On Sleep

I’ve always needed more than the average amount of sleep. I get tired very easily and usually, if I miss an hour or two of sleep, I feel like other people do when they pull an all-nighter. When I get moderately tired, I feel it more than most people — I feel deeply nauseous and poundingly groggy as if I have a severe hangover. This has always been frustrating to me and has felt unfair — especially when I was younger, I simply could not keep up with everyone else. I particularly remember when I went to Italy on a study abroad program the summer after my freshman year. We had classes every morning at eight, but of course all stayed out partying all night every night. The other students kept this routine for the full five weeks and did not seem to be at all bothered. I tried to do the same, but I could not manage it. I had to bow out hours before the others at night, and even so, I was so exhausted in class that I couldn’t keep from falling asleep in my chair and listing sideways with my head pointed down toward the floor. The professor — who could not stand me because of this behavior — would habitually wake me up right before I fell out of my chair.

I was at one point diagnosed with a sleep disorder called UARS, but I don’t really think that’s my issue, and I’ve never been retested. The CPAP machine made no difference.

Because of this, I was pretty worried about having a baby. I was afraid I would lose my mind, or fall asleep so deeply that the baby couldn’t wake me, or just be too tired to care for her properly. None of that happened, although in the first month after her birth, I don’t think I could have gotten through it if my Mom hadn’t been here to look after her to let me take five hour naps sometimes. After that, though, I got used to Edith’s very regular cycle of three hour phases through the night and I felt almost functional on that schedule, and now she usually sleeps for a five hour stretch, a three hour stretch, and then sometimes another hour or so, plus feeding and getting her back to sleep takes around 40 minutes now (whereas it used to take more like 90), and I sleep for probably around seven hours per night. I feel remarkably alert for someone who normally needs stimulants to power through on less than nine hours.

Of course, I’m not working right now, and so I don’t have to do anything cognitively complex during the day. When I think about doing my job while feeling like I feel right now, I want to curl up into a ball and cry. Surely Edith will be sleeping better at six months when I go back? How do other women do it? Most American women have to go back to work in under a month. I can’t fathom it.

Anyway, I have never understood people who say things like, “if I have to pick between sleep or x, I’m going to do x.” To me, these are like people who say, “I forgot to eat today.” It just does not compute with my experience of having a human body. So I have been shocked to find that having an infant has turned me into one of those people.

These days I typically have to pick between going for a run and taking a nap, and I often choose running, because it energizes me more than the bit of extra sleep would (which just makes me feel groggy). In particular, sunshine and getting out of the house for a bit makes me feel refreshed and happier than a nap would do.

At night, when Edith is sleeping I sometimes stay up for an extra two hours reading an especially interesting book even though I really need that time to sleep, because I don’t have uninterrupted time during the day and I just really want to, and weirdly, I don’t feel that much more tired the next day than I do when I go right to sleep when she does.

I suppose having a baby rewires you physically in some ways. At any rate, I’m relieved to find that not only am I capable of getting by on an infant mom sleep schedule, but I’m even comfortable enough with it to do other things besides sleep when I have the option. In my wildest dreams, I would not have thought that would be the case.

Of course, all this will likely go out the window when I go back to work. But then, I guess that’s what Adderall is for.

Annoying My Baby

Edith, who is typically a pretty active baby, is going through a phase where she mostly just wants to sit around and chill and chew on stuff, which is basically my whole life, but rather than enjoy the relative calm, I have decided to of course (a) PANIC and (b) annoy the living fuck out of her. I mean, in part, it is one million degrees outside, and in part, she is only just now becoming aware of her feet, which probably uses up a lot of energy, and here is her mother constantly tugging on parts of her body and being like, “Don’t you want to PLAY?!?!?! OH GOD PLEASE PLAY WITH SOMETHING!” and “You never talk to me anymore!!! PLEASE! SPEAK, my baby!” and “Am I FAILING you?!!?! HAVE I ALREADY FAILED?????”

She just got over being constipated and having me obsess about her butt all the time, and now this.

It must be hell having parents.


It’s cicada season for the 17-year cicadas, and I suppose for the usual yearly variety as well. On my run today, I saw various cicadas in every stage, from live shiny green to dead brown discarded husk. Cicadas always make me think of my grandfather, because when I was very small and my grandparents lived in Mississippi, my grandfather used to set me at picking cicada husks off their many trees. I worked very hard at it. One visit in particular, I seem to recall filling several brown paper grocery sacks to the brim with them, but that seems like an exaggeration of memory. When I asked him what we’d do with them, he said, “well, nothing,” and it was only then that I realized the task was an invented preoccupation to keep me busy and out from under foot. Which embarrassed me.

