Posted in family life, musings

waking in the night: a meditation on love

I lie on the low bed in the darkness, and my baby curls against me, resting her head on my soft chest and stomach (the stomach I resent when I try to dress for adult life but which functions so perfectly as a cozy baby pