Sleep deprivation and angels' secrets

As you grow up you hear a lot of cliches about savoring the moments. People say not to rush through childhood because you can’t go back. They warn you to relish your college years because they’ll go too fast. They tell you to slow down and enjoy your wedding because the day will happen in a flash.

When you’re pregnant, parents you come across say the same thing over and over: Savor every moment when he’s a newborn, because you’ll blink and that tiny baby will have changed and grown. He won’t fit perfectly in the cradle of your arm for long.

Boy were they right.

Kostyn is 2 months old now, and these last eight weeks have gone by in a blur. Sometimes it’s hard to “enjoy” a newborn because all he does is need, and I am constantly trying to figure out what he needs and give it to him. This tiny body stays curled up into himself, crying and sleeping and depending on me for everything to sustain his life. He is barely aware of himself let alone me. He has no way to know that I haven’t slept more than three hours straight in weeks, or that I sometimes cry when he cries. He doesn’t know that I at times feel overwhelmed at best and inadequate at worst. He cannot thank me, or love me, or even truly acknowledge me.

“Savor every moment” I remembered people telling me, but all I could think was “I can’t wait until he’s a little older.”

And then one day, quite suddenly, he was. I was nursing him like I’d done a thousand times already in those first weeks, when his eyes caught sight of my hand resting on my chest and his fingers reached out and grasped one of mine. My heart swelled with a single thought: “He sees me! He knows that I’m here!” He let go of my finger, and then touched it again, and I cried happy tears for this tiny moment of recognition.

That day I realized that I had both gained and lost something. This small being was in the dawn of knowing this world. He would become increasingly curious and alert in the next few weeks, and start rewarding his parents’ sleepless nights and tireless efforts with smiles and coos. But that curled-up newborn was quickly fading, until the day not long ago when I held up a tiny onesie and couldn’t believe he ever fit in it.

Someone once told me of a poem in which the writer says that before a baby is born he knows all the wonders of the world. He comes from heaven and knows God and all his secrets. But just before he enters this world, he learns that he cannot tell a soul what he knows.

“Shhhh,” an angel tells him, sealing the secrets inside by pressing her finger to his lips and creating a small imprint above his mouth.

And so babies enter our world wailing because they cannot communicate the loveliness from which they’ve just come, and because they know deep down that as days turn into months and they become more entrenched in our world they will begin to forget the goodness and light of heaven. By the time they are able to form words that we understand, they no longer will remember any of those secrets to tell us.

These days I watch him try so hard to form words, to tell me what he’s thinking. He opens his mouth and stretches and his eyes get wide, but no words come out, and finally he just smiles. It’s fun to think there are things he knows that I don’t.

Or maybe I used to know them, a long, long time ago, before I entered the world wailing too, with this tiny imprint above my lips.


Lyn said...

Its funny that you should mention the whole "savor every moment" thing. If I heard one more mother tell me that when Leah was a newborn, I was going to lose it! I thought, how could I NOT savor every moment? And here I sit, more than a year after she was born, wondering where the time went and just when the hell did she start walking, anyway?!? There have been plenty of moments that I have found myself just watching Leah from across the room. Who knew it would be so entertaining to watch a tiny person put a t-shirt on her head and then pull it away and giggle...over and over again. So, I think I have savored many of the moments. Of course, when she is a teenager, I'm sure I'll be wishing I'd savored just one more...

Sheila said...

Robyn, you have such a way with words. You make motherhood sound absolutely wonderful (Don't worry, I'm not about to make the leap just yet:)

maprzy798 said...

you are truly a beautiful person.. thanks for sharing yourself ... and Kostyn....

Lisa said...

Yes, I admit - I am one of those mothers who have told everyone to savor every moment. I know it is hard because of all the sleepless nights and tears that not only the babies shed but the mothers as well but one day, you blink and your little one is going to turn 4 in just under 2 months, you think of how time has literally flown by and you worry that you can't remember all the special times that you shared with your little one.
Robyn, I love the journaling you do and the great cards you write to the kids. It provides a timeline in a way and pinpoints many of the wonderful moments in their lives. It is truly something that we will always treasure.
See you on Thursday Kostyn, We can't wait to meet you and make many wonderful memories.

Kim said...

This was beautiful to read and totally made me cry. It can be tough to savor every moment when you're a work-at-home mom. Marking dates down in his little development book fell by the wayside and now I couldn't tell you when he first sat up on his own. It's just one of those things I kept meaning to do, and never got around to. I try not to beat myself up about it too much. I savor the moments by spending every moment I can with him, but keeping a roof over our heads sure can be a distracton. But the truth is, this is only one of many things that gives me the mom guilt complex, and I know that there are many more to come. I think part of the balance is cutting yourself a break!

Tami said...

I will admit it... I totally teared up. I have not had the joy of Emily grabbing my hand yet, but just the other day she grabbed onto my shirt while looking up at me and I melted. After reading this I am now counting down the days till she grasps ME. My husband of course thinks I am crazy to be excited about her grabbing onto things but I just know the day will come so fast when she will be grabbing at us to pick her up or hug her and I will look back on now and wonder where the time went. Thank you for sharing your essay!

Robyn said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and feedback. It's awesome to be able to share how I'm feeling when I know it will be so gently received.