What an interesting day. Anyone who reads the blog knows my daughter isn't the greatest sleeper. But that's really my only challenge with her. At least, not until today.
Baby girl is usually so happy. She rarely fusses or cries, and when she does, it's for good reason. But today has been different. From the moment she woke up she's not been the girl I know. For one thing, she's screeching at her daddy and me. I could be down on the floor playing with her, holding her, after having just changed her and fed her, and she's screeching at me. Frustratedly. As if I'm not doing ANYTHING right. As if I haven't paid attention to her in hours. What gives, baby?
This time I didn't run to the internet for answers because I already know what internet would say. Growth spurt, teething, developmental changes, etcetera, blah-yadda, blah-cetera. So yes, it probably is one of those things, or more. No one can know for sure. All I know for sure is she's acting like she hasn't had a nap in weeks, when she had a good one only an hour ago, and her life is half an Elizabethan tragedy, half a Sartre-esque hell.
At first, I resisted being kind toward this behavior. Maybe I'm giving her too much attention, and now she's demanding it? Now, if we're all in the same room, all eyes/hands must be on her, or else? Oh, I don't think so, little miss. You calm yourself down this minute. But then things went from bad to worse, as they often do.
By the time I'd carried her into the bedroom for a story before her nap (earlier than I normally would,) she couldn't even sit with me on the bed. I tried nursing again. No, mom! Gosh! Throw in the towel, this girl is done. There was something distinctive in the way that she was crying that made me soften. She was obviously ticked, but it was more than that. Let me see if I can put it in words: "Mama, this sucks. I hate how I feel right now. Nothing is fun. Nothing tastes good. Nothing feels right. And I don't want to do this today." It was this sad little face, her sweet mouth turned in a frown, her torso twisting and bending in my arms, capped with a head collapsing into my chest, that changed my heart. I know exactly how this little girl feels. I've had days like this, too. Nothing helps. Nothing makes it better. I know, Little, I know.
I turned on the fake rain (from our noise machine) and drew the curtains. She cried harder. I grabbed Bear, and the three of us commiserated for a few minutes in my arms. I put Bear down, and she cried harder. Right shoulder? No good. Left shoulder? Nope. Cradled sideways? Well....not great, but I can work with this position. Over and over we tried to find a good spot to snuggle and rock in. And then I did the only other thing I could think of. I started to sing.
"Whenever I hear the song of a bird, or look at the blue, blue sky...."
There are moments in motherhood, I'm finding, that are startlingly sacred.
"Whenever I feel the rain on my face, or the wind as it rushes by...."
Now I've got her attention. The fussing slows. And something warm is washing over us both.
"Whenever I touch a velvet rose, or walk by a lilac tree..."
And then I sang higher,
"I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me."
She went all quiet. I think it was the high note that gave her pause. I sang the second verse.
I'm hardly ever happy with the sound of my voice. There's hardly ever a time when I think, wow, that sounded pretty good. But when I sang to baby today, I marveled. My voice was brilliant. It was clear and pure. The intonation was effortless, the phrasing, the breathing, it was perfect. This was not my voice. It was my voice, and it wasn't. It was my voice after I die, the voice I'll sing with when I'm in heaven. Not my voice here. Not my mortal voice with mistakes in it. I was so thrilled with how I sounded, I sang some more.
"Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you. Away, you rolling river...."
Baby girl stayed quiet, her eyes open, looking weary and distant. But she was listening. I sang my heart out to her. I sang as if I knew my voice was healing her pain, her discomfort, whatever it was that was making her sad. I sang like I was on stage at Symphony Hall in front of thousands of people. I filled my voice with as much love as a song can hold. And then she closed her eyes. Her breath was rhythmic. I pulled her close to me, and we swayed in silence, my head resting on hers.
It was at this point when I realized I was standing on holy ground. Here at the Marriott Residence Inn in Charlottesville. There were angels standing in a circle around me and my girl. And all of us swayed together in the quiet, with the fake rain to soothe our minds. And I praised God for the beautiful girl I held in my arms. I never, ever, ever wanted it to end. I hope she feels better. I hope she will someday know how loved she is. I hope she knows that bad days eventually pass, but until they do, singing helps. And I know for sure, now, that if God gave me a voice for no other reason than for this day, and that experience, it was reason enough.
subject to change
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
What an interesting day. Anyone who reads the blog knows my daughter isn't the greatest sleeper. But that's really my only challenge with her. At least, not until today.
