At 6-months-old, my daughter Alice is all sloppy kisses, thigh rolls and arm flapping joy. When she’s slept well through the night and ready to wake up, she gives out soft attention cries from her crib. I find her pushing herself up on her arms, turning to look at me as I open the door. Her throaty growls give way to a big smile, the gummiest one you can imagine, and then she’s rolling on to her side so she can stretch one arm out, reaching for me.
Those are the moments I have to hold tight to, the moments I have to play over and over in my head like a Taylor Swift song on a Top 40 station. Especially when its 3:00 a.m. and she’s screaming. Again.
I know it’s not anyone’s fault that she’s screaming (except for maybe those tiny pearl teeth trying to shove themselves through her pink gums), yet I look for someone to blame. I hold her in my bed, rocking her back and forth, and cry with her. I sob out into the night, whispering “Please, please just go to sleep.”
And then I get angry. And I send a text message to my husband.
“Your child has been screaming for an hour. It must be nice to get so much sleep. Being a single parent fucking sucks.”
Because my husband and I have been separated since October and our child hasn’t slept through the night since.
Look, I know it’s not his fault she’s not sleeping. I know that when we separated, she was 2-months-old, and had no idea what the hell was going on. But those moments in the middle of the night where she is inconsolable? So am I.
All day long, I can push my anguish, my hurt and my shattered heart down. I can take care of Alice without the pulsing “He doesn’t love you” beat making my brain rattle. I can brush my teeth and shower and text my best friend like everything’s normal, like it’s just an ordinary day.
And then I go to sleep and I have to face the reality again, every time I wake up, that I am waking up alone, in my mother’s house, with my alarm clock being a really pissed off 6-month-old baby. Our really pissed off 6-month-old baby.
In the morning, of course, I regret the nasty text I sent him. I don’t apologize, but I pretend like I said nothing. Sometimes, he texts me back things like “Well, life’s unfair” and “Being woken up by shitty text messages fucking sucks, too.” And I try to ignore those. Because no matter how I feel, no matter how angry and sad I am about the situation, I can’t make him feel any differently about it. I can’t guilt trip him into being the husband I want him to be. I can’t try and convince him with my tears and my anger to stop mentioning the word ‘divorce’. I can’t use our sweet, teething baby girl to appease us all back into a family.
I try and remember those sweet moments from the mornings when my girl has had plenty of sleep and wakes up smiling. I push the hurt down with the sunbeams radiating out of her cheeks and her, for now, toothless grin. I pray every night that she’ll start sleeping through again. I pray that she won’t wake up inconsolable, hurting or in pain.
That way I won’t have to either.