Six Months, One Week, and Four Days With Zelda

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I pulled out my first gray hair today at 9:32 a.m. It wasn’t the first gray hair I’ve had, just the first one I’ve pulled out. I didn’t pull it out with a sense of purpose; it just came out with the rest of its classmates. No one tells you—well, no one told me, until I’d already noticed—that after you have a baby, all that lustrous, glorious pregnancy hair sheds quickly, replaced by your former, less exciting and less beautiful hair.

I examined this gray hair momentarily. (Time is of the essence, I only have a moment.) I deemed it not much coarser than my regular hair, and looked up at myself in the mirror. There was the wrinkle in the middle of my forehead, just like my mother’s, which appeared when I was around twenty and only shows itself when I am thinking.

Am I thinking? Is this wrinkle deeper?

I looked at myself and realized that my hair was longer now than it’s been in at least twenty years. Twenty years ago I was seventeen. I’m thirty-six. No, thirty-seven. I forgot to get a haircut for a year.

I heard the baby stir. (My moment was up.) I left the bathroom, went into her room, and was greeted by her smiling face. It was 9:36 a.m. Right on schedule.

Two and a half hours later, she was sleeping again and I needed to scan my passport. My unused passport, issued last August, when I was two months pregnant. My hair was at least six or seven inches shorter, my face a little thinner. “Wow, I do not look happy in this photo,” I thought to myself. “Are there any photos where I look happy?”

hapFive days after my passport was issued, my brother-in-law got married. There’s a photo of me with friends. I look happy. So happy. It’s only half of my face, but the unseen half was smiling too.

At 1:08 p.m. today, I turned away from my daughter for a moment. She was happily sitting, playing on her blanket. When I turned back I saw something I rarely see: her sitting up, looking away. She was rummaging through a box of toys, unable to choose one. This was unimaginable even three weeks ago. One month ago, she’d never tasted anything but milk, and now she’d eat anything I gave her (kale and lentils not included). Two months ago, she couldn’t roll over. Three months ago, she was barely awake for more than an hour at a time. Four months ago, she was Girl, Interrupted in a straightjacket sixteen hours a day. Five months ago, a worm. Six months ago, a dream and a disquiet.

I have gray hairs, long gray hairs. The longest hairs in twenty years. I don’t even know what day it is, or how old I am most of the time. Someone mentioned that I had a birthday in June today and I thought, “Yes, that did happen… I guess.” Last week, I thought it was 2013, and yesterday, that it was July. I am thirty-seven years old. I’m older than I’ve ever been.

I’m feeling younger every day.

Every one begins the same way. The sound of the baby stirring on a monitor. I ask, “What time is it?” and the answer is always the same, within a small margin of error.

7:00 a.m.

I don’t know what day or month or year it is, but I know what time it is. I don’t wear a watch, but I can estimate within five minutes or so the hour.

Zelda wakes up at 7:00 a.m. She eats every three hours. She sleeps every two in the morning, every three in the afternoon. Her naps last approximately one half hour during which I shower (morning), eat (nap two), and read Twitter (nap three). Some days now nap three doesn’t even happen. We play the rest of the day. Hours pass like they’re centuries sometimes. We have fun but it’s on a predictable plane of existence. She gets a bath at 6:30 p.m. I read to her at 7:15 p.m. She goes to sleep at 7:30 p.m.

I have a calendar which, for the first time in my life, I not only use but I have memorized. Not the date or the day or the year. Each moment.

My mother once told me that when I was little, I asked her how many sleeps there were until Christmas, and how smart she thought that was. I didn’t know the days of the week or understand the concept of the calendar, but I could count it out by the breaks in the day for sleep. This is how I live now.

At 7:30 p.m. each night, Zelda goes to bed, and doesn’t wake up for roughly eleven-and-a-half hours. She’s been doing this since she was nine weeks old (sorry, mom brag), so I can go nuts from the hours of 7:30 to 11 p.m. (If I go to bed much later, I will not be happy). I read (try to), watch TV without looking at the clock (try to). I smoke cigarettes with some guilt (I try not to) but mostly with relish.

I only check the monitor every half hour or hour now. Zelda is reliable, predictable, punctual. I miss her, so I look at the day’s photos. I occasionally think about creeping in to watch her sleep. Sometimes I do.

Every day is the same. There are no Fridays. No weekends. It is glorious and tedious at the same time.

Until this February, I couldn’t have told you what time of day it was after I woke up. Hours flew by in which I worked, worked, worked. Work that I enjoyed, but that could consume me for days or weeks. I didn’t know the time but I knew the date. I knew it was Wednesday.

Twenty years ago, when my hair was much longer, but about to be shorter, I would have laughed to think that I could ever be this reliable. This aware. This in the moment.

The next moment is predictable, but anything could happen. Any moment now, my daughter will stand up. She’ll eat kale and spit it out in horror. She’ll say “hello.” All of these things will be world events. I count my moments in Zelda time. I am always looking at the clock in my head, for the person who depends on me for life, who likes me more than it ever seemed possible someone could like me.

One day, she’ll say “hello.”

I’ll say “hello” back. And I’ll know what time it is.

It’s 8:41 p.m. Zelda is asleep. She is a hundred and eighty-four days old.

It’s Wednesday. (Josh read this and pointed out that it’s Thursday. Perfect.)

It’s 2014 and I am thirty-seven years old. Thirteen thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven days old.

Is my wrinkle deeper?

In nineteen minutes it will be 9:00 p.m. I only have a moment.




Laura June was, most recently, the features editor of The Verge.