I indulge her because she is sweet. Panini’s mom says she needs to get used to being on her own. Such is the fate of the second child, she announces. Nonsense. She tolerates much; why push her to her limits?
My head throbs from too little sleep, too much screen time. Maybe dehydration. The desert of the bed, its distance from sustenance. Burbling humidifier. The stink of her neck. (What is that? Bacteria? Harmless or treacherous?) I could lose an arm, holding her like this, the blood cut off to my nerves, limbs limp and damp.
She seems at once knowing and inert. Sometimes on the changing pad she will flail her arms and legs manically, but elsewhere she slumps into stillness, watching with her round, almost coquettishly pretty eyes. Her favorite activities: talking and sucking her hands. And sleeping.
She laughed for the first time the day before yesterday. Panini’s mom had been handing Teenie puffs to eat. “How many puffs?” she had asked. “One puff. Two puffs.” And then that surprising, low chuckle. I was holding her facing out, couldn’t verify except through questioning that the sound was indeed a laugh. She repeated again for Ami but only looked at me curiously when I brought her to the mirror for an encore.
Now she naps on me, knocked out by her meal. But her sleep is uneasy, interrupted by little movements, her chin tucking in, a flutter of the eyelids.
She slept poorly last night. I slept poorly last night. Now my eyelids fight me to close themselves. I can’t sleep. I have to hold her so she can sleep because I’m taking her to the doctor later to have a look at her ear. The bloody one. But the other ear is not so good either, what with the yellow crusties. Both have an odor of infection. Her neck, too, but that’s beginning to look better.
Children bring so much worry. Why worry? If I don’t worry, maybe she will die, like that child who kept crying because he was trying to nurse from his mother’s breasts but she wasn’t producing any milk and who eventually starved. It only took three days. Is the second one easier? Are you more relaxed? they ask. No. She is easier because she is easier. Not because I’ve relaxed. When she is awake she seems agitated, as if she is trying to claw her ears right off her head. In the morning she had blood on her swaddle sack, despite having her arms pinned all night. Except for when I changed her diaper. That might have been when it happened. Poor dear. She suffers.
It feels so sweet to close my eyes, even for a moment. But, no, vigilance. I have to plan. In half an hour or so I need to leave. How to minimize awake time, and crying? The little wheels in my head plot. The little wheels ground to a halt. So tired.