I don’t spend much time watching you sleep and it is only now, looking at this picture, that I’m regretting those months of lost opportunities. When you sleep I can see the newborns that you were: Lysander, so beautiful that you could have starred in one of those advertisements on the telly, the ones where everyone wears white and nothing is stained, Balthazar, bruised from your odd position against my pelvic bone, emaciated from your dreadful first few days in the world. You looked like Dobby but we, wearing the rosy spectacles of motherhood, thought that you were charming and pitied other mothers for their perfectly average-looking babies.
You don’t sleep like this often. You sleep on your mummy, in the wrap or in her arms. We don’t even own a cot or a pram for you. It’s just not how we’ve done this thing and that’s okay – we’re all doing what is best for our babies, even if it’s different from each other.
Balthazar, when you were tiny you insisted on being kissed to sleep, hundreds of butterfly kisses planted all over your face until you succumbed. Lysander, you have never enjoyed this game but heaven forbid that you don’t have hold of your mummy all through the night. You both have an uncanny intuition as to when she might plan to gently distangle you and lay you on the bedsheets.
People are often very interested in whether or not you sleep through the night and they pull disappointed faces when we tell them that you don’t, as though you have failed to live up to their hopes or expectations of you. We don’t mind if you wake up in the night, little ones.
When you are sleeping, I want to touch you. I spend all evening trying to prise you off of me, to unravel your fingers from my hair and unwrap your koala limbs from my leg and to pull your sucker fish kisses off of my face (and wipe the resulting dribble) and then you fall asleep and all I want to do is to touch you – to stroke your hair, trace the swirling seashell of your ears, wrap finger and thumb around your limbs and marvel at how they have grown. You have never been heavy sleepers and my actions disturb you; you frown and make sucking motions with your lips as though you are dreaming of snuggles and warm milk.
Sometimes the nights feel long. Once or twice they have felt insurmountable. Mostly we like to have you with us, breathing your sweet baby breath on our necks. We speak in soft voices above your heads, we hold hands across your small bodies. Sometimes we laugh and you laugh with us, baby laugher breaking through your sleep. I think you know how much we love you.