Friday, May 18, 2018

Love you Forever

Andrew has started napping again after 8 months, and I am overjoyed! This means I get a break, and that we are back into a pre-nap reading routine.

The clear favorite is still Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, but I introduced him to Love you Forever this week.

Love it or hate it, this book gets a reaction out of people, sort of the like the wonderfully creeptastic "The Giving Tree" which I remember fondly from childhood, even though as an adult the relentless sacrifices of motherhood sometimes make me feel like a chopped up, scooped out, stump of my former self.

I'll never forget reading Love you Forever to Jack as I rocked him in his tiny bedroom in our first home. His crib had made way for a big boy bed, because little sister was on her way in a matter of days. I positioned him on my lap as best I could and kissed his little head and neck, singing and crying my way through the book. I was overcome with the feeling that he was being displaced and with the worry that, despite everyone's assurances, my heart wasn't capable of growing to accommodate a new baby. Everything was about to change, and in a made-up tune I sobbed and squeezed out: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be."

Jack's cowlick was exactly like the boy's in the book, and while I could never image leaning a ladder up against my married son's window (boundaries, much?) I did want him to know that despite a new little one coming into our home, he'd always be my baby. I wanted to squeeze him a little too tightly and never let him go.

Margaret never got into the book the way Jack and I did. Perhaps it was the male protagonist, the fact that she was what you would call a "busy baby" with less patience for books at that age, or that she, like many people. thought the whole premise was weird, weird, weird. The book got tucked away for a long time.

I wasn't sure what my reaction would be to reading the book again, but there it was on the shelf. Would I cry the way I did with Jack? Would I cry even more, knowing that I never got to hold and cuddle and potentially stalk Jack after he'd barely turned twelve and went to heaven?

I didn't cry, and my made-up tune came right back to me today as I rocked Andrew back and forth, his tummy sticking out under a faded little polo shirt, chubby hands clutching not one but 2 loveys. I wondered if Andrew would bat the book away after a few pages, in favor of one more search for Goldbug, one more colossal smash-up of cars and trucks. But he listened attentively as I rocked and sang.

At one point, he pointed to the boy, now a young man, and said, "He growed up." Yes, he did. That is what I pictured for Jack all those years ago. And that is what I do picture for Andrew and Margaret. "You'll grow up too, Andrew"

One of the most tender things about this book is how the young man says his mom will still be his mom after she dies. He holds her and sings, "As long as I'm living my mommy you'll be." I love that, and it has certainly been true for me these 30 years since my mom went to heaven.

In an instant it becomes clear to me the only thing I'd change about this book, even though I am firmly in the Love you Forever Camp. I'd get rid of the words, "As long as I'm living" because if I've learned one thing in recent years, it's that forever truly means forever, and none of it is limited by whether anyone's body is living and breathing or not.

Love never dies.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Why I Stopped Sleeping with my Husband

I am a bad sleeper. 

Some months and years are better than others, but since childhood I’ve often been restless or awake while the rest of the household sleeps. I’m one who takes it upon herself to solve the world’s problems in the wee morning hours, and is embarrassingly familiar with late-night infomercials. With all of the research about getting less than 6 hours shortening one’s life, it’s enough to make a bad sleeper lose even more sleep. 

A few years ago, realizing how important sleep is to overall health, I decided that instead of just trying to power through on grit and caffeine, I’d make an effort to get a few more hours each night.

First, my husband and I switched to a king-sized bed, hoping the extra space would help. We plotted out our territories, leaving a hefty margin in the middle that no one dared cross. It worked for a while, but then I found myself pregnant at age 46 (I guess there had been some crossing). Pregnancy, nursing, pumping, and all of the nighttime waking disrupted whatever tenuous grasp I had on precious sleep. Our baby was an amazing gift, but I was fried, again.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, menopause set in. Enter night sweats and frequent trips to the bathroom to squeeze out a whopping 3 drops of pee. My eye shades, noise machine, and essential oils were no match for this new stage of life. I tossed, turned, growled, and occasionally reached out to kick my snoring husband, but I did not sleep.


When our toddler started waking in the night after a family trip, I’d had it. We would bring him into our bed, and while he and my husband fell right back to sleep, I’d stare at the ceiling fretting that if I Iet my guard down, our son would roll off the bed or get tangled in the covers. And what about world hunger and nuclear proliferation? Everyone knows that worrying is worse at night. 

Soon I took to slipping out as soon as our little one joined us. I’d find refuge on the living room couch or the floor of the basement. I knew it made no sense that I could fall asleep more quickly in these less than comfy places than in my own bed, but the change of location seemed to break the “It’s 3 am and I know I will never sleep again” worry cycle. 

Recently, we dragged a mattress to the floor of the basement, and I now have a more comfortable refuge. Sometimes I go there in the middle of the night; other times I scoot down as soon as everyone else goes to sleep. Even when our toddler sleeps through the night, there is something about being completely “off duty” that helps me sleep more soundly. I can pop a melatonin if I want. The cool, dark basement means less sweating, and when I wake at night I’m able to convince my bladder that the long trip upstairs to the bathroom just isn’t worth it.

Would I rather be snuggling with my husband in our own bed? Sure. But in nearly 26 years together, we’ve learned that there are stages to a marriage. I’m sure Tim would rather sleep alone than have a sweaty, seething menopausal woman next to him concocting ways to murder him in his (blissful) sleep. I’m not kidding, that man smiles as he dreams. It’s infuriating.

As for the impact fleeing the marital bed has on our sex life? Well, with a teen who stays up late, and a toddler who wakes up early, I’d say our opportunities are already rather limited. However, aiming for 6 hours of sleep a night can’t help but improve my mood, if you know what I mean.