 

Six months have, in fact, felt fast, but they’ve also stretched out beyond my comprehension of a pile of days. I feel like a planet orbiting a different track and looking back at the all the people still on the old one (the track on which planets move at a sensical and consistent pace because they are planets on which people sleep). We have not been bored. We went to Kauai and drank milk from five-dollar coconuts, we hiked up ocean-side cliffs, we hid Z under a striped umbrella on the beach and drank gin and orange juice and ginger ale, we came home and we met new neighbors, we celebrated new pregnancies, we witnessed the births of our friends' children, we snowshoed with our friends and their baby up to an old, sun-shot mine. We ate Mississippi catfish and squid spaghetti neri on my thirtieth birthday, we traveled to Boston in a snowstorm, we stayed with friends with walls of art and wooden measuring spoons and a Ukrainian grandma who calls Z "zaichik malenka" (small rabbit). We cut down the sumac tree, we stained the fence, we walked for miles, we rearranged the furniture, our days, our lives, for a crazy little foot-long addition to everything that had begun to seem normal. If I was bored, it was in the middle of the night when I was awake and she wasn’t, and I was thinking about how many people do this and how strong all those random, maybe weak-seeming people must be to be new parents because this shit is hard. Harder and better than I would have ever believed. See--even the childrearing clichés have become truer than I ever expected ("Your life will never be the same," "You'll never sleep again," "You'll worry till the day you die.")

 

I think that time must only collapse or unfold when you are looking back at it, because right now, time has no bearing besides the weeks left before I go to Alaska, and I don’t know right now if it feels like Zaley just arrived or like her growly breath has been been beside mine all my life. Luke left a week ago and he’s in Port Townsend, Washington, grinding down a deck under a shower of sparks and getting ready for weeks at sea sending black cod through an on-board guillotine, which he is proud of and which disgusts me. I, meanwhile, take photos and send the ones that look like real life to him--me tired, the baby beautiful--wishing I still learned at the rate of an infant. Eating! Walking! Language! Language!--the wildness of this when considered and witnessed.

 

Zaley started eating avocados this week. I started writing. I feel like I’m pushing the words out like she does the fruit. It runs down her chin in chunks and she purses her lips each time I reintroduce it. No! It's not good! Stop forcing it! It snowed last night and it will be 75 on Friday. The spring moves forward and the clocks just did too, and I hope I remember enough of right now for this new part of life to feel long, but not too long, for sleep to come but not so much of it that I will not have those moments to wake up in the middle of the night and do what my mom always did, but which I never understood or which I maybe even thought was sentimental, and that is just staring at those perfect clamped eyelids, criss-crossed by scratchy maroon veins, a pulse hammering its own rhythm under skim milk skin, this miracle, this miracle of sucking and (rare but exquisite) sleeping and pumping to all extremities the same blood that I saw on the ultrasound before I knew I would do such things and feel doubled over and doubled instead of just being one being.