I don’t begrudge celebrities like Brooke Shields or Madonna their 10 million dollar homes or their personal trainers. What I covet most about their lives is the fact that they can be mothers without having to deal with what I consider to be the single most frustrating aspect of motherhood: being forced to wake a sleeping baby. I find myself in this agonizing position every day, often more than once a day. And I curse Angelina Jolie every time. I would gladly live her paparazzi-filled, have-to-buy-an-African-country-to-give-birth-in-peace life if only I didn’t have to separate a perfectly serene child D from her crib every time I have to take child A to school or pick up child C from preschool or deliver child B to piano lessons. I have long wished for a live-in nanny, not to help raise my child, but simply to listen next to her door when I have to leave the house for a few minutes. Really I don’t need a nanny at all – just a glorified baby monitor.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Nora were a heavy sleeper. Maybe she could continue her nap in the car or just take it when we got back home. But, in fact, Nora is the world’s lightest sleeper. Our sweet little Horton will wake to the sound of a microscopic Who on a piece of clover a hundred miles away (let alone the thunderous rampages of 3 older brothers down the hall outside her door). And at present, she only falls asleep one way: nursing. Then comes the delicate 12-step process of transferring her from my arms to her crib. Often she makes it to about Step 9 – where her lower half is actually in contact with her mattress while her upper half rests on my arm with me bending over her standing on my toes to keep the crib railing from crushing my ribs – but as I slowly extricate my now-tingling arm from behind her neck, she opens her beautiful blue eyes, appraises the situation (“hmmm….bedroom ceiling, wooden bars, Mom looking desperate – this smells like abandonment”) and lets out a wail that tells me no amount of head rubbing or soothing lullabies are going to get her back to sleep. Maybe in 2 or 3 hours I can try again, starting with Step 1: nursing.
You can see why it pains me terribly to have to wake her up. But I obviously can’t leave her alone in the house and I have to get Ethan to school, and my personal assistants are all busy getting things ready for the Academy Awards, so I stand over her crib, knowing full well that she needs the sleep and that I need her to sleep, but I can only postpone the inevitable for so long. I grit my teeth, curse Angelina, silence the voice of Dr. Weissbluth in my head (motto: NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY!!) and reach in to pick her up.
Maybe I cannot identify with what it’s like for that other Madonna to raise a child, but I can tell what the Madonna in Botticelli's painting is thinking. She’s thinking:
a) “Aw. Look how peaceful and sweet he is when he’s sleeping”
b) “Please stay asleep. Please oh please oh please.”
c) “How on earth am I going to get through Step 10 – freeing the hem of my dress from under the baby’s bottom – without waking him up???”