I realize that mourning an earlier life is an obnoxious way of indicating that others have it easier (oh, I miss school; oh, to be young again; ah, dating is so fun!; etc.). I don’t know that these seven months with baby are harder in any way than those long years of wanting a baby before Eloise finally came. But what I do know is that life pre-Eloise, my time was more my own.
So now, post-Eloise (and, I imagine that this is now how I’ll count my days), I no longer have those sacred morning hours. Instead, I catch glimpses of them when she goes down for a good nap, when I can catch a meditation before she wakes up crying, when it’s dad’s shift and I can ride the rhythm of a good writing session and sneak out to a yoga class.
But the sacred time, it’s not what it used to be.
I can’t count on long, uninterrupted stretches of time, or if I would, I’d be the wicked mother of fairytales, ignoring the small, screaming person while I finish that one more (selfish?) task.
And her naps do not come when I wish they might, no matter how I beg and plead with the tiny despot. I used to be a person who said, “Oh I can’t work in the afternoon; my brain can’t do anything serious after lunch.” That can’t be true anymore.
Instead, I have to catch sacred time now—that slippery fish. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say I have to make it myself, wrangle the odd afternoon minutes to make them hum.
In some ways Miss Eloise and her naps are a good teacher for life. The time you get is the time you get.
It may not always be the time I wish for, either in its length or quality. But it is the time that I have.
I know the current situation my husband and I face is both imperfect and impermanent. One day, he will finish school, and we will spend profligately on the babysitter: a movie on a Sunday, don’t mind if we do! I know too that the spot in the daycare will open up and the elaborate calendar we spent hours creating—a veritable Tetris board of baby handoffs, teaching commitments, vet appointments, faculty meetings, yoga practice and tennis meets—will become obsolete.
But this too is life. Its seasons are imperfect and impermanent. And nevertheless, sacred. Nevertheless, valuable. The time I get is the time I get.
This week a family member has died. She leaves behind my uncle and her two sons. Before her death to cancer, she had lost another son, who had lived out his eighteen years with severe disabilities. The time she had with this son was both imperfect and impermanent but I imagine that it was sacred to her and too abrupt in its ending.
I know that when I hand my baby to her first daycare teacher and the gates—those closely guarded doors to a working parent’s heaven—open to us, I know that I will feel elated. I will think, “ah, my time back.” I will tell my students, “Yes, I am happy to meet with you,” and I will mean it. I will have unrushed coffee with friends again, as opposed to squeezing them in between other, efficiently scheduled tasks. (Okay, maybe this last is fantasy.)
But I know, too, even as I am a hideous creature born of exhaustion, terror, and boredom most days, that I will miss this time.
I will look back fondly on the ridiculous circumstances of my writing time these days, coming as it does before the sun begins to purple the Sierras; or the sessions during which the baby, slung across my lap as I type, drools down my leg, the trail of slime that stays and dries, marking the writer as mother.
Or I will recall watching my husband trying to grade papers: sitting on the floor in the hallway as the baby dangles in front of him from her swing from the doorframe. She leans forward to try to see his laptop, and satisfies herself by biting the corner of the computer.
I know that I am lucky to spending days with my baby, imperfect and impermanent as they are.
In the meantime, though, I continue to entertain borderline erotic fantasies about the kind of writers’ retreats during which breakfast and lunch are delivered to one’s cabin and writing comes in long, uninterrupted stretches. And I hold out for the days when I will get my mornings, my old sacred time, back.
But it may not come back. And that's okay, too.