Theo is sleeping beside me, curled into a little comma in the small rectangle of his cosleeper. He is layered in blankets given to him by people we love. It’s taken me three months to learn to put my baby to sleep somewhere other than on top of me. The learning curve of care is humbling and slow. In this moment I am cherishing our closeness and separateness. In this moment, the line between his body and mine is clear. I study his small head: the delicious rolls of fat at the back of his neck, topped with a small spray of his longest hair; his pert little optimistic nose; private upper lip; the single dimple in his right cheek smiling in sleep. Tilted into the night: one perfectly crafted conch shell of an ear feeding him the ocean swirl of this world that he is slowly learning to swim in.
To have three beloved books open before me feels like I’m binging on the past; the woman I once was read whatever she wanted, went to sleep and woke up when she wanted, returned emails when she wanted. It is not that I miss her. It is simply that I am lost. I remember my friend Marci telling me that for weeks after her daughter Hannah was born, each time the doorbell rang, she was afraid it was Hannah’s “real parents” come to take her home.
There is something so enormously and unbearably familiar and unfamiliar about birth. This portal of my body knows everything it needs to know, despite me. The thick shell of who I once thought I was has been broken open into something so much more powerful and vulnerable.
As my child sleeps, I wonder how he came to be my child. I chose my dogs, my cats, my husband. I chose my friends and my editor and my agent and my doctor and acupuncturist. I chose my neighbors, my plumber, my clients, my colleagues. I chose a book topic and neighborhood and house. I chose to become pregnant and was fortunate that my body was cooperative.
Then into my life arrived the single most important and mysterious being I will ever know–one I did not choose. This is the shock of motherhood: an initiation into the seismic love of the entirely incomprehensible perfection of her child. He has come to me as himself. I listen in to learn him.
As if rehearsing for something one line at a time but never grasping the main idea of the narrative, I move through my days. Exhaustion and euphoria are my absurdist cocktail. Bound now to this earth, I hold my child. We sleep the sweet sleep of belonging.
Next month: Establishing a new rhythm for three, full-time jobs: mother, business owner and book promoter.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, The Oregonian, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University, co-hosts a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a Soapstone residency. To learn more, visit www.writingthelifepoetic.com.