Tuesday, September 24, 2013

If, for no other reason...

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.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The thick of it

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.