Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Letting Go

Sophia is rarely out of my sight. At first, sleeping without her (I am still on the couch as she languishes in her crib next to my empty bed) was lonely. I remained hyperaroused, waking frequently despite the fact that she was sleeping deeply in her master suite. Eventually, I got used to it and now we both sleep through the night, happily reunited each morning.

The next hurdle was finding a babysitter. I resisted it for sometime, justifying that I could work during her naps and we couldn’t afford the expense. But Sophia only napped ½ an hour at a time—just as I would get into my groove, she would begin startling and tossing—a sign that she was reentering consciousness. I found myself doing work after everyone had gone to bed—sometimes typing into the wee hours of the morning. I was just as exhausted as when I was feeding her round the clock. Something had to give.

We invited a parade of overqualified, baby-loving grad-students into our home. First for dinner and a meet-the-baby session. Then for the occasional evening out. And finally for hours at a time as I worked out of my closet. I trust these women implicitly. They genuinely adore Sophia. Mimi and Roberta, who come occasionally, insist on non-payment—just the pleasure of her company. When they haven’t seen her in awhile, they call, missing her, wanting to know when they can babysit again, asking us to text recent pictures. Stacey, who cares for her while I work, takes her for outings and scours the internet for fun things to do with a baby on her weekends. When Stacey walks in the door, Sophia greets her with a smile she reserves for her most-loved people. I am lucky. Sophia is lucky.

And though I neurotically typed a two page list of do’s and don’ts for babysitters (do narrate what you are doing; don’t let her watch tv), and left in the line about not making disparaging comments about your own body (my things are so fat) or the baby’s body (your thighs are so fat) despite my friend Nancy pointing out that it was “a little weird”….I’m not at all concerned about what they do with Sophia in my absence. I love the fact that she easily goes from me to them. I’m thrilled that they come up with fresh ideas for play and bring a new energy to my caffeine-fueled routine.

What bothers me is that I’m not with Sophia. That she is having an experience—the first of many—without me. That I don’t know what she’s feeling, that I can’t project onto her what she’s thinking, that I don’t know what she’s doing in the moments we’re apart. I remember once marveling at the infant who was me and yet not me. As she grows, she becomes more and more herself and more and more not me.

I tell myself: This is normal. This is what happens. I’m the one who’s developing separation anxiety. Sophia? She’s getting a life.

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