The flat earth of right now

It’s a bright and beautiful Saturday morning in June and I am sitting in a bed typing next to my feverish toddler, watching her sleep off whatever evil thing is making her feel ill. Again.

Two weeks ago she was knocked out by the very worst virus of her 2.5 years of life. It was Memorial Day weekend. She was incapacitated, burning up and scaring the crap out of me with hallucinations in the middle of the night. We missed an epic neighborhood party (with bouncy house) across the street. We missed grilling with our friends. We missed everything, most especially restful sleep. And then we missed three days of school and work because this virus lingered so long.

I am trying not to worry too much about what this relapse might mean right now while she snoozes peacefully. I am trying instead to absorb life as it unfolds in each complicated but sweet moment.

But I’ve been up since 4:30am, when one of our 8 month-old twins — the one I was sleeping with in our bed — started whining her way out of sleep. It stirred my wife, who was downstairs sleeping on the couch with the other twin, who had started her whining wake-up routine at 3am. Darry came upstairs, we traded babies and I went down to the living room, standing and rocking Rowan so she’d remain asleep. Finally I was able to sit and spent 90 minutes in relative quietude, staring at Rowan’s perfect face and making mental lists of all the things I want to do but have no time to do.

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “the flat earth of infancy,” but I like it. It’s helped me recast my current despair about our situation, most particularly the sleep part — which is not sleep, exactly, but a bizarre routine we engage in each night in various spots around our house, usually with one baby in arms, but sometimes two, or sometimes with the impossible combo of one baby and one toddler. We rest in short bursts of two or three hours before it’s time to relocate, swap kids or stand up and lull a kid back into dreamland with the slow, steady rocking motion of a person losing their mind.

We are awake for the sunrise each morning. This sounds romantic but I cannot recall seeing the actual rising sun ever. I can only remember the sensation of my muscles constricting when the first “mama” floats over the monitor from Serafina’s room, seconds after I’ve finally just gotten a baby back to sleep on top of me. Somewhere — where? I don’t know, somewhere in this house — Darry has likely just done the same thing. Who makes a move to fetch the older kiddo? Whose sleep is more sacred? Some mornings we all start the day in our king sized bed, all five of us. Babies crawling around. Serafina hollering at them to not steal her beloved Giraffsie from her clutches. Me and Darry delirious and in love but also murmuring quietly in our internal voice (well, just me anyway?) “fuck my life, I need to sleep past 5am so badly.”

We *will* sleep past 5am again, I know this. In that brief window of time, between when Serafina was about 17 months and when the twins were born, just before her second birthday, we slept beautifully. We enjoyed evenings after bed-time, engaged in adult conversation, chores, binge watching two (sometimes more!) episodes of something. We thought life was complicated then with one child and I guess that it was, but really, it was not.

Serafina is awake now, next to me. Still warm, but her brief nap seems to have revived her energy and spirit, at least a little. She wants to “snuddle” with me and she does not want to get out of bed. She wants to sleep, but is playing little games with her dear Giraffsie and gazing out the window happily. She wants to lie here forever, I guess, in the flat earth of our lives, where we are chained by the tyranny of childhood colds, viruses, nap times, sleeplessness and snuddles. Here we are on this planet, making wistful lists of things we will do one day when the earth is round again, holding tiny creatures who know nothing of the difference between life then and life now.