I don’t mean this to be flip, in light of the sleep issues that others out there are facing – the Magpie is such a good little critter whose sleeping and napping is only messed up by her mother taking her swimming or to music class. Or the dog barking at phantom burglars.
While there have been several, there is one big change that I’ve had to make since the Magpie has been born. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’m not sure that I’ve mastered it yet, but I have started to learn to control my face.
I would not make a good politician, I would definitely not make a good poker player. A co-worker has even compared me to Untalkative Bunny. And yet, since the birth of the Magpie and our collective need for sleep, I have been forced to master a new skill: feigning the Sleep of the Dead.
I am now able to lie, coma like, for untold minutes, next to a baby who can chortle, chatter and whine, whack my forehead with her soother, give the nastiest nipple twists, poke my eye and leave bleeding scratches down the length of my nose. And I don’t even twitch an eyebrow.
I’m going with the theory that babies learn by imitating and, damn it, if she’s going to learn to nap, it will have been by imitating her mother.
It’s a matter of utter jelli-fying. Relax the jaw. No, really relaaaax the jaw. Let go of the eyes – the crinkling in the corners, the frown between the brows, the too-many-nursery-rhymes-twitch of the lid. Undo that knot at the back of the neck. Do not itch your nose. Do not crack and eyelid to see if she’s looking at you: she may not be, but the moment you look, she’ll see you. Breath slow. In. Out. In. Out. No sighing. No yawning. Do not itch your nose.
Once it gets quiet, wait.
Then wait a little longer.
Then, and only then, can you slowly, barely open one eye – preferably the good one – to see if she’s sleeping. Do not focus right away – it’s a sign of consciousness that she is somehow able to pick up on – and cautiously rotate your eyeball in its socket to point in her general direction. If there is no acknowledgment, you may begin to focus. If you’re lucky, she’s dozing, with her soother hanging out of her mouth and her hand relaxed on the bed sheet beside her. If not, begin again.
This process, or parts of it may have to be repeated several times before a state of real napping is achieved, but it’s well worth it. That doesn’t mean you can move, though. The Sleep of the Dead is just that: you may either now fall asleep with her or covertly stare at the ceiling. What, you want to move? Ha, fool! That’s a whole other skill that I’ve yet to fully master: The Vanishing Parent.