If I turn on the hall light outside the kids' rooms, it sheds enough light to let me stand in their rooms beside their beds and watch them sleeping. Stalker Mom (me) does this every once in a while, especially after long, hard days when I need an infusion of peace in my brain. Not to mention, cuteness.
There is something magical about watching the kids sleep. Mine look pretty much like they did when they were babies. Max has always stuck out his lower lip, Sabrina likes to keep her mouth open. She also does this sprawl, taking up most of the crib as a baby and now, her bed. She definitely inherited the bed hog gene from Dave.
I see Max doing stuff in his sleep that he doesn't do when he's wake. For one, his mouth is closed. It's often open in real life, because of weak oral-motor muscles. It's the opposite with his hands, which are often clenched during the daytime and relaxed at night. His muscles used to be fisted all the time when he was a baby. We knew that Max was at risk for cerebral palsy, and that tightness was one of the signs. When Dave and I walked around the mall with Baby Max, we'd check out the other babies' hands to see if they were clenched.
Sometimes, I'll snap photos of the kids. Always, I steal kisses. With Max, I'll sit down on the edge of his bed and hold one of his hands, marveling at how loose it feels and that it's still deliciously chubby, with dimples where knuckles should be. I'll ponder his lashes; why is it that boys always get those impossibly long, lush kind? I'll wonder what he's dreaming of—fire trucks, perhaps, or gigantic bowls of chocolate ice-cream with hot fudge. Does he speak words in his dreams that he can't yet say in real life? His breathing is slow and regular, and I always feel so grateful for that. Whatever his physical challenges may be, he sleeps deep, as kids do.
I know the kids' sleep faces all too well: For years, both of them have slept in our bed on and off. When Max was a newborn, it was for safety reasons. We were so scared he was going to have more seizures when we brought him home from NICU, and so he slept between us, with me regularly waking up and putting a hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing OK.
Dave and I felt justified keeping Max in our bed because he needed our eyes on him, as verified when he had a grand mal seizure at one and a half years old. He woke up burning hot, then a leg twitched, and then suddenly his entire body was convulsing. I've wondered what would have happened to Max if he were in his crib, alone, and we hadn't seen the seizure, although it's not a question I ever want an answer to.
Very little wakes Sabrina up. If she senses me kissing her, she just sighs and flops over. But once in a while Max will open an eye and give me a smile. I'll feel a little guilty for disturbing his sleep but, oh, that sleepy smile. He might murmur "ire-ahn" and I'll say, softly, "Yes, you're going to be a fireman when you grow up." Then I'll tuck the covers around him, kiss his cheek and slink out, Stalker Mom retreating.
Years ago, writer Ayelet Waldman stirred up controversy with an essay in which she admitted she loved her husband more than her children. I never understood that piece, because I feel a wholly different kind of love for the children than I do for Dave. It pulsates through me as I'm in their darkened rooms, a fierce, protective love that makes me yearn to always keep them as safe as they are, snug in their beds.