Friday, August 10, 2007

Nocturnal Emissions

When you have a newborn, "late night talk" is no longer about Leno or Letterman. And it's not about erotic utterances, hot breath in eager ears, for at least 6-8 weeks (and even longer if mama is uniquely traumatized!)

Late night talk with a newborn is spoken through a thick haze of fatigue, dried contacts on eyeballs, dry throats and squinting in the dim shadows of nightlights. Nights of no sleep, days of back bending diaper changes and begging for burps. If you are lucky enough to have a partner on this exhausting journey, in those late hours, it is hard to be feel grateful. It is hard to feel kind, or compassionate, or understanding towards your partner. Because all of that good stuff is being used on that demanding little bundle whose squeals and squirms you are trying to interpret at some ungodly hour. So those middle of the night words are not always as gentle as they should be.

I know, I know, there are couples who gaze fondly into that bassinet at all hours in the night, cooing at the baby and each other, serving up breakfast in bed along with lines like, "you sleep, I will give the baby a bottle." And frankly, 90% of the time my husband and I are pretty lovely to one another in those wee hours, or at least broker who does what in silence.

But sometimes, it's just easier to snap. To stew in feelings of abandonment and irritation. To stare at your sleeping partner and seethe while watching his chest rise and fall. Still, I can usually bite back angry comments and instead am inclined to mope the next day, head filled with exaggerated doubts and eyes red with weepiness and fatigue. That's how I roll.

On the other hand, should I be victimized by a midnight zinger, a less than warm and fuzzy comment, I recoil in pain. I welcome all the sticks and stones you can hurl at me, but I can't take a careless comment. Anxiety consumes me and I fester in anger and accusation until my husband dares to ask, "what's wrong", having long forgotten words spoken while basically unconscious.

If I could change anything about myself, I would thicken my skin tenfold. I have spent much of my life bruised and battered by far less than cruel intentions. The slightest critique is often my undoing, much less the usual spats that come and go with deep relationships. A friend told me once that when she argues with her boyfriend, it is no holds barred. They hurl insults instead of china plates and it is immediately forgotten. I could never handle this.

Recently, when I actually said "I'll take the baby outside" at 4:00 AM and meant it, I was watching a Sex And the City rerun. The one where Carrie and Aidan break up for the second time. When he wants to marry her and she is not ready. When it is clear that they are parting again, and this time for good, Aidan says, "I can't believe I'm here again." And in a moment no longer than a heartbeat, when it is clear that what he needs to hear is "I am so sorry" or "Please don't do this" or "I love you", Carrie says...


In that one profane moment, it is clear that she is unredeemable. Because the truth slipped out, as ugly and unintended as it may have been. The most hurtful moment of the dialogue was not her rejection of his proposal, but the shitty way she chose to handle his heart when responding to the fullest measure of his pain.


So whether its in the diaper or the space between you and me, it's still hard to sleep well when you know it's out there.


At 5:02 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to call that middle-o'-the night to-and-fro the "yell whisper." E and I had it down pat back in the day, for better or for worse.

Amazing how that early time goes by - so quickly and so slowly, all at once. Don't get too used to these newborn nights. As you know, they're gone before you know it...



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