29 November 2009

The penultimate post of November, oooh

Photograph by Julieta Sans

A few years ago, I was at the National Portrait Gallery to see an exhibition of photographs that were nominated for the Photographic Portrait Prize. I can’t remember the image that actually won, but one photograph that still sticks out in my mind was of two lean, twenty-something brunettes in American Apparel-type clothing, entwined in a hammock, asleep. I think it was titled “New Parents Resting,” which basically says it all.

At the time, I had no inkling that I would soon be a mother, but the image did give me some pretty inaccurate ideas about what it was like to be a new parent. For instance: the napping. That pretty much never happens. Those kids were probably surrounded by both sets of parents, siblings and thirty of their closest friends (one of whom, it seems, had a pretty good eye and a half-decent camera) in order to steal a much needed half hour. Even if four devoted grandparents were in the midst of a rock paper scissors war to determine who got to hold that little bundle of joy next, at some point in the visit, the baby would have needed its mother, loudly.

That comes much sooner and much more often than you’d think.

So yeah, images. I guess the thing about images is that they tend to mean more than they actually convey. Although you can tell a lot about a person from their dress, carriage, environment, etc., you do not know if that person only bought an outfit for the camera, if they spend the bulk of their time trying not to touch their significant other unless someone is around to witness the lie, or even if they emerged from their cardboard box for a day to visit a long-lost great Aunt at her holiday home in Spain.

You can’t trick people for very long with words, however lively and well-crafted, but you can certainly trick people with an image. An image speaks louder than words because it only has one thing to say, and usually it’s none too subtle about the point it’s trying to make.

Ugh, I don’t know if this is right, but it seems right at the moment. I’m certainly not young enough or well-enough-connected in this city to have on-hand caregivers who want nothing more than to occupy Hartley while someone takes flattering portraits of me while I sleep in gym shorts and thigh-high athletic socks. Would that I were.

Luckily Bruce and I have, after ten months, managed to work out a systematic routine that allows us all to eat and live in relative comfort and hygiene. Hartley is still waking up several times a night, and that probably won’t change until he’s no longer breastfed. We were going to leave him with my sister-in-law last night, as a kind of experiment that would allow us to have eight or nine solid hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m glad we sussed that it was a bad idea, as this morning, about an hour after I fed Hartley to sleep for the fifth time, he woke up screaming. It was a scream that turned into the most despairing, hitching sobs I’ve ever heard him make. He would not latch on to comfort himself and he cried with such hopelessness that I was frightened he was in some sort of pain. After a while he did calm down and I realised he must have had a nightmare. I don’t think he’s ever had one before. Usually his cries indicate frustration at being awake, and an insistence that I help him get back to sleep.

Anyway, we’re all fine, but I’m exhausted and need to try falling asleep a bit earlier tonight. Usually I put it off because - subconsciously - I realise that the moment I do, Hartley will wake up crying and demanding that I put him to sleep again. It’s fairly irrational, because the longer I put this off, the less sleep I get. But sometimes you’ve just got to play Bejeweled.


Unknown said...

Hi, Friday. Miss you on dl still. This post made me laugh.

Friday said...

I'm still there. Message me for a password. x