The Swaddle Dance

Every night, I put Geoffrey to sleep, a routine that takes about two hours. First I give him a bath, and while he initially protests and writhes angerly in the warm water, after a few moments he relaxes and gives me some mouthwatering coos. We “talk” together as I rinse him off and pat him dry, and then I put him on his plushy bath mat for tummy time while I slather baby lotion on his warm little limbs and rub his scalp with baby oil. When I pick him up and hold him tight against the nook of my neck , he purrs like a little kitten.

Once I sense that he’s sleepy and relaxed, I swaddle him tightly in his special blankie. Jamie bought it at Walmart the weekend before I gave birth. I rolled my eyes when he came home with it, because Jo Jo and Teddy both hated being swaddled, but it’s the only thing that gets Geoffrey to fall asleep. So I wrap him, fastening the cloth straps around his arms and wrapping the folds of the blanket around him tighter and tighter, like a little baby burrito. He looks like he’s wearing a small straightjacket by the time I’m through, but it seems to calm him, as he sucks furiously on his pacifier, his blue eyes staring intensely at the ceiling.

Occasionally, he’s tired enough that when I put him down in his bassinet he falls asleep almost immediately. But most nights, he needs to “wind down”, which means he sucks maniacally on his pacifier until he starts to fall asleep, causing his pacifier to fall out of his mouth, which of course causes him to jolt awake and start thrashing and shrieking. So my job for the next hour (or two, or three) is to sit right there next to him, my hand on his pacifier so when it starts to slip out I can jam it right back in.

Of course, being the type-A person that I am, sitting around doing nothing while the kitchen is a ketchup-splattered mess and the playroom looks like a tsunami hit it really kills me. I keep thinking about internet shopping that’s not getting done, or blog posts that aren’t being written, or all those major nagging projects I haven’t been able to finish, like a picture communication system for Johanna to help encourage her speech or three years of family photo albums. I sometimes try to read the New York Times, but every time I turn a page to finish an article the pacifier invariably drops from Geoffrey’s mouth and he wakes up screaming. So I give up, and watch Sex and the City reruns on E, or Teen Mom, or, more often now, I just sit and gaze at him. I marvel at the fineness of his blonde hair, the smoothness of his skin, and the smell of him, breast milk and Johnson and Johnson baby wash.  I think about the fact that this is the last time I will have to do this routine, that Geoffrey is my last infant, ever, and that while today my baby is (literally) attached to my breast, before I know it he will be an adolescent and will want nothing to do with me.

So I sit, watching him as he falls into deep sleep and his mouth relaxes and the pacifier drops. When five minutes pass and his face doesn’t scrunch up into a cry, I know he’s down for the next few hours. I quietly get up and leave the room and go downstairs to get done what needs to be done before I go to bed for the night.

I know he’ll be up in two-three hours, just as I’ve settled under the covers and started to doze off. I’ll sigh and complain to Jamie, but when I pick him up and settle him on my breast, when I feel him latch on and suck his vigorous, strong suck, I’ll be secretly glad. Glad to have the chance to feel him so close to me, so snug and warm. Glad that he’ll nurse until we both fall asleep, and I’ll wake up in a couple hours and see that little blonde head nuzzled on my chest. I’ll quietly pick him up and place him back into his co-sleeper, but somehow he’ll manage to wake up and start to protest so I have no choice but to bring him back into bed with me, wrapping my arms around him and pressing my face against his until we both fall back asleep.

There’s no better way to spend the evening.