I hear a baby grunt. Then a groan. Soon enough, the baby cries follow and I am made aware through my sleepiness that this is not the type of baby stirring that will go away on its own. I open my eyes and I see the clock. Sometimes it's 2:30 a.m. Sometimes it's 1:15. Some nights it is only 12:45 a.m. and I am horrified as I realize I have only gotten about 2 hours of sleep in before the call to get the baby.
Tonight it is 1:30 or so when I hear Vincent stirring.
I stumble over Dominic, who has made a little bed out of the floor on the side of my bed, and make my way down the stairs and into the baby's room. I pick him up and put him on the changing table and he cries out...this is unusual, but I decide at the early hour, it is probably not critical to have a diaper change. I make my way to the kitchen, flip on the light and start the water flowing to warm up to make a bottle. As I do all of this, I steal little kisses on Vincent's cheeks to which he smiles and giggles in return...and now I wonder if these middle-of-the-night visits are purposeful ways of getting one-on-one time with Mommy.
We sit down and in the 15 seconds it takes for me to get situated for a good hold and a view of my iPhone (to catch up on blogs or something while feeding) Vincent gets impatient and cries out and shakes his head as if to say, "I need that bottle NOW, Mommy!"
As he drinks his midnight cocktail (as I have called it before), I read some facebook but cannot determine the result of the basketball game I was watching as I fell asleep. Oh well, I make my plays on Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends. And soon enough, Vincent is finished.
I put the phone down, I put the empty bottle down and I work Vincent into his cuddle position and we sit in the dark. I feel him burp and then nestle into the crook of my neck and his hand finds its familiar place on the inside of my shirt just above my breast area. And I hear him breathe contentedly.
And now, I realize that I don't really hate getting up in the middle of the night with my baby boy. It's my chance to smell him and take in all his baby goodness. It is in these quiet moments that we are building our relationship -- he is learning to trust that I will be there, even in the pit of darkness -- to give him what he needs, whether it be nourishment or cuddles or safety.
It is at these times that I remember that this isn't the first time I was required this much at night. Sarah was a baby that didn't sleep through consistently for probably a good 18-20 months of her life. I had forgotten. Of course, that was 10 years ago, and I didn't have the maturity to appreciate the quiet solitude the middle of the night brings then. I was too engrossed in my annoyance that I had to rise at that hour at all. It is at these times that I realize how spoiled I was with the next three babies who slept through consistently very early on and it was only one in maybe 20 nights that I was awakened from my slumber, if at all.
So tonight, I decide to close my eyes and just listen to Vincent breathing on me. Tonight, I think about the fact that this could be the last time I get this opportunity, so I will make the most of it. I think about earlier in the night when I made him giggle by playing peek-a-boo while he lay on his changing table. His laugh is like my own personal version of catnip. I would do anything to hear it for eternity. I think about his infectious grin. I think about the cups of saliva that spill out of his mouth all day. I think of his big brown eyes that give me looks like I am the only woman for him. I think about how he grabs my hair and continues to pull and play gently until it hurts me. I think about him bouncing with joy in his "exer-saucer" and how much he has learned in the last month.
The first year of a baby's life flies so quickly. But what is so odd is how parts of it feel like they drag on forever. Vincent is now 7 months old. He is barreling down the road to his 1st birthday. Time is not my friend this time. My age and experience reminds me that this might be my last trip down this road. And because it is my 5th time, I know how quickly the trip can pass me by if I don't pay attention.
After some time of just sitting there, being with Vincent, holding his 18 pounds, feeling his breath on my neck, kissing his soft head, I walk him back to his crib and place him softly for his remaining nightly slumber. I stumble back up the stairs. I step around Dominic, sleeping soundly in his makeshift bed (I suppose I should learn to find the grace in that situation, too) and I crawl back into bed.
As I drift back to sleep, I realize that I'm not all that annoyed that I spent the last 35-40 minutes taking care of Vincent.
As a matter of fact, I realize that I will actually miss these days at some point.