Sleep and Intimacy

modern anatomy

When I kiss my husband, it is with a question. Will it be tonight, dear? When I kiss my child, it is with an answer. He is wondering: do I love him? And I respond, with my arms and my mouth, Yes, always. His kisses are innocent. They contain no motives, no history. They simply are. Kissing is a game to him. It’s a call and answer. Mama! Mmmmmmmm

Yes? Oh! Mwah!

Mama, MAAMAAA!! Mmmmmm

Mwah, I love you.

Before having a child, my husband and I could spend hours kissing like deprived teenagers. We had the luxury of time. Now, sometimes we will kiss hello, and goodnight, but otherwise we are simply too busy for long embraces. This translates to our sleeping life as well. We have developed what we jokingly refer to as ‘the pillow wall’. It started when I was pregnant. I would writhe around, unable to get my large midsection comfortable without losing feeling in one of my hips. To combat this, I would snuggle an oversize body pillow. Sometimes, that pillow ended up between us, and by morning, we were peering over it wondering where the other had disappeared. The pillow wall remains, albeit smaller now.

The only time there was a cease fire was after our son was born. I rid the bed of extra sheets, too-fluffy down comforters, and erroneous pillows, especially body-sized ones. Everything was a hazard. According to the wisdom of my mother and the hospital nurses, co-sleeping was dangerous. I was putting my newborn infant at risk to potentially stifle him with all of that extra fabric. But I did it anyway. It was a natural response to his mewing at 4:00 a.m.: gather him in my arms, and put his cheek on my chest. We rocked each other to sleep. Some nights, it seemed to be the only thing that worked. Although, I often worried more than I slept. Worried he would roll off the bed, worried my husband would roll over onto him. But through it all, we snuggled and bonded. I would watch his tiny face for the smallest inclination of waking, and think, Never grow up.  But then take back the sentiment when it was hours later and he was still awake. It seemed those first few weeks he couldn’t breathe if he wasn’t attached to me in some way. Eventually we all found some equilibrium of sleep and wakefulness.

Recently, the other morning, he had a fever. Maybe two-year molars, or a bad dream, I wasn’t sure. He was up at six, very rare for him. I went to his room and found him disoriented, crying, a mess of tears and sweat. His blonde curls forming a little C on his forehead. I scooped him up and we lay on the couch and watched Dora until he calmed down.  He was the little spoon; his head was on my arm, warm to the touch. The dog was on my feet, her paws running in dreams. I closed my eyes to the wheezing of soft, sweet bursts of breath on my face. When I woke I had an odd nostalgia. Could it be I missed some part of those first few sleepless months? Missed the intimacy and the closeness that my now independent toddler rarely needed?

I let the dog out, set Charley up with some cereal and went to wake my husband. By then it was after nine, a more respectable hour. Our curtains were pulled in the master and it was dark and cool. I watched my husband sleeping, snoring, facing away from me and knew he didn’t need me. I will never be his whole world, but for my son, for even a short time, I was his everything. I was everything he had ever known, ever needed, ever wanted.