Column: Why I Don’t Need Another Photo of my Sleeping Baby
There is a microsecond long window when a baby falls asleep that everything is right in the world.
My personal victory today? Resisting taking a photo of that moment.
The kid is 23 months old, so I already have approximately 700 photos of him sleeping, none of which have successfully managed to evoke the heart-swell I get when his little body finally goes slack and his face relaxes into a kind of angelic softness.
I’ve hypothesized that the real reason a sleeping baby is so lovely to behold, is because, for that tiny fraction of time, you can stop worrying about what you’re doing, whether you’re stimulating their brains sufficiently, feeding them the right foods, you can stop resenting the things you’re not getting done while you’re sitting on the floor stacking a tower of blocks for them to knock over again.
For that tiny little moment in time, there’s nothing you ought to be doing for them.
When that stillness descends, everything in me relaxes, and I want to hold fast to that snag in the fabric of foreverness, before the tidal wave of all the things I need to do with this sleep time comes crashing in. So I snap a fuzzy picture. #Nap-selfie.
Reaching for the camera in my pocket has become a twitch. It’s my default weapon against time’s slipperiness. I need to stop.
Every Sunday on the Wellness Almanac, one of four local photographers shares an image from the ‘hood. For Gary Martin, Dave Steers, Polek Rybczynski and Ruben Guibert, photography is an act of mindfulness or creative expression, community building, a way to pay deeper attention, or a kind of witness, and I look forward to their submissions every week and to tracking the seasons through their lenses.
I’m grateful for that kind of photography. For people who share their perspective on the world, for the documentarians and the instagrammers. I’m grateful for technology, the ease with which we can make a photographic record, and share it with whomever, whenever, instantaneously.
I love that even we non-professionals can use these images as a shorthand, to communicate with each other, or as a daily log, as Bettina Falloon did for her 50 Day Wellness Challenge.
Falloon wrote about her challenge, to ensure every day got a dose of “mindful brain goodness,” on the blog this week. “My challenge was also to include a photograph of what that goodness may be or mean to me in that moment,” Falloon explained. Since the Wellness Challenge ended, she’s missed the daily practice of noticing, of calling something out.
But last week, I stood in the snow in my sock feet, snapping photos of a dawn sky that was leaking pink across the mountains.
It was beautiful the way the rose sky bounced its colour off the snow. I ran outside, undressed, to capture it, knowing how fleeting an alpine sunrise is. I didn’t just want to notice it. I wanted it to be mine, forever.
But instead of feeling the loss of the Incessantly Vanishing, and leaning into it, breathing through it, standing and soaking it up with all my senses, I pulled my weapon as my kid looked on quizzically, and I took a mediocre picture. It cut the moment short, even as I was trying to do the opposite.
So today, when the kid fell asleep, I resisted the urge to freeze-frame the moment, and just sat for a minute, trying to breathe it in, not with a device, but with my eyes and nose and ears. I tried to hold the exquisite ache of that slip-away moment in my hands, and then I walked out of the room and let it go.