3 days / by Christina Rosalie

Sprout is three days old. It is snowing outside, and has been all night long, and our house is tucked into a snug blanket of silence and whiteness.

He is beautiful, and when he smiles in his sleep his dimpled grin makes this tiny world of mine explode with sparklers.

I am delirious. The second night with him was rocky.

He cried for the first several hours of the night, uncomfortable, gassy, something—a squeal uniquely his own, like a baby dragon. There is a learning curve to all of this for both of us, even if it is the second time around, and it took half the night to figure out what he needed.

The tiredness didn’t hit until yesterday morning. Then it was massive. Tiredness in my bones, my muscles, my ligaments.

I have always wished that people would write about their first week home with a new babe, because it is such a fragile, isolating time. You wonder, invariably if anyone else goes through the same things: the stupendous heights of new baby love, and the rocky catapults to below low . I’ve always wondered what it is like for other people. I imagine, now that I am in the thick if it, it is not because they don’t intend to write, but because the tiredness takes hold of their fingers, and the moments become wrapped in a protective bubble of forgetfulness.

I don’t want to forget.

I want to write even though the tiredness feels like an animal in the room with me: large and soft and voracious. I want to write so that I can remember what these moments are like: new, and precarious, with snow falling in huge fat flakes outside.

I go to do something, the intention in my brain firing at normal speed; and then I arrive at the place where I intended to be and have no idea for a moment why I am there. I nearly put the half & half into the freezer this morning, having randomly picked it up while trying to get ice. It made me laugh out loud into the quiet of the house. This is the silly crazy of sleep deprivation that so up-ended me with Bean.

Sprout is asleep on the couch, tucked into a corner, dreaming, wearing a hat his big brother wore, and in it, the two look so the same.

I am sitting in my favorite place: the dining room, where windows go on three sides. It is here, in front of the windows, that I have hung bird feeders, and during snowstorms especially, the birds come steadily to peck and flutter, and for some reason this makes me unspeakably glad. The blue of the jay’s feathers is cobalt bright against the snow. The cardinal, so red. The finches, small flecks of yellow and brown, that arrive by the twos and threes to split sunflower seeds.

Birds in the snow, like the orchids blooming on the living room windowsill, fill me, even when I ache and am beyond tired.

Yesterday I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. The difference between doing this the first time around and doing it a second is that there is a resident four year old in the house who sounds like a herd of energetic hippos as he moves from room to room following his Daddy about as they do “projects.” Even when he is being quiet, he stirs the air around him like an oar dipped into the smooth surface of a pond. His little self eddies out and fills the space: exuberance, thundering feet, the sweet high music of his voice.

Yesterday all this noise made me startle over and over again so that I was neither awake nor deeply asleep, as I tried to nap in the morning. Some internal tuning shifts with giving birth, so that every noise filters into my brain differently. I am always on the alert for Sprout’s breathing, his slightest whimper, his smallest sigh. When I sleep next to him, I breathe in synch with his breath, and the rhythm of us breathing together is like the complex jazz score and anything else, any other sound, disrupts this and makes it harder to sleep.

It isn’t like I am just tired. Not like the tired you feel at two months or three months when the babe stubbornly won’t sleep and you wake up feeling like a hologram of yourself but you can still laugh. This is a different kind of tired that originates in my organs, my muscle tissue, my sore, sore body. Everything hurts. And where adrenaline made the first day and the second a soporific rush of moments; the trauma of labor catches up. My body is stunned.

Finally I asked DH to rally the in-laws to take Bean on an excursion yesterday, then handed him Sprout and toppled into a torpor-like sleep, my head buried under pillows to block any noise from filtering into my jagged-edged brain.

This is something we’re doing better: communicating what we both need. Making it about the needs, not about the emotions that bubble up, misguided and inaccurate.

It’s so easy to fall into a place of reaction when you’re this tired. When your mind rolls around like a marble in a jar it’s easy to misconstrue and point fingers and generally become a monster. I remember this from Bean. I remember how DH and I would crash into each other’s emotions in the night, become frustrated, snap, and it would leave us feeling both fragile and alarmed.

This time both of us expected the inevitable tears, the inability to make a decision, the tenderness, the enormous, fragile need for sleep. This time we talked about it ahead of time, earmarking patience for when the riptide of hormones began to yank me under.

And he has been amazing. Steadfast, tender. Sometimes he is distant, matter of fact, all muscle and action and I want to suck him in close as though I am a starfish extending the membrane of my heart around his heart.

But I also know that he is riding his own rollercoaster. The provider instinct in him is in overdrive now.

Today as he gets back from dropping off Bean off at his grandparents, the house is suddenly full with his noises: doors opening and shutting as he fetches an armload of wood; the clunk of his boots as he knocks snow off; the sound of metal on metal as he lifts the stove lid and adds wood; espresso being ground. His jaw is set. In his office, the charts are up on his monitors, graphing the volatility that is the stock market of late.

Outside the chimes that we hung on the lilac tree in summer make their metal music in the wind. Juncos and chickadees and nuthatches gather in its branches. I nurse Sprout, then bring him to the table and nestle him in a laundry basket next to me where he sleeps, his arms above his head.

I love him. I love him unimaginably, and feel almost surprised by this sweetness especially when Bean climbs into bed beside us and my love for him makes my heart flutter. Next to Sprout, his legs and arms seem remarkably large. He nuzzles in, nudging next to Sprout and me, our cheeks together in the first light of morning.

Bean already loves his brother. He has yet to show any jealousy, and instead has been full of tenderness and sweetness—running to get us diapers, asking a thousand questions, trying to memorize every contour of his brother’s face, every function of his small body. “I love you,” he said softly last night at dinner, perched on a chair next to me, looking down into his brother’s briefly open eyes.

Every day is different. A wonderment, a thousand sighs and tears and laughs.