On a good day, the first kiddie sounds nudge my ears like pesky mosquitoes at 6:30 a.m. We agree in our house that this is a human hour, though hardly a civilized hour; civilized doesn't start until 7:00 a.m. I try to count the times the baby was up the night before, for proof that I'm too ragged to be functioning. Proof for whom? Dan still has to go to work and someone must be with the kids, wiping backsides, cleaning up spills and figuring out what to do with the next thirteen hours. I consider asking Dan to pour the coffee directly in my eyeballs.
The kids do not need to rise slowly, stretching and yawning and stumbling around. In the weak and early light Col (rhymes with soul), 3, leaps from bed and asks eagerly "this is playtime?" differentiating from the other times we grown ups decree: naptime, potty time, breakfast time, clean-up time.
I sip my luscious brew and stare at the newspaper, trying to ingest words and pictures and comic strips because this is my window. The kids are thrilled to be reunited with toys after the long, dark tunnel of night, and for a brief moment need little more than for us to flick on the lights and say "go."
It takes precisely three sips of my morning cup for me to come around. The first two swigs on my ceramic mug are like gentle pushes, nudging me towards the reality that there is another day ahead with two small anarchists. By the third gulp, I am resolved. Alert and upright, I am fully dedicated to the job ahead. The rest of the cup I drink like medicine to heal the injustices of motherhood. Col spills eight ounces of expensive organic milk on the floor; take a big sip. Rose pees through her diaper onto her pants; another big, long swallow.
I stretch that morning cup of coffee out for hours. I steal a sip between rerouting the baby out of the recycling bin and chasing down her older brother to plop his protesting self on the potty. The mug vaguely follows me around the house, becoming quickly tepid, but serving as a focal point I keep returning to, like the Buddhists, returning again and again to their breath.
The La Leche League (an organization that promotes a better understanding of breastfeeding) generously allows a lactating mother two 12 oz. cups of coffee a day with no guilt. This is brilliant. One cup in the morning to get up to 3-year-old speed, and then occasionally, like 6 times a week, one more, smaller cup for the afternoon slump.
While I nurse baby Rose down for her morning nap, I can taste the bitter tang and milky sweetness of the morning cup on my tongue. I picture my breast milk tinged with French Roast streaming into Rose's body, bathing her insides with caffeine. I flinch in a contraction of motherly guilt. Moments later, Rose's plump fingers release their grip on my skin, her breathing slows and she drops into the deep surf of sleep. I lay her in her crib and she sleeps for 2 hours. I am absolved.
When my son Col was born, 3-1/2 months before his due date, he received caffeine daily through a feeding tube. Premature babies' respiratory systems are undeveloped and they have this awful habit of forgetting to breathe. The caffeine supposedly makes these "apneas" less likely. I pumped breast milk and drank coffee like crazy during the 101 days Col was hospitalized after birth. At first I questioned the purity of my milk after tossing back mochas like they were beer and I was a frat boy warming up for the night. I then remembered Col's daily therapeutic dose of caffeine and realized the poor kid was ahead of me.
Go to the park on an early spring morning and it's like needle alley for us coffee addict moms. Everyone who's lactated in the past five years is gripping a steaming thermal mug like it's a life raft to sanity.
Perhaps it is.
Give me 12 ounces of French roast, shade-grown, fair trade, organic, dark roast and I will give you 13 hours with a smile.