I am drifting in an uneasy darkness, asleep and yet on alert. A wail breaks the nighttime silence. My eyes pop open, dragging my brain into wakefulness.
Groaning, I reach for my phone. What time is it? 4:34 a.m. Only two hours since the last time I was up. Next to me, Brian groans and puts the pillow over his head. I send a sleepy glare in his direction before trudging to Tori’s room.
The warm yellow light that seemed so dim at bedtime now has me squinting as I peer into her room. She’s standing at the end of her crib, cheeks flushed with fever, eyes running with tears.
“What’s the matter, baby,” I say as I lift her sleep-heavy body into my arms.
“I sick, mommy. I sick,” she whimpers.
I shift so I can touch my hand to her forehead. The heat blazes back at me, sending little streaks of panic into my soul. She’s burning up again. When will this fever break?
“It’s okay, sunshine. You’re going to be alright. Let’s just take a little more Tylenol, okay?”
“NO! I don’t like it!”
“I know, honey. But it’ll make you feel better.”
I collapse into the worn blue recliner, snuggling her against my chest as I clumsily fill the dropper with one hand, bracing the bottle between my knees. Please work, I think to myself. I don’t want to go to the emergency room tonight.
“Okay. Open up. Remember, the faster you swallow, the faster we’ll be done…”
Still whimpering, she opens her mouth. One pump, two pumps, three pumps…Slowly, I squirt the liquid into her mouth. She swallows and coughs, choking on its sweetness.
“No, mommy, NO!” she cries as she swats the dropper away.
“Alright, alright. We’re done. You want to snuggle for a while?”
She nods and I bend down to pick up the blue afghan from the floor where I dropped it such a short time before. Then I lean back, bringing the footrest up as I tuck it in around us.
She wiggles restlessly, squirming until she finds her favorite spot. Then, head nestled on my shoulder, body sprawled across my lap, she dives down into sleep.
I look down at her and a pang hits my gut. We’ve spent so many nights like this—starting during the first weeks after we brought her home. Her face, although much bigger now, still looks like that of the infant I snuggled, especially in sleep. How much longer will it be until she loses the last of her babyness? How soon will these nights be gone forever?
I know I should take the time to appreciate it while it lasts. I know I’m going to kick myself later for not cherishing every second of snuggle time I get.
But right now? All I want to do is sleep.