In the first decade of our marriage, my journalist husband traveled a lot. Sometimes he was gone for weeks at a time and usually for enviable reasons like Olympic games and Wimbledon matches. I used those long absences to do things I didn't do when he was home -- like eat cereal for dinner and spend Friday nights after work in the Y hot tub.
And while the missing him could get bad, I mostly enjoyed the freedom, reading late into the night and hogging the bed.
My husband rarely travels for work anymore, a blessed fact considering we have a 5-year-old who badly misses her father when he is gone. This week though, Daddy hasn't been home for a few days. The only benefit Maria sees in this is that she gets to sleep in the big bed with me.
"Whenever Daddy is not here, I get to sleep with you, right?'' she said when he left.
There is no option to say no.
Maria slept in our room, or in our bed, or on me, until she was 9 months old. I was working downtown full-time and a zombie. It was life-changing to sleep more than four hours at a time. But, every time she spends the night with me now I am reminded of just how sweet some of those sleepless nights were.
If I close my eyes, I can still feel the full weight of her body, warmly wrapped in footie pajamas, on my chest. I can remember the soothing "ta, ta, ta'' sound of patting her bottom as we both drifted off to sleep, her soft curly hair brushing my chin. In those moments, I reached nirvana.
We use a monitor, which we call the "mom-itor," to listen for her at night. I wake every time I hear her cough, toss or talk in her sleep. I long ago realized I never will sleep deeply again.
When Maria sleeps next to me now, I wake even more often. She mumbles, she moves, she uncovers herself. But, by the dim glow of the night light I get the chance several times in an 8-hour period to gaze upon my beautiful girl at rest, I say silent prayers of gratitude and I let her hog the bed.
It's nirvana anew.