Alejandro was staring at the door at 9 pm.
I just got back from a long day and a vibrant discussion and dinner at SoHo with some colleagues who I hadn’t seen in months. When I got to my floor in my apartment building, I tiptoed from the elevator to my door, turning the key slowly so as not to wake the baby. As the door creaked open, I noticed his eyes honed in on me. Luz had been trying to put him to sleep for the better part of the afternoon, but with little success. Her magic usually works on the little cherub, but tonight felt different.
He stopped, turned around to meet my eyes, and smiled, all gums.
I offered to pick him up and say hello. I had missed him so much, and often as I do. In the midst of my joy, I realize just how privileged I am to have this child as my child.
“Hi, Alé. Hi, Alé. Hi, Alé.”
He wiggles to and fro until he finds a nice spot to land on my wool sweater. After rocking him a bit, he burps. Nothing from the norm, except that now my sweater was covered in baby rice and formula. No way this goes on Instagram. Luz changes him, and I change out of everything. He pounds on his mouth because the teething process annoys him so. I try to rock him to no avail. He finally calms down after playing with his teething ring and a bit of Baby Orajel. He yawns and puts his arms up like his mother is wont to do. I yawn even more than he does. His eyes bulge. I smile. He drags his eyes. I pick him up.
He fights sleep. Luz says it’s because he doesn’t want to miss out on the party. I assure both of them I never got an invitation to said party. He rubs my newly-shortened goatee. I tuck his arms into my cradle motion. He follows one of the hallway lights. I turn it off. He then follows the green light on our smoke detector. I spin him around some. He fusses. I tap his back as if to burp him. He burps loudly. I smell a hint of pungent formula pass my nose. He yawns some more. I keep rocking. He wavers in his commitment to stay awake. I keep rocking. He’s almost there. I keep rocking.
I keep rocking. Then, I shushed in rhythm.
Blink. Shush. Blink blink. Shush. Blink blink blink. Shush. Big blink. Shush. Eyes barely open. Shush. Eyes open to a slit. Shush. Eyes close. Thank God.
I swiftly put him to sleep and turn on the giraffe, our shushing machine du jour. I pat his back a few times. He wiggles some. I pat his back some more. He wiggles some more. I shush him again. He squeaks. I shush and pat in successive patterns. He grunts, squeaks, and wiggles. I pick him up and almost tell him a few choice words before I calm myself down.
He scrunches his face, making rubbing motions with his eyes. I rock him for another minute. He feels ready. I set him down. He gets adjusted. I almost said, “Not again.” He settles in with left arm in a right angle and his right outstretched, like a horizontal Heisman trophy. I step out quietly.
“Jose, he’s been looking at the door all afternoon. I think he was missing you.”
“Yeah. At one point, he looked at the door, got really sad, and napped that way.”
I went back to the room to get ready for my bed. He turns his head slightly. I whisper, “You’re so small. I know you need us. I will always be there for you. You are loved.”
Jose, who will just keep loving …