As an only child, I was always desperate to be accepted by adults. Usually, I was only around other adults, so I viewed them as my peer group even though they very much were not, and I would basically do anything they asked to feel included in whatever they were doing. Another time, my grandfather set me at sorting through a big bucket of spare change and wrapping the various denominations in paper wrappers. This was likely somewhat more useful than harvesting cicada shells, but the overall purpose was the same — keeping me busy. Not in a dismissive way. He wanted to give me something to do so that I wouldn’t be bored, and he always had a task or an activity for me when I visited my grandparents’ house. I also seem to recall him trying to teach me chess once, but I was far too stupid to learn.

Unlike gathering cicada shells (which I was very excited about) I remember being dismayed by the coin rolling task. I did not want to sit in a dark office by myself and stack coins, but I was anxious to please and also didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and so set about it with a will.

One problem with being an only child is that there is no backup. Adults can’t corral multiple children — even two will form a tiny army and rebel. Multiple children run households. Their presence cannot be ignored; their needs are paramount, and the days of their adults revolve around them. But an only child is an obsequious, easily controlled creature. She will sit silently for hours without complaint while the adults are talking, pretending to laugh at jokes she does not comprehend.

I always thought I would not have a solo child. I don’t even think it’s healthy to have solo pets, and several years after her death, I still feel guilty that I never provided my rabbit with a companion. But I waited a long time to have Edith and I’m pretty old now, reproductively speaking. I just finished up Klara and the Sun today, which envisions a future dystopia where children learn entirely through Zoom sessions at home, and so they are provided with AI companions to ward off loneliness. Even if remote learning became the norm, though, there are a lot of kids in this neighborhood. I don’t think Edith will be isolated.

Baby Talk

I’ve never been able to determine whether I’m a creative person or not. Sometimes I think I am, but for me, creativity is something that happens every few years with great effort and in small doses. It’s more like squeezing a lemon than knocking the cap off a fire hydrant.

Some of the greatest works of children’s literature have been written by bored parents who spun tales to amuse their children and challenge themselves. Watership Down. The Pooh books. The Harry Potter series. And so on.

I won’t be one of those parents. I would love to be endlessly creative and inventive with Edith, but the second I sit down to play with her, my mind goes completely blank. I can’t think of any games or stories. If I try to think of a song to sing to her, all I can remember is a single commercial jingle from the ’80s, like I have never in my life heard music before. I can’t even think up small talk to have with her. I talk to her like we’re standing in the corner at a party neither of us wants to be at. I am truly the dullest dullard to ever wave a toy around.

My dialogue with her all day long is just:

“Edith! Who’s Edith? Are you Edith? Who’s my baby? Are you my baby? You’re my baby!”

“Baby baby baby baby.”

“Look! What’s that? Is that a panda? What’s that panda doing?”

“What are you doing, Edith? Are you looking at the panda? What’s going on? Tell me about it! Oh, yes, tell me all about it! What? What are you saying?”

“Oh boy! A panda! What do you think? What do you think, Edith? What’s going on?”

“Who’s my little bean? Who’s my booger? Are you my pooh bear? Are you my peanut?”

“Look at this panda. Wow.”

“Wooowoo buh. Buh! BUH! A panda.”

“Ok, you keep doing…that. Ok. And Mommy’s just going to look at the news here for a little second. Let’s see what Biden’s doing, what do you think? Probably not one fucking thing…”

[several minutes pass]

“What, what, don’t cry!! Oh, don’t cry! Mommy’s here, mommy’s paying attention. Who’s a bun? What’s a panda? When is baby! You run, you slide, you hit the bump, and take a diiiiiiiiive. A boo boo boo!”

I worry all the time for her development.

Alone Again. Sort Of.

After four months, my mother has had the gall to return to her own life temporarily, and has left me alone with my own child for two weeks.

How could she?!?! I’m not prepared for this, obviously! Who approved any of this?

After over a year of more extreme isolation than even I am accustomed to (I am an especially isolated person even in normal times, but even I typically take trips to see other people every few months or so), it’s been comforting to have company for so long.

I like being alone — I don’t really get lonely like other people do. I sort of live in my own world. But toward the end of quarantine, it was starting to be enough already. And then at some point, it occurred to me that I was about to give birth and then I would probably never be alone ever again (the economy being what it is).

That was hard to wrap my mind around, but over the past few months, I haven’t pined for solitude much. Maybe a bit at odd moments. And now that Mom has left, I feel a bit melancholy. I normally do when a houseguest leaves, but I didn’t think I would this time because I have Edith. But I’m finding that she doesn’t really feel like a separate person to me. She feels more like an extension of myself, like there’s just more of me now, and it’s even more troublesome to take care of my basic needs than it was before. That’s surely healthy for both of us, right?

