It’s three a.m. and I’m at my command post: the rocking chair. I’ve got all my supplies here: the Boppy pillow, the burp cloths and blankets, the dog who has claimed the armrest as her new bed, the water bottle, and the banana I’ve been trying to eat for an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever longed for a banana so badly. If only I could release one of my hands from Noah without him crying, I would savor that banana like the best piece of chocolate cake ever made.
It has been a rough night. At some points, I find myself longing to go back to the hospital where Noah was first born. The nurses there were nothing less than magicians. When Noah woke up and cried, they magically swaddled him in a blanket and burped him and put him back to sleep like it was nothing. With the push of a button, they rushed in and soothed my baby in ways that stunned my husband and me. When I was sure that my son would never latch and we were going to have issues getting him back to his birth weight, the nurses swooped in and got him to feed within seconds. Seconds! Also, the nurse magicians had an unlimited supply of apple juice and graham crackers, which they brought to me on the regular. Even though I was in pain, Noah was sleeping. I was sleeping. Both my arms and hands were available to reach for what I needed. It was glorious.
Tonight, Noah just won’t stop crying. There are moments of hope. Like when after an explosive diaper change I was able to finally swaddle him correctly and rock him to sleep. The whole process took about an hour, and Noah was in such a deep sleep that he was snoring a little, and I thought to myself, this is IT. This is MY MOMENT! I’m going to put him in his rocker-sleeper and he is going to go down for at least two hours. And so will I. Praise God.
I couldn’t have moved more carefully or quietly to the rocker-sleeper, and yet…the crying. The scream crying. It started all over again. And then, for the grand finale, another explosive poop! Now I’d have to change him again. Which in Noah’s opinion, is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a baby. He HATES the changing table, and he expresses this to me by screaming at the top of his lungs and peeing on me when I least expect it.
Defeated, I went back to my post. I pressed Noah against my heart and burped him. I asked him to please stop crying and calmly explained to him that with the exception of Trump, there was nothing to be that upset about. I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over again. I switched to Mary Had a Little Lamb. His crying persisted, and I thought, I just can’t do this. It’s too hard. Wayyyy too hard.
It was at that moment that Bella jumped off her new armrest/bed and went into the bathroom. A pile of my husband’s dress shirts lay on the ground, and she began to furiously dig at them, the same way she digs in the sand at dog beach.
A smile crept across my face. Bella, what are you doing? I whispered.
She stopped her digging and looked up at me, and oh, how I wished I had my camera then.
Bella stood there panting with her tongue out and looking into my eyes. Danny’s navy blue dress shirt was draped over her head and body like a cloak. She looked ridiculously cute, and also like she was smiling. I laughed and then I cried, because that’s what you do when you have a newborn baby. You flip flop between joy and despair, elation and desperation…within minutes. Sometimes seconds.
Bella walked over to me, still wearing Danny’s dress shirt, and I looked down at her and said, “Do you know how much I love you?”
Then I looked at my crying son and said, “Do you know how much I love you?”
He was still crying, but something in my chest calmed and I felt like I could breathe again. I looked closer at my baby, noticing his rosy cheeks and milk-stained lips. How his face pinched together the same way my face does when I cry. How soft his skin is, how fine the hair on his head, how achingly beautiful the sounds are that he makes in his sleep. How sometimes he smiles in his sleep (because he is either passing gas or dreaming of milk, I’m sure).
Bella climbed back up onto the rocking chair with us and I thanked her for doing what she’s done over the past six years:
Helping her mama to live where it counts—not in my head—but in this messy, exhausting, ever-changing, ever-beautiful life.