Dear Neighbor| January 10, 2023
I closed my eyes and pictured the bassinet next to my bed and that the crying infant was my baby
I have no idea who you are.
Living in a large apartment building with paper-thin walls and multiple open windows, it’s impossible to tell which sound is coming out of which window, so to me you’re just one of the many faces I meet in the elevator.
The first time your newborn’s cries woke me up, I raised the volume of my noisemaker and fell back asleep. The next night I grumbled as I tried some other slumber attempts. It didn’t take long for me to realize that your little one was here to stay and that I had to learn to live with his midnight wailing.
It happened one night after we had failed a treatment cycle and silently went to bed to face our nightmares and shattered dreams.
And then your baby started crying.
My first instinct was to cry along with him. The darkness of night, the darkness of our situation, harmonized by a piercing cry, was the perfect setting for our bitter tears.
But instead, I closed my eyes and pictured the bassinet next to my bed and that the crying infant was my baby. I visualized myself rocking him to sleep while gently stroking his soft cheeks. My imagination allowed me to smell his newborn scent, and I found myself smiling as I inhaled the pure innocence of your child, who was now mine. My eyes remained shut as your little one fell asleep, so I could pretend that I gave my prince a soft kiss and wished him a peaceful sleep.
And this started my nightly charade. Throughout the ups and downs of our journey to parenthood, this midnight game kept me going. For in my mind’s eye, for these precious moments, I was a mother.
What were your thoughts, anonymous neighbor, as you rocked your screeching infant? Were you frustrated with his relentless cries and at your futile attempts to catch some much-needed sleep? Did you try hushing him, begging him to keep quiet because the neighbors will hear you and complain that you don’t let them sleep? Were you overwhelmed by his colic and anxious about the annoyed neighbors listening in?
Would it have been easier had you known that your baby’s cries were giving hope and temporary comfort to your lonely neighbor? Would you have appreciated motherhood more had you seen how much others yearned to awaken for their child’s cries? Perhaps you wouldn’t have hushed him had you known his cries were allowing me to dream.
Oh, I wasn’t always so gracious about it. Sometimes, especially after a difficult letdown, his cries would annoy me. ‘‘If I can’t have kids, at least let me sleep through the night!’’ ‘‘This woman should learn to control her kids and not have them wake the whole neighborhood!’’ But mainly, I used the midnight shrieks to play pretend Mommy, and with closed eyes and a vivid imagination, I’d rock my child to sleep.
Thank you, dear neighbor, for giving me the tools to dream.
It’s been a while since your baby has woken me up. He must be a rambunctious toddler now, who sleeps in his own room and awakes at dawn. Perhaps you don’t even live here anymore and have moved to a bigger house, making room for a new addition to your family.
But now, as my little miracle wakes me with his midnight cries, I lovingly rock him, kiss him, and soothe him (after all, I have years of experience) and wonder if perhaps, somewhere out my window, another woman is being comforted by his tears and mothering him in her dreams.
One of Your Neighbors
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 826)
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