My left arm has been numb at least twice today. Why? What violence occurred? I was holding my baby all day long. Couldn’t put her down. I would get her settled and put her down and moments later she would be squalling, squirming, her little fists windmilling and punching the air.
At one moment I was staring off in the distance, my left hand lying limp beneath the fifteen pound weight of her, and thinking about my other daughter. When she was little she really only cried when something was wrong. She would squall and then burp. Oh, her belly hurt. She would squall and I would feed her. Oh, she was hungry. She would squall and then fall asleep. Oh, she was tired. I stared at the door to her room, behind which she slept, and thought that her behavior had gotten so confusing now. One plus one no longer always equals two. In a true testament to sleep deprivation I never connected these thoughts to the child that lay heavy in my arms.
The little one cried during dinner. I sighed, a thick panicky sigh, and began to throw down my dinner (a two handed dinner of messy bean tacos). Scott said,
“Don’t worry, she’s fine, just eat.” I slammed the flat fingers of both hands into the table,
“It doesn’t affect you the way that it affects me!” I bark. He gets up and holds her so I can eat and then I take over, caring for her in ways that only a mother can.
There it is, this biological connection. There we are, each one of us, pockmarked in the middle of the belly, with a healed hole that once connected to us a woman. And that woman failed. And that woman succeeded. As soon as I got pregnant I began to wonder about myself in this role. How will I fail? How will I succeed? What little love gestures will my children internalize that will hit them just perfectly? A nickname that I give them? A way I touch them? A saying that I say? And what things will I do that will hurt them? A hug I don’t give? A word said wrong or quick in anger?
This entire afternoon I got lost in my daughter’s wails. Forgetting that baby’s are usually simple. Although this simplicity is not easy. My connection to her clouded rational thought. I struggled to hold her in new comforting positions with my dead arms. At four I finally nursed her, she finally took it, she passed out and did not wake up when I put her down. When Scott got home I was hunched over the computer, he asked me how my day was, upon seeing the quiver of my lips he handed me the keys and asked if I needed to leave. I went for a run.
When I came up the stairs after my run Carys, who had been asleep, was squirming and wide awake. Scott looked at me,
“She’s spit up on me about three times, thick mucusy stuff,” I nodded gravely,
“I have barf in my hair,” what can I say? It was a rough afternoon.
So there it was. That simple. She had belly trouble. Thank God for fathers. Men who can see through our fog of connection to help. Maybe I failed, sometimes I think that we don't remember our infancy is a gift from God. Maybe I will do better tomorrow.