Posted by Mary at 11:33 AM
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The thick of it: a few days ago, I broke out into a heat rash. I'm stressed and, apparently, I'm hot. Baby got up eight times last night. My back is in knots. My knees ache. I'm dropping things and forgetting things and I'm tired, tired, tired.
The counter-measures: I've been given an added portion of so many traits I do not innately possess. Traits like patience, endurance, optimism, self-reliance. I have my days, weak moments. But for the most part, I'm happy. I can see the blessings. I can see what a marvelous gift Summer 2013 is to our family. It's such a short time, but it's changing all of us, undoubtedly for the long haul.
The dividends: Scott's working harder than he ever has, and he's soaring. He may not think he is, but he is. He's more articulate, more mature, more responsible, more of a man (and dare I say more svelte) than ever before. He stays on top of his responsibilities and obligations on a whole new level. And I know he's doing it for me and for his little girl. How exhausted he is when he comes home every evening is evidence of his love for us, and it is a powerful motivator. It makes me want to take care of everything else (laundry, meals, bills, a clean home, a positive mood) so he knows how much I love him. Marriage boot camp cloaked in the guise of JAG training? I think so. We are better people for this; at last, it is so clear to me we needed this growth.
The milestones: Baby is waving to people now. She can get herself to a hands-and-knees position, and she can almost pull herself up to standing, all on her own. She's grown four teeth and can make a motor-boat sound like a pro. Yes, she sometimes likes to shriek a little when I'm not giving her something she wants. Whenever I wipe her face off after mealtime, you'd think there was skin-eating acid on the washcloth. But she brightens our world with her deep blue eyes and her sweet laugh. She waves nigh-night to Dada from the bedroom doors now. And she makes her parents weep for joy at every new accomplishment.
I think I write these things down here because this is where I stand on top of the peak and survey the land. Once in a while, we need to take a moment and hike up to higher ground for a better grasp of where we are and what's really going on. Baby is babbling in her crib - - nap time is over. That's okay. I'm ready to come back down the mountain and go back to work.
Posted by Mary at 7:50 AM
Friday, August 23, 2013
Scott and I are 60% sure baby said her first word this past month: "Dada." We're more than halfway convinced she understands what it means when she says it. But there's more than enough room for doubt on that. She babbles a lot of syllables these days. Granted, every time he walks through the door, I point and say "DADA!" as obviously as anyone could. So even if she doesn't say the word, I'm pretty sure she understands the word "Dada."
Why am I saying all of this?
Two nights ago, at 5:13 a.m., out of a stone silence, a little voice from the crib cried, "Dada! Dada!" Scott rolled over and mumbled a response, barely conscious. A second later, he bolted straight up and looked at the alarm clock. Army physical training started at 05:50, and he'd forgotten to set an alarm. "What time were you going to set it for?" "5:15," he said.
I don't know if any of you have ever been late for Army PT, but I'd advise against it. Little girl had her daddy's back that morning. We still don't know for sure if this is her first word, because she hasn't said it since. But we do know, with even greater gratitude than before, that she is our miracle.
Posted by Mary at 9:55 AM
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Scott and I have never made one of those "five famous people" lists. I'm not sure what the name actually is. You know, the sanctioned five celebrities you're allowed to cheat on your partner with list? He and I discussed this recently, around the time Kate Middleton gave birth.
Me: Did you hear she didn't use any pain medication? She practiced hypnobirthing.
Him: I like her. She is so cool.*
Me: I know! I do, too.
Him: In fact, if I were to have a 'five people' list...
Me: No, I get it. Totally.
Him: Except...I don't want it to be my 'five people I get to sleep with' list.
Him: I want it to be my 'five people I get to hang out with list.' Or maybe even 'five people I get to go on a date with' list.