Probably it will be different when she’s talking and mobile and can exercise her own will.

Meanwhile, we played for awhile, and then Edith watched from her swing, appalled, as I attempted to gasp through a 25 minute HIIT video. She was pretty patient (if obviously humiliated for me) until I propped her up in her donut in the bathroom and got in the shower at which point, she was like, “BITCH THIS CAN’T WAIT TILL I’M ASLEEP?” Which was fair enough. She played some more, and then she fell asleep for several hours and I watched TV and finished the novel I was reading. It was too hot today for our walk.

When she woke up, I managed to give her a bath in the sink by myself, which I was proud of, because it’s unwieldy, and she only pooped in the tub a tiny bit. And now she’s propped in my lap while I type this over her shoulders, and for some reason, she is tolerating this. Soon we’ll go to bed.

So, all in all, a successful first half of a day? Only 13.5 more to go, not that I’m counting, because I’m perfectly capable of parenting my own baby. Perfectly capable!

Tough Crowd

The baby smiles at me a lot and talks to me periodically, but she will not laugh at me. I thought she didn’t laugh at all, until I mentioned this one day and my mother said, “oh, she laughs all the time!” Then, the other day, I heard her absolutely losing her shit at something the nanny was doing. I ran in, and she wasn’t just laughing, she was waving her arms and legs back and forth in hysterics.

Today, I was determined to make her laugh. I spent the whole day pulling faces at her and dancing around maniacally, and she stared at me soberly, brow knitted. She looked confused, maybe slightly concerned, but I could elicit nothing even approaching amusement.

At the end of the day, her grandmother got back from running errands and came over to say hi, and the baby immediately broke into a delighted peal of laughter.

Nobody thinks their mother is funny, I guess.

Mom Guilt

I thought that I would be immune to mom guilt, because I typically am not subject to the pressures that come from wanting to be socially accepted or approved of, since I am genuinely comfortable being entirely isolated from other people (this is not really a good thing). However, I have been surprised to find that I am not immune.

By “mom guilt” I specifically mean guilt over something that I do not truly believe is harming my child, but still feel guilty about due to social stigma. This is to be distinguished from worry over things that I do suspect might be harming my child, which I shall term “mom anxiety.” I have a shitload of mom anxiety; I’m constantly worried that I’m not doing enough for Edith, or that I’m doing things wrong or making mistakes that will harm her, or even just short-changing her in some way. But this is surely inevitable if you actually care about your child? As a parent, you assume 100% control over the body, environment, health, happiness, and life of a tiny, helpless, extremely fragile infant. If you don’t worry constantly that you’re messing that up, you’re a sociopath.

Mom guilt is different. Mom guilt is feeling guilty for not adhering to the social expectations for mothers even if you don’t feel those standards actually affect the health and happiness of your child. I did not expect I would give a shit about these pressures, and I mostly don’t, but I do find that I constantly feel guilty and bad for doing my own thing instead of playing with Edith while the nanny is here.

Strictly speaking, I do not technically need a nanny while I’m on parental leave. I hired one to come a few days a week in preparation for something that didn’t end up happening, but she really is wonderful, so I’m glad that I hired her anyhow. Edith adores her and has an excellent time playing with her. I do not worry that spending time with the nanny instead of me is harming Edith. For one thing, research pretty clearly indicates that it’s good for children to bond with multiple adults and to have lots of people who care about them in their lives. For another, I am dealing a lot better than I thought I would with the lack of sleep that comes with having a baby, but still, I am largely braindead and frequently on autopilot, and even on the best days, I am not fresh and creative and engaging as a playmate, and the nanny is. I’m pretty sure Edith has more fun with her than she does me, and while I’m occasionally jealous of this, I do not worry it’s a bad thing — I want Edith to be having as much fun as possible. I want her to have fun with lots of people. I want her to be having fun all the time!

So, I don’t have mom anxiety about the nanny, but I do have mom guilt. I do not feel guilty if I use the time to exercise, or to shower, or to nap, or to do necessary chores and errands. And I would not feel guilty if I used the time to do something that would advance my career or earn money (I don’t), or to cook (I don’t cook). That is to say, it seems acceptable to take advantage of help in order to look after my physical or financial needs.

But I can see after all my physical needs and still have time left over, and what I mostly want to use that extra time for is to read, think, write, etc. That is, I want to use the time to look after my intellectual needs. And I feel great guilt about this, because as a new mom, I am not supposed to have any intellectual needs. I am only supposed to be interested in my baby. But I have not had a lobotomy and I need to use my mind now just as much as I needed to use it before I had Edith — more actually, because I have so much more to think about now.

