It’s 2:33am, and somebody is vomiting in my bathroom.
My phone is somehow in my hand as I slowly grasp this truth. It turns out to be Ethan- sick with food poisoning from another working lunch the day before. I stumble out into the dark kitchen, guided by the dully illuminating microwave light. Still uncoordinated, I trip over the vacuum. I’ve given up on putting it away as it is used five or six times during the day. I reach for the dormant emerald green glass from the counter and hold it up to the fridge. I wait for an amount of water adequate enough to soothe a sick man. I scan the ground for spiders, though I won’t be able to see them if they are indeed scuttling around our kitchen floor (as they’ve been known to do). The world is a soft blur without my glasses, but I’m still not awake enough to put in the required energy to find them. I feel my way back to the bathroom, intentionally stepping over the vacuum this time, and place the green glass in front of my slumped-over husband. I pat him on the back as he issues a grunt of gratitude. Well, I choose to interpret it as gratitude- it was probably more of a “go back to bed I’m fine” noise. As I turn, ready to rekindle an embrace with my pillow, the baby monitor lights up. The Bat Signal for moms. With much willpower, I cast my pillow a longing, apologetic look, and set off for the kids’ room. In this new apartment, they share a sleeping space- crib on one side, a mini-loft on the other. Opposing yet united, as the best of siblings are. I open the door, hoping the baby’s cries have not yet awoken my son. Myla’s eyes are closed but she’s impatient for food- it has been four empty hours since her last serving of milk. I scoop her into my arms, plop into the rocking chair beside her crib and lazily nurse her. I rock with my arms heavy, my eyes closed, thinking simultaneously of sleeping and enjoying these fleeting nighttime feedings. I can’t quite manage enjoyment so I settle for contentment. My head falls slowly and I jerk myself awake, thankful that the baby has also fallen asleep in my arms. I stand up and put her down gently on her colorful fish sheet- an heirloom from her brother- and turn to the nearest bed, Brady’s. I climb in with him, hoping to give Ethan some space to recover. I snuggle up to this boy, recognizing how quick he was to transform from his own early-morning snacking to this imaginative child who fell asleep mid-sentence telling me about flying Delta, the pilot’s seat, and considering whether Harry or Ron drives the Ford Angelia. It’s Ron, by the way. I have to continually remind him. My head collides with the pillowed image of Mater the tow truck and I am instantly asleep.
It doesn’t last long.
I slowly regain consciousness to the sound of Myla’s squeaky grunts. It is a different sort of sound than those of her sickly father, but for some reason I’m still not up to interpreting grunts so I swing my legs out from the loft, leave sleeping Brady behind me, and hop down clumsily. I reach for a pacifier on the windowsill but drop it. Myla’s grunts grow into whines as I feel around the floor for the rouge pacifier- light seeps through the blinds but I am still mostly blind myself; I can’t find it. I stand up instead and, putting my face near the crib rail, see my daughter’s face materialize. Eyes wide, toothless mouth slightly agape, she recognizes me and breaks into a smile, a huge grin far too dazzling for whatever ridiculously early hour it is. Play with me. She kicks her legs wildly, unable to contain her excitement at the prospect of being held. I sigh, give up on my dreams of sleep, and pull her to me. We venture into the living room and I set her on our yellow-striped rug, a purchase I made when I was feeling particularly adventurous, quite unlike the tired resignation I am feeling now. Even without my glasses I see a spider scramble off the rug and toward the door. I sigh, again, and tell Myla’s she better watch out for them as I put her on her back on the floor. She giggles and kicks happily in response. I stare at her for numberless minutes, too exhausted for conversation, then grab my phone and check the time. 5:45. She babbles and rolls and wiggles, thrilled to be awake, thrilled to be alive in the world exactly as it is. I watch, biding my time until I feel functional enough to make coffee. Eventually, after a half hour or so, Myla starts to whine. I’m able to interpret her now, so I gather her up and nurse her again, cross-legged on the floor. She drifts to sleep within five minutes, secure in my tired arms. I am her vehicle to slumber, and also to her crib. I put her back into her white sanctuary, noticing when my eyes get close enough for the fish sheet to swim into clarity that the colored fish all seem to be pointing at her, as if to proclaim This is it! This is what we’ve been waiting for! But of course, I am thinking that, not the fish, and it’s true.
I straighten up and silently admire my work, the work of a quiet house. There’s no award for it. Just a participant ribbon. Behind me, I hear another grunt. I turn and see Brady, squinting at me, half awake in red Daniel Tiger pajamas, perched on the edge of his bed with his arms stretched toward me. I sigh. I walk over to him, kiss his hair, and my day begins.