His tiny leg bones were too small for the layer of fat hanging loosely off his thighs. When he yawned or cried, his mouth formed the perfect O shape only babies are capable of making.
Lyle Jones was a surprise, but we loved him. I distinctly remember holding him, smiling, feeling the fresh baby rush pour over me as the doctors worked to stitch up my abdomen. So my next move was a surprise. While still in recovery, I handed him off to my nanny with a container of Enfamil and said, “I’ve got things to do.”
I don’t actually have a nanny, or a baby named Lyle. This is just how the whole thing played out in the dream I had about my imaginary fifth child.
During a time when things were settling into a groove again after four kids born within four and half years of each other, five years of breastfeeding, countless nights of less than two hours of sleep, Lyle attacked my subconscious one night and left me thinking for weeks about what it meant and about what my reaction to Lyle said about me as a mother.
Writing was becoming a part of my everyday routine again, fueled by the abundance of reading I was capable of doing. Now that the youngest were two-years-old and not nursing on me while they slept, naptimes were space for me to dig out a creative cave and hide while the older two had their limited screen time.
Abandoning common wisdom on rest, I also stayed up later than advisable and survived the next day on five hours of sleep and the invigorating feeling that in those dark quiet hours of night I had created something, made a mark even if I was the only one seeing it. And Lyle, well, he was obviously a threat. A cute one, sure, but a threat.
In his tiny swaddled form I saw exile to the recliner for non-stop nursing sessions, carving out time to shower daily instead of write, the idea of doing anything creative so far out of reach that I couldn’t even imagine it.
I saw the endless needing that led to me binging on Netflix while he slept on my chest instead of reading because an overhead light would wake him, though the high-pitched voice of Lauren Graham as Lorelei on Gilmore Girls didn’t bother him at all. I saw naptimes we planned our whole days around, brain fuzz that kept me from holding onto coherent thoughts should I actually have any.
In vivid flashes I caught me telling my husband, “I’m not a writer anymore” and when he sympathetically asked why I rolled my eyes and said, “Because I don’t write.”
In essence, I saw the breakdown of the systems I was just now establishing, the ones I was guarding because they allowed me a place to exercise creativity for my own sake and sanity. And I saw Lyle as the primary problem.
But in an epic climactic twist, my dream changed direction. For some reason, I felt the need to check on the nanny. I took my Lyle from her arms and saw his face, recognizing me and reaching inevitably for my hair.
I breathed in and then allowed Lyle to nurse, his tiny head lulling side to side until I remembered to use my other hand to steady him. And the feeling, that feeling I’ve never gotten from anything other than being near my children, came over me, overwhelming even in the dream. I surrendered, and I knew completely for the first time what I was giving up.
So I fired the nanny, obviously, and the dream ended there. In the morning I woke up knowing that if Lyle ever showed up, everything would change and I would embrace that, same as I did the first four times.
And one day when Lyle was older, when his complete dependency on me started to wane, I would write again, a little at first, more as we left the land of breastfeeding, diapers, and all night scream sessions.
He would give me his life every day, and I would give him back what I hoped he would see as a gift: my words, not tied up neatly with a bow but real and raw, scrawled on Post-It notes, and construction paper, love poems written about a love more all-consuming and demanding than any I’ve ever known.
He would make the writing I felt the need to temporarily sacrifice for the sake of survival richer and more alive, my relationship with him and my relationship with words now symbiotic, feeding and being fed from each other.
Kristy Ramirez is an aspiring writer who juggles words with raising four kids, ages 2-6. She lives in Texas where she blogs about her family’s adventures at livesinprogressnow.blogspot.com. Her goals are to finish the novel she has been working on for five years and to love people better every day. You can follow her on Twitter at Kristy Ramirez@k79mt1.