I didn’t realize I was feeling this way until one day, I noticed that I was pretending to be napping when I was actually reading. Why was I pretending, I wondered? And I found that I felt guilty about reading while someone else played with my child. And then I thought that if I had a husband, he would 100% slip off to watch sports or something while the nanny was here, and people might think that was exasperating or even shitty of him, but no one would actually expect any different, because we do not expect men to be endlessly absorbed by the mostly stultifying work of caring for an infant, but we do expect for that work to be inherently interesting (or at least satisfying) to women.

Women admit to each other pretty readily that there is little more tedious than caring for an infant, but still, I feel like it’s not acceptable to outsource any of that. And I can already hear the women reading this saying, “but taking care of your own needs will make you a better mother to her!” and ok, that is true when it comes to my physical needs (which is maybe why I think it’s acceptable to take advantage of help to meet them), but honestly, spending time on my intellectual needs doesn’t actually make me a better mother; I’m the same with Edith either way. It’s just for me. And that’s the key of the mommy martyr pressure — once you have a child, you are not supposed to care about yourself at all anymore.

And the thing is, I don’t! Hell, I barely cared about myself before I had a child. But I still get bored, and I find boredom is a more difficult thing for me to tolerate than exhaustion, and I’ve surprised myself by feeling ashamed of this.

Pool Day

Today, we (my mother, the nanny, and I) took the baby to the neighborhood pool. It’s a nice pool, with a covered baby pool and a pretty elaborate splash pad. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for over two years, but I’d never used the pool, because I figured it’d be full of kids. But now I have a kid, so I took her down there.

You would not think it would take three adults to transport one very small baby to a pool, but between the diaper bag, the towels, the changes of clothes, the baby in her car seat, someone to take video of the experience, etc., we all had our hands full.

Edith is a very expressive baby generally, but when she is experiencing something new, she has a winning poker face. I swam her around in the baby pool for awhile, and she remained quite stoic throughout. She complained a couple of times when she knew for sure she did not like something (being tipped onto her back, for example), but otherwise, it was tough to say whether she was enjoying herself or not. If she could talk, I believe she would have said “I’m processing.” I think everything Edith does is perfect, but I especially think this is a rad way to be — she doesn’t feel pressured to perform delight or to provide feedback she isn’t ready to give. If you saw a movie with her and upon emerging asked “what did you think?” she would say, “if I cared to express an opinion, you would already have it.” Power moves.

Later, I perched her on my knee on the side of the baby pool and let her dip her feet in periodically. She seemed extremely interested in all the other children at the pool, particularly the big boys who were cannonballing off the side of the deeper end, and a little girl all in purple who was playing with swim rings in the baby pool.

I really wanted to walk her through the splash pad, but one thing at a time. We have all summer.

The experience wore us both out, and Edith napped all afternoon while I watched Mythic Quest. A delightful day.


I turned forty today. It feels like I’ve been forty for a long time, so although it’s rather a milestone birthday, it doesn’t feel like one.

The main thing about being forty is that I’m a mother now. I had a baby three and a half months ago. I’m not one of those people who think that everyone should have children, or that people cannot really understand life until they have a child, but for me personally, I was a real dead inside piece of shit before I had my daughter, and now I feel joy and sadness and all sorts of things. It’s as if when I went into the hospital, the world was in black-and-white, and I came out and it was in color.

Today, we (my mother, my daughter, and I) went to lunch at a restaurant and sat on the patio because we’re still a little nervous about taking the baby inside places, especially when they are crowded, which this place was because it’s Saturday. It’s boiling hot in Texas and there were fans and misters on the patio. This was the baby’s third time at a restaurant, which also means that it was my third time at a restaurant in about a year and a half. Ordinary things seem new to me twice over — because the world is opening back up a little and I have not done them in so long, and because I am getting to see all of them through my baby’s eyes and everything is a new adventure for her. She wore a navy blue onesie with flowers on it, and we worried that she might be getting too much sun, or that it might be too hot. She has bright red hair, and it’s long enough now that when she’s hot, it gets sweaty and curly in the back and fluffs up into a little ducktail.

I’m typing this in bed, and my daughter is right next to me in her basinet. She was asleep, but she has woken up and is staring at the ceiling fan now, and waving her arms back and forth. Every night I’m just amazed that I have this awesome little person next to me, that I get to end the day with her, and then we wake up and spend another day together.

It’s all so much fun! I hadn’t had fun in years, and now everything is fun. I was so deeply bored and had been for so long, and now everything is interesting.

So, I’m looking forward to my 40s overall.