Sleep with Children

Sleep is an odd demon.
Sometimes I wake up, refreshed, at five am, rejuvenated at the sight of a rosy red dawn and the first fresh whiffs of mountain air. I actually hope that my daughter won’t go back to sleep after I feed her, so that we can catch that beautiful golden morning light on our walk, that serene hour of summer golds and greens and blues before the sun boils.
Sometimes I sleep in until 7, or 8, and wake as if from a coma, dragged from some deep place. My daughter slowly enters my dreams, crawling across the screen. I gradually become aware of her dropping her pacifiers on the floor (there are many) and chatting as she rattles the side of her crib. I interact with her in my dreams, reluctant to let myself rise from slumbers. Her chattering grows more insistent, and my subconscious self slowly allows me to become aware that she’s calling me from outside the dream. I open my eyes but barely, pull my legs from sheets tangled in sleep, and give her mussy hair a morning kiss. Usually I hope she’ll fall back asleep once I’ve fed her – even if she’s slept her ten or eleven hours. Vain hope. I bring her back to bed with me, where she snuggles between us and turns to me with expectant mouth and bright eyes.
Sometimes she falls to sleep again, and I wake up an hour or so later, wondering at the thick sun pouring through the window. More often, however, she has her morning sip and then begins babbling away, nuzzling up against her (still-sleeping) father, crawling all over us and then collapsing into chest-hugs, standing on the edge of our bed to place her hands on the window ledge and play peek-a-boo with the curtains. I finally sit up, take her downstairs to wash up, talk about the day as I make a cup of coffee, and then stretch out on the living room floor, shaking the sleep out of my joints.
Our neighbors are silent almost all throughout midday – not a kid in the garden or a bike on the street. They sleep, hibernate through the heat. At dusk they appear, spilling out onto the sidewalks, filling the tea garden. When we sleep at ten or eleven I can still hear them, little kids calling to each other and scootering up and down the street below. My husband tells me to sleep when our daughter sleeps, to nap during the day. I can’t. If I did, I wouldn’t get anything done. My entire day would be taking care of our daughter, or preparing meals, or sleeping. But I also *can’t*: my body doesn’t know how to sleep during mid-day. Once I’m awake, that’s it – I’m up. Unlike my husband I can’t just drop off for a nap after watching the baby for two hours. I’ve tried to explain this to him again and again on my morning to sleep in – that if he hands her off to me while he uses the restroom, or takes a half an hour to get them out of bed, then that’s it for my sleep. I just drink coffee throughout the day, and then somehow, around 6 or 7 pm, I feel awake. In the evening I try to do everything I couldn’t focus on during the day and then, once again, I can’t sleep until well past 10:30.


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