3:41 am: Charlie hooked in the crook of my left arm, nursing. Gently he waves his small hand across my chest, flicks at the straps of my tank and his eyes flutter shut. Sleep, sleep baby is my prayer. A hushed plea in the night, although, thankfully, I don’t make the plea as often as I did when he was a newborn. At five months old, he’s sleeping longer stretches at night, but there’s still the quiet dark hours of a night when the two of us are up, and while he rests in one arm, I’ve got my iPad in my other hand.
During these early hours, my mind races while child nurses. I remember: I forgot to rinse Charlie’s hair when I gave him his bath last night! I worry: how do we generate more revenue at the brewery? Then, swipe and the screen is illuminated. I settle for a few paragraphs on my Kindle app. I used to loathe, and even wrote a blog disparaging e-books, but now I find it a great way to read in the dark, one handed. No matter what, I’m still a book addict. Even though my ability to concentrate is slightly diminished, what with sleep deprivation and all, the few paragraphs of a novel read during nursing sessions is enough to satisfy. When Charlie’s not in my arms, I’m holding onto a real book. Just so you know. Not only do I suffer the smartphone guilt but also real book vs. e-book guilt.
There’s the entire Internet at my disposal at 3:43 am. I’m a news junkie. So I read, skim, and try not to gasp or groan lest I startle the baby as I sort through the latest dismal political headlines. And of course, there’s the distraction of social media and Facebook: making those wee small hours not so lonely. Certainly the Internet offers rubbish and I’ve tempered my urge to seek out answers about babies and mothering on Google. Oh and if you’re curious what sort of images pop up when you type into the search bar: “diaper rash”take my word word for it, don’t.
Work emails are responded to, deftly typed with one hand and surprisingly with very few typos. “Up again with Charlie?” is the typical reply from an employee. I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble with Amazon. All too easy to shop, fueled by exhaustion. But we needed this baby thingy at 4:21am! Plus this new novel looks great. Oh, and maybe this. Or that. None of his sleepers fit. Time to reorder! Look at all that I’m accomplishing, feeding my baby and making the most of my digital New York Times subscription. Also, the dimmed glow from the screen ensures I don’t pass out with Charlie in my arms.
Then, there’s the lifeline text from other moms who are also awake at this hour. One friend writes 3am haikus and I marvel in her cleverness. Mine are typically filled with “blah” or “ugh” or “sigh.” In this new land, where I at once feel whole and yet also frazzled, doubtful, the friendship developed via text has become to me a symbol of our new tribe. Sleep schedules are traded, small victories celebrated, and of course the hilarity of new motherhood adventures, like having your son spit up directly into your mouth (true and disgusting story) transmit across devices, offering up a connection that might not be as quickly formed, or shared without the convenience of wifi.
We can’t always have these audible conversations (don’t wake the baby! or the snoring husband!) and while everyone bemoans smartphones and modern technology, and how it disconnects us from each other, I’ve found a way to connect, to form a bond with the moms around me. And you know what? When it’s not 4:47am we get together, in real life, too. We stroll with our babies, and we make it through another day, knowing those wee small hours of the morning will rise again. And perhaps, we’ll click “Like.”