It is one of those nights. Those horrible, exhausting, fraying nights that begins when the toddler alarms (as is often the case) right as I am starting to drift into a wearied mother-fresh-off-the-time-change exhaustion. I dutifully peel myself out of bed and go into her room, where she sits up swaying tiredly in her bed, truculent and difficult. We run through the gamut of her "needs", where she demands (PJ's unzipped, PJ's off, grapes, cookie, tissues located outside of her room, no I do not want you in my room, I want you) as I lay in her twin bed, tired, eyes closed, toddler demands and the occasional blow raining down steadily on my mother body. Instead of drifting to a quick end, as is often the case, it continues. For a long time. About an hour and forty-five minutes into it, she is finally quiet, but still awake, tossing restlessly beside me, and I suddenly just can't do it anymore. The night will soon turn into dawn and I have slept through none of it and I suddenly develop this resolute desperation for my own bed in my own room and I sit up abruptly and tell her, not un-gently, "Mommy is going to sleep in her own bed now. You stay in your bed."
And rage erupts in the wake of my speedy and unexpected exit and now I am dealing with a roaring toddler coming over into my darkened bedroom where the baby sleeps, and I have just had it. She comes over, I return her firmly to her bed, warn her, leave, she comes back over, roaring. I, furious and desperate for sleep and peace, am ADAMANT that she remain in her room, and set her back into her bed.
She roars that she wanted a tissue because she has snot. I wildly march down the hall and grab a tissue that I fling into her room. She shrieks in fury because she had wanted to get the tissue. At 3:45 AM. I return to my bed. She bangs the door open into my room, crying loudly. I place her back in her bed, deliver a very stern rebuke, and she shrieks anew for the bear she had spotted on the floor in my bedroom. I march across the hall, grab the bear, toss it on her bed, and she screams at the top of her lungs that SHE WANTED TO GET THE BEAR!!!!!!
I just don't know how to communicate the emotions of these moments. I feel wild-eyed, half-crazed, a desperate woman craving the solitude and silence of her dark, still bedroom. I cross back to my bed, scoop up the baby who has of course been woken in this process and is bleating tiredly, and nurse her, my heart beating quickly, my breaths shallow and quick. Sometimes being a mother is just overwhelming. The tireless need for you that continues around the clock some nights; the clutch, the suck of your life-blood. Especially wearing when it is accompanied by noisy tears that won't be silenced and noisy demands that won't be satisfied.
The door bangs open again and the small furious shadow framed by the lamp light from the other room hurls a small cloth bear across the threshold and then quickly retreats to her bed to weep out her fury. I know across the hall she is sobbing wildly and brokenheartedly although I can't hear her, but my emotions are at full fray and numbed. The fan whirs noisily in my bedroom and the cool air rests lightly on my arms and the darkness is like a cool calming cloth on my face. I long with all my heart for sleep. My husband half-sits in the bed beside me, groggy. We both know that it is of no use for him to offer his presence to this girl of ours - she is fueled with mommy-only gasoline in the middle of the night and anything else sets off an explosion.
The minutes tick by. The husband has settled back into his sleep, and the baby's suckling has slowed, along with my breathing. The door is slowly pushed open again, and light spills into the room, and I see her shadow, slow and sad, creep across my floor. She comes to stand silently at my side as I sit, cradling the baby in the bed, and wordlessly takes my hand in hers in a tight grip with both of her hands and presses it to her face in a gesture that is both tender and vulnerable. She stands there silently, her face buried in the back of my hand, a hiccuping sob escaping here and there - and all my resentment and desperation is gone; melts away just that fast. She just can't help herself, her mommy-neediness, and she loves me desperately and it makes her so sad when I just can't take it any more. And my few minutes of solitude and quiet have regenerated emotional energy and I am ready to deal with the understanding that this is part of what makes her up, and this is part of our stage together and right now she just needs me, and that we love one another, her and I.
It's so messy, this mothering thing. The sticky tentacles of need and necessity that wrap little humans to their mothers - especially some little humans. I beckon her into our bed and she climbs in and waits as I return the baby to her bed. She turns and tosses and wiggles like a puppy circling...and eventually sleeps pressed up tightly to my back...and so do I. Another night in the life of a real-time parent.