Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

In the wee small hours of the morning
When all the world is fast asleep...
That's when I miss you most of all.

It's after midnight when I come in to check on you before going to bed. The house is completely still. You are long asleep. Your blankets are still in place where I tucked them hours earlier, covering your shoulders. Your face is relaxed and I am amazed at how small you look. I can see the baby face that is usually hidden these days by your big kid expressions. Your cheeks look fuller than during the day, your lashes long and dark against them. I feel a sudden urge to place my cheek on yours, as I did when you were a newborn--it was so soft, unlike anything I could think to compare it to. I kneel on my knees, lean in, and lay my cheek against yours. Oh! Still so soft! I can smell your baby scent again: your skin, your hair, your breath. It is masked these days, it seems, by kid sweat, dirty clothes, hair, and teeth. I forget, sometimes, that it's still there, underneath all that. You are still just a baby, although you seem so big. Nearly three years old. My hand reached up to stroke your silky baby curls. My breathing slows and quiets so that I can take yours in. I feel wetness on your cheek and realize I am crying.

I cried so many times during our first nights together, as I cradled you in my arms those years ago: from pain, from overwhelm, from frustration, from all the reasons that seem to crowd into an exhausted mind with inadequate sleep. Even after three other children, the wave of hormones and consuming fatigue still came as a shock. You cried with me, maybe from fears and confusion of your own, to relieve your own stresses of the day, of being in a new environment, of having to learn new things, of being poked and prodded and tickled and kissed and wiped and washed. As I held you, the motion of the rocking chair soothed us both, sending you back to sleep, so I could then go back to sleep. Nights eventually settled out--my hormones, your appetite--and we fell into our routine. Once a night, you would wake and call out for me and I would come to you.

With your older brother and sisters, I regretfully admit that I did not look forward to these midnight rendezvous. I just wanted to get back to sleep as quickly as possible. And did. My goal was for eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and I actively worked towards that with each one. Of course, I enjoyed the bonding and intimacy that such quiet shared moments afforded, but in the back of my mind I anticipated the future, when our nights would be quiet and still again. With everyone in his own bed, fast asleep. Although on occasion God would see fit to open my eyes to the miracle we were sharing as mother and child, a determined mind is hard to reach, and I fear I made myself unreachable much of the time.

But with you... You know at the time, I didn't know you would be my last. Didn't even suspect it. During pregnancy and your first couple of years, I just assumed there would be more babies to come. I had none of the "last child" anxiety of some moms who know they are holding their last infant, trying to carefully savor and remember each "last" experience with them. No, that was not part of my plan. I fully expected to try for more in a year or two in our usual pattern. But as I held you and nursed you and rocked you, something told me to hold on a little tighter and a little longer, to commit to memory the scent and the feel and the spirit of this angel in my arms, and as I listened and did so, my vision was expanded and I could see us as we really were. Mother and child! Few times in my life have I felt so powerfully the manifestation of God's love for His children. Of His love for you, one of His most precious and perfect creations. Of His love for me, entrusting me with you! Of His love for both of us in joining us together in this divine eternal relationship. Of the love He gave me for this tiny little person, love so intense it could not be physically contained and leaked out my eyes. I truly felt that those nights together, we stood, or rocked, on sacred ground. Many nights we just sat-- alone together while the world slept-- your feeding long finished, and I marveled in the moment, feeling so unworthy, yet so capable of being your mother and fulfilling the deepest yearnings of my soul.

How many mothers have felt this indescribable connection to their child? Many? Most? I would guess all have that would let themselves experience it. How could a feeling be so universal, yet so intimately ours?

Tonight I lay as close to you as I can, holding on so tightly to these memories that I hardly dare breathe for fear of disturbing them. My heart is so full, yet physically aching for the chance to be there again, in the quiet of your old nursery. What I would not give for one more sleepless night with you, for just one more precious hour to return to our rocking chair with you curled into my chest and my arms wrapped around your tiny body breathing in your scent and your perfection. I know this can't happen, that time must move forward and on toward other experiences. But as the years continue to distance me from the font of memories, I ask God to allow me to always keep this one. In the most protected and hallowed recesses of my heart, may He find a place for it and protect it there, that I may never forget what it felt like to hold you, my angel baby, close to my heart in the wee small hours of the morning.