I realize it, luckily, while already on the way home. MY BABY. I have left my baby. The rest of the ride or walk or horseback, or whatever floaty and time-stretching transportation I’ve taken, is utter agony because all I can do is not get there soon enough. I’ve left my baby alone. Then I get there and I burst into the door and see movement and a thatch of hair. He’s ok. He’s alive. I can’t hear crying. I run to him and he can’t smile yet, or at least not consistently, but he sees me and he knows me. It’s ok. I’m ok. In true dream fashion, he is also a she, and this baby is one week old, and a million weeks old. It doesn’t matter. This is my baby, and I have left my baby, but my baby is ok. It’s almost an indulgence – this deep aching and love. I hold this child to me again.
I run to him and he’s suffered, so I draw a warm and floaty bath and get right in with him – clothes and all. I hold him to me and turn his face so he sees me; knows me. It’s ok. I’m ok. In true dream fashion, he is also a she, and ageless and timeless. It doesn’t matter. This is my baby, and I have let down my baby, but my baby is ok. So I feel the indulgence – of the deep and aching love and near loss, and then acceptance of this love. Not in that final way, of having something completed, but in the beginning and final way, of a timeless and deep aching of love. It’s always been there, whether you have known it or not. And it will always be there too.
One night, Scarlet had swaddled Rider in a lightweight blanket. She asked me if it was too tight, and I thought it couldn’t possibly be too tight so I barely glanced at him. “He’s fine.” I was still upstairs and heard him cry in the most strangled sounding way. I heard Des say, “He’s making a weird noise.” So I raced downstairs, retrieved him from his baby swing, and ripped the swaddle off of him, which was up around his neck too. He maybe was/would have been fine, but you can’t ignore the feeling that something is wrong. It rises and bursts, and it’s always better to be safe and sound, than sorry. Safer and sounder. The right swaddle is a fluffy cloud world for Rider.
It soothes. A fluffy and warm swaddle, tight but not too tight, sends him floating to a fluffy, swaddled dreamworld. A dreamy dreamworld, in which I hope he doesn’t dream about cold puddles and being left in cribs for hours. And I hope that if he does, he looks up to see my face peering down in love and concern, and then calm – as if I, too, have been swaddled in the fluffy clouds of dreamworld. Then together we float and soar, all safe and sound. Safer and sounder.
After he was born and I was home, my breath would catch in all the wrong ways and places. I had just had my vitals monitored as consistently as you do as a hospital patient, and they had monitored my blood oxygen levels with that little finger thing. It had always been 99% or so. Of course I realized that the breathless feeling was part of anxiety, but that’s such a blanket word for a multitude of thoughts and symptoms and dark, timeless, and circular masses. Patterns and routines and repetitions, or lack thereof, as if I couldn’t settle on rhythmic breathing in the foggy and nightmarish peak of my achingly postpartum life. It settled, of course, and we all did.
So we hold it to our chests, while we can. The changed and changing; the rising and swirling and timeless balls of love and light and love. We settle, the dust and darkness settle below us – just out of reach – and then it swirls, and we do too. I wrote in my “Safe and Sound” post about how I used to cope with rising anxiety before and during my big photography jobs by listening to “Safe and Sound”, and by imagining the voices of everyone I think of as stronger than me.
Our children are our teachers too. Our centers. Like four-year-old Scarlet not leaving her 100-year-old great-grandmother’s side, while I had to deep breathe in a parking lot in my chaos.
The voices change over the years, or at least the reasons for the voices do. There is my mother, and my dad. There is my sister, and my children. And of course, there’s Cassidy, who is strong in ways I am sometimes weak. I have heard their voices; I hear their voices to guide me through.
Like a lighthouse in the fog, and a rocking gentleness in the waves – I pull through and am pulled through. It was only recently, though, that I heard a new voice as a light in the darkness. A familiar and strange and new voice, gentle and firm in the rippling waves. It is the voice of my great-grandmother, the voice of my grandmother, the voice of my mother, the voice of my daughter, and the voice of myself. Rocking the babies and rocking ourselves, through this timeless and swirling mass of light and hope and love. We will get through; to survive and thrive.