Him: Like, 'Princess, you're really great and all, and I'd love to do some windsurfing, maybe kick a soccer ball around. But, you know, let's keep it above the waist, 'cause we're married to other people, and that's not cool.'
Me: Very sweet, dear.
*While Scott and I both are deeply impressed at Princess Kate's choice to have a natural birth, we also think people who choose to have babies with the help of pain medication are equally as rad. In fact, if you've had a baby in any way, shape, or form, you're in the rad club.
Posted by Mary at 11:47 AM
Monday, August 19, 2013
I'm feeling pffffft. I haven't yet gone on any grand adventures with the girl. I had these ambitious notions of getting a bus pass, visiting the library, seeing the sites, etc. But my motivation has taken a dive. Baby's upper tooth is giving her grief. Also, she's growing like a weed. As in, fast. For every minute she is conscious she is collecting data on how to be a human being. She's taking in her surroundings, with eyes and arms as wide as a mile, with such ferocity, it's so, so, so difficult to turn it off, even when her poor, weary eyes are begging for a break. And even when she does close her eyes, behind those sweet little lids, she's practicing what she collected that day. She goes over and over it in her mind, trying to master the concept, whatever it might be. Like a bride the night before her wedding, or Christmas Eve for a ten year-old, life is at maximum volume. So just how does a baby come down from that? It's simple: she doesn't.
These are the things I try to tell myself in the light of day, when my body and head ache so much I want to cry at anything. She's trying, I say. She has so much to learn, I say. She needs time and patience, I say. But my coffers are empty. Sometimes, some days, the well is dry. Sometimes, some days, the well has been dry for a while, and I'm still miles out from the promised land.
Yesterday I lost my cool. I hate when I do that. She couldn't sleep, so she cried instead. I pretend it doesn't bother me, as if I have to prove something to myself. Laundry to do, and I really want to eat something, I reach for the Ibuprofen, I burn my fingers on the microwaved leftovers. Storm. Slam. Walk out. Sit and stew on the step. Forgot the key back into the room. Figures. Walk back with my head low. Stupid antics. I knock and husband answers. I hate when I lose it in front of him. It's not that he judges. He worries. I'm trying to hold my own here. I just need sleep. And clean laundry and a full stomach. Then I notice it. The room is quiet. "Is she asleep?' I ask wide-eyed. He nods, yes. And then we hug. A little down time, a little food, and a phone call to the Virginia Academy of Massage for an appointment next weekend. The vessel is not full, I'd say, but it's definitely enough.
So I rally. I stick to the routine, I stay the course, and I remain the constant in her expanding, high-speed world. She'll find her balance again. Sleep is something she had learned before, but she lost the file when making room for all this new stuff. Please, baby girl, find it again soon, it's in there somewhere. Mama wants to take you to the library and see the sites. But clearly, you have enough on your plate as it is.
Posted by Mary at 11:53 AM
Friday, August 9, 2013
After baby woke up for the third time at 4 a.m. this morning, my husband rolled over and curled his arm around my waist. "It won't be like this forever, honey."
It was a terribly warm night. I underestimated the a/c setting, and all of us were suffering for it. God bless her, baby was trying her hardest to bear it without my help. Her port-a-crib is next to my head, so I hardly ever miss a move or noise. She flopped and kicked and sighed and pivoted and yawned and stroked the sides of her crib until 4 a.m. when, doggone it, this was ridiculous. She let out a piteous cry of desperation, and I didn't hesitate to grab her.
"My baby," I whispered, "what a rotten night, huh?" She let out a noise which almost sounded like a heartfelt "Amen." Both Dada and I snickered. I'd started out the bedtime ritual with the wrong energy, combine that with hot sheets and stale air, and you've got a night of misery.
Holding a child in your arms is an intimate thing. I don't always realize it, because I do it for so many hours a day. But it's close, it's personal. Therefore, if I'm anxious and rushing through the process, why should I be surprised if she absorbs that? Such was my story last night. I was bouncing and deep-squatting this girl in the exact same way I do every night, or so I thought. But it was rote. It was auto-pilot. My mind was racing, my thoughts were anywhere but with her, with us. I wanted her to hurry up and sleep so I could go to the bathroom, so I could brush my teeth, so Dada could sleep, so I could sleep, finally, just lie down and put this day behind me. It wasn't happening. I quickened my pace, I walked more, I talked more, I sang louder. It wasn't happening. I got so flustered, I set her down on the bed and walked away. "I just need a minute," I told them both. I felt selfish. I felt out of control.
