Separation Anxiety, the doctor said yesterday at his six month check up. That is why he is waking up screaming in his crib for the past few days. He’s playing you, she said. He’s messing with you because he knows he can. Let him cry it out. I shook my head feeling tearful, but if I’m crying I don’t want to be ignored I want to be attended to, how can I let him cry himself to sleep needing me. She shook her head, a crying baby isnt rational. Its okay to let him cry. I went home feeling a weight on my heart so real it felt physical. Maybe after Thanksgiving K and I decided.
Last night, I dreamt I was touching an open flame. I woke to find him snuggled against me, his skin red hot. Fever check: 104. We bathed him. Warm compress to the head. Tylenol. Frantic call to the doctor. I rocked him to sleep and am monitoring him today.
I cant properly explain what it felt like to feel that hot skin against my fingers. The burden of motherhood is heavy but the weight is not on your aching back, the burden is on your heart, knowing that as desperately as you want to fix things its not in your control. Moments like this make me wonder how deep is the well of a mother’s love? I thought I’d scraped my fingers along its murky floors, but today I realize I’ve been treading in the shallow end. As I rock him to sleep I know I’d sell my toes to the highest bidder if it meant he would never feel pain again.
So I won’t be crying it out. I want sleep. I need sleep. I dream about sleep. But Im not in a place where I can let him cry-it-out. In the past I’ve let him cry for ten minutes when nothing I did worked and the ragged breath, the grateful smile when he saw me, his arms reaching up and then clinging to me like I was the last rescue boat on a sinking ship- I can’t handle it. I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m sure like the doctor said, there will be no lasting psychological impact on him but I’m not so sure about me. His cries may stem from an irrational place, but my own tears are not always well justified. I know there will be times I’ll have to let him cry like when he wants the toy, or the wire to chew on, or the car, but right now he is six-months-old, and though I know excellent parents who do this and it works- its just not going to work for me. My eyes are more defined by circles than they once were, and the tea makers are noticing a spike in sales, but I can’t handle knowing that in order for him to sleep through the night, he has to accept that no matter how hard he screams, his mother won’t come to him to make it better. This time feels enduring and all encompassing but its not- it will be over before I know it.