Evenings are long. In some ways longer than the day that preceded them. You would imagine that having an extra set of hands would make things easier; having a set of ears that can understand you might make things less lonely, but this life isn't that predictable. Parenthood can be surprising. During the day you find that what you're doing either works or it doesn't. He's in a "good" mood. Or he isn't. But whatever the hours bring you, it's up to you to deal with them. You keep pushing, looking for distractions and celebrate the quiet moments, and when the screaming starts it's up to you. But in the evenings those extra hands sit so close, the extra ears hear him as well and so every difficult moment left to you seems to be a moment which *could* be handled by someone else. He has hard days too so you respect his need for down time as much as you crave your own. You share the burdens (because the witching hour is even more witchy with a baby who tends to be quite bitchy), but find yourself resenting the work that is left in your hands. I don't break down in the mornings and have only once cried during the day. It's the evenings, when calm and freedom is so close but so so far, that leave me cold.
But the nights.
My brother told me when I'd been a parent for just a week (and jaundice kept the little one sleeping) that I should forever make daddy take a night shift every night. My husband might have to work in the morning, but his job is easier than mine, he said. (My brother got the snip last year so felt safe to reveal this, most closely guarded secret of fatherhood.) But my nephews were formula fed, so night shifts were up for grabs. My son (after a month of exclusively pumping) has taken to breastfeeding like he's taken to crying. His latch is improper, he drools half the milk, but he clearly enjoys my breasts as much as any man ever has. So the night shifts all fall to me. And I'm glad for it.
There is something about the quiet of the night. Something about the dark. Sitting on the couch at 1am, scanning the channels for something other than infomercials with a drowsy baby drooling your milk onto your underwear doesn't sound romantic, but it is then that I love being a mom. It is then that I *feel* like a mom, instead of some imposter, some inexperienced child without the tools or the ability to parent. At 1am he smells so good (even when he smells of vomit, which he does regardless of the number of baths). At 1am he looks so sweet, even though his eyes are steadily becoming more chihuahua like by the day (just like his mommy). At 1am I am thankful and happy and powerful, even though I know that my sleep reserves are actively draining. At 1am it's just he an I, and it's beautiful.
But then this morning, after feeding him at 4am, I drove to my mother's house. She's leaving (on a jet plane) and needed an early morning ride to the airport. I am up anyway (I'm always up these days) so I volunteered, but expected to feel tired, annoyed. I climbed in the car, having brushed my teeth (a better start to the day than most these past 2 months) and back my car on to my dark, quiet street. Even at 4am the Houston air was hot, but I rolled down the window (and turned up the air) and drove the curvy road to my mother. And it was exhilarating.
Being alone in the car, driving freely with no cars and no baby to slow me down made me realize how much I miss being alone. I had just smelled my baby's sleepy head, breathed deeply to appreciate fully how lucky I was, had just reveled in our 4am feeding. But given 15 minutes in a car, 15 minutes when I wasn't checking my son in the rearview mirror, I was delighted. I was free.
I cherished those moments like I cherished my nighttime feedings and I wonder what that means. But then I recall that just weeks ago I wasn't cherishing anything, wasn't enjoying much, and I'm thankful. Thankful that I'm finding time (at 1am) to be thankful.