Three deep breaths. Okay, three more. Wait a minute. What was I just doing? And how exactly is that supposed to put her to sleep?
Change my tune. Relax the space between my eyes. Just hold her, and let her find the resting spot. I've got nowhere to be tomorrow. And Scott will be okay. Just hold her, and let her feel from me the peace and rest I want for her. Because nothing is more important than this. How can I teach her how to embrace sleep if this bouncy, frantic pair of arms are the vehicle? Even if it takes all night. Teaching her to be calm starts with me.
I went back in and took her in my arms. Dada had been cradling her next to him in bed, talking softly to her until I was ready to come back. His energy was spot on. I held her close and focused on my breathing. She was out in five minutes.
It's true what they say: they teach you far more than what you teach them. I'm learning that to have a child is to have a mirror held up to who you are - 24/7. You see where you come up short. You see what you need to work on. The lessons she needs are the lessons I still need, just maybe on a different level. The lessons she teaches cut to the very center of me, and it hurts sometimes. But what a difference she's made. I do things now I never could before. I didn't know I wanted more patience, more peace, more selflessness. But she knew I could be better. She came to love me so preciously, and to teach me, just as much as I wanted someone I could love and raise up to be a person of light. And together we work to build each other into Goddesses, with a capital G. Wringing out all those nasty hang-ups, hiding in the crevices. Calling me out, demanding and expecting a better me to mother her. What do I do for her? Give her food, a fresh diaper, and a safe place to explore. I give her the very best I can do, which, some days, is not much at all. And love. I give her all my love. That seems to be all she needs, and there she goes, changing the world already.
I know someday, not far from now, when this phase we're in, this "sleep trouble" thing, is long gone, she won't be around to hold, to suffer through hot nights with, to teach me about me. It really won't be like this forever. Part of that's okay, and part of that makes me sad. From this vantage point, I am more determined to breathe in every moment of it. Change my tune, relax the space between eyes, and just hold her.
Posted by Mary at 7:38 AM
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I must say this phrase at least 20 times a day and 30 times a night. My little girl thinks sleep is elective, and has since she was born. She doesn't yet understand the concept I'm still and forever trying to insist upon, which is that sleep is a general educational requirement, and she must pass or she can't graduate. She must pass, or the professor (me) might croak mid-lecture. Mid-sentence. "It's time for rest, Lllll..." (clunk.) My girl is a lightning bolt. She likes to surprise us with her monster sounds and skin-ripping face grabs. But there are many moments in her day when I catch her somberly taking in a piece of the world that's new. One morning, we were standing by the window, winding down before her nap. We were watching the trees bend in the wind. In whispers, I told her about summer breezes and what they do to leaves on trees. Once again, she surprised me, but in a different way. This time, she placed her small, puffy hand on my face and cooed. As I turned to face her, she looked right through me, then stared at my mouth and whispered little sounds back to me. She'd discovered the power of a whisper, and it was electric. My girl is a lightning bolt. Today, I'm looking up the bus schedule. I'm going to plan an adventure for us. We've made friends with all the hotel staff, the CVS clerk, and many others in our area. Now it's time to expand our horizons. I told Scott the other day how my job can be tricky in many ways. One in particular: sometimes I feel it's my obligation to share this baby with the world, because the world really needs her. A person simply passes us on the street, and a smile transforms their countenance, just from walking by this little wonder. She's put a smile on countless strangers in this town. I feel an obligation to share her sunshine, and yet my first obligation is her happiness, not the world's. I feel I need to protect her, as well. Little lights need to turn off once in a while. Little lights need their rest, and by that I don't mean sleep alone. Rest from new faces. Rest from new places. Some days need to be for just little lights, and no one else. God, grant me the wisdom to know which kind of day it is.
Posted by Mary at 9:24 AM