We wait with bated breath. I’m surprised she complies. I don’t ponder over it too much and thank my stars the three-year old forever fidgety, whose whispers are oft as loud as a cannon stayed still as I carefully balanced the 4 month old goddess of our every move in my arms. She slipped into a slumber while I was reading as softly as her older sibling permitted I could and now our prospects for a good sleep lay precariously in my every movement. After a few squirms and groans the night stood still but for our measured breathing. Her sister fell fool to this folly and was drifting into a fitful sleep. I let myself exhale a sigh of relief and the baby stirred. My muscles tightened and I froze, controlling my breath quickly and admonishing my premature silent victory lap. There was much left to do before I could celebrate.
I assessed my coordinates. My back hunched over, hands tucked under the baby over the pillow, one foot holding my weight on the hardwood floor, another hanging to the side of the bed, I’m a good five, six footsteps tops to the crib. It’s not so simple though. A novice would have made the mistake of stepping directly onto the bare floor but not I. I know much too well to soften my tread by landing on the flat weave rug first and using it to cross most of the distance. There’s two more feet and there’s a panel that will creak no matter what I try. I brace myself one step forward, wait for the creak and there it is. Another step without a pause and then I hold my breath but once again the night is on my side and I hear nothing but their breathing. I’m not quite done yet. I’m only halfway there, there’s still the mission at hand and the escape. It’s always the exit that gets you.
I can just see the silhouette of the crib but a mother knows to memorize these things. I know the contours like the back of my hand. Our survival depends on these details. I carefully begin separating her from the warmth of my body in gentle spurts of inches. Not millimeters. I’m being a bit bold and a surge of adrenaline shoots through my body. Again I temper it down lest my labored breathing makes a mess of everything I’ve worked so hard for. Baby’s in the crib but so are my palms, under the baby. I have to be quick and stealth like and I manage it with finesse. Then place the blanket ever so gently. I wait. No harm done. Now, the backward dance. I am an acrobat that can put Macavity to shame. I am a Ninja. Long strategic strides in three steps with some help from the edge of the bed for support. I carefully put away the books, risk everything but pull up the covers so my older one is not cold, grab my necessities – the cell phone, my freedom and make a quick getaway. I don’t rejoice quite yet. I wait for a few seconds and then I break into a smile and dance a jig. A glass of wine would have been nice but since I am nursing I go straight to the pantry and break out a heart-shaped cookie with pink sugar sprinkles I hid from my daughter to throw away later but never did. I sink into the soft cushions of our couch, lay my tired self and savor this beautiful time alone.
Their father is away on business. The evening was a blur. The same routines with moments of wonder meshes with my yesterdays and tomorrows. The house is still, quiet, peaceful. The night is mine for as long as they let it be. I am tired. I am reminiscent. I am sighing. I am accepting. I am happy. I am grateful. I am a mom. This is my life. For now, this is my story.