J'Lyn Chapman Baby Season

I wanted to tell you about the morning. You were there, of course, for part of it, managing our daughter, making her breakfast, eating your own. And then she began to yell for me, and you told her I was sleeping, but we know that I was nursing the baby in our bedroom. I would nurse him back to sleep, and then you would take your leave, and I would appear from the end of the dark hallway to begin the day with her.

But it began before this, the day. Or it was always already happening. The baby has made the divisions of night and day arbitrary. And now the days grow shorter, and there is more darkness and we are awake for much of it. He was, again, agitated and struggling to breathe through his congested nose, and we turned on a humidifier and stuck that terrible bulb up his nostrils, and I nursed him before he could wake his sister. Did you fall asleep after that? Did I? I listened to some radio program through headphones to drown out the sound of his sniffling.

Did we touch this morning? Yesterday morning, we did. I touched your back, your shoulder. You slid your foot over to mine. I think we stayed this way for a moment before you rose. You were up too early, so you went on a run before our daughter woke. She cried out just as you were leaving for work, and I know that you heard her, and I know that you had time for her, but you left anyway. I decided to let you go, not to mention it when I saw you that evening.

No, we did not touch this morning. At least not in bed. Our daughter woke forty minutes earlier than normal, and I was prepared to let her sob for me in her room until the usual time, but you were up anyway so got her. We did not touch, but you kissed me goodbye as I nursed her on the couch. I texted you later to tell you that there was a man in a car outside of the house smoking crack. The baby was waking, and our daughter was watching television, and outside the house in a fancy car, a man was smoking crack. It could have been heroin. You wouldn’t get the text until the end of the day, but I needed to tell you about this thing I saw happening, I needed you to see it with me. The baby was crying, and I wanted to be very sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. And our daughter was also crying because there were real people and puppets on the television show and she only wanted the puppets.

I called the police. I felt stupid for doing it, but I have become a person who doesn’t want a man to do drugs outside of her house where her children are living. I recalled that early this morning, much earlier, I heard on the radio that a bomb went off in a London subway. A woman was interviewed, and she said that she had nearly been trampled as people ran away, and there was a woman under the masses of people— three layers deep, the woman said—who was yelling that she was pregnant, and there was a young boy whose face was bleeding. His face had been smashed is what the woman said. This had made its way into my dreams, I think, but I’m not sure. Is it possible that the man who was interviewing her advised her to get help, to talk to someone about her feelings? Do people say this to one another on the radio?

The baby has made the divisions of night and day incomprehensible. Some days, I can keep a handle on it. I know when it is morning. I feel I have slept through something like the night, and I have woken into something like the day. But with the baby’s cold—you know how hard it is for me to be up all night with him and then to take on the other child as soon as he goes back to sleep. There were mornings, even as recent as last spring, when I could lie in bed and listen to the news. I could gently wake up. Our daughter would sometimes sleep late, and while I should’ve been getting ready for work, I would linger in bed, surrounded by pillows, the smell of your cologne and coffee still in the air. And before we had these children, you would leave so early, and I would sleep for another hour, sometimes two.

You say that, even now, even in our happiness together, you almost always wake in despair. For you, the mornings are the hardest. I once took that personally because for me, when I met you, the mornings became much easier. I no longer felt as if I was waking to the consequences of a terrible decision, and it hurt me that you still felt this way. But how can I ever know how you really feel? How can we, even in this intimacy we have, this unique and rare intimacy, know the tenor of each other’s fear?

Tonight, by the sandbox you made for our daughter, I asked how you managed your thoughts about this “baby season,” as we call it. You said you take it one day at a time, and while this would sound glib coming out of any other person’s mouth, I know it is true for you. But what I did not ask was how this is possible when one is so uncertain when a day ends and another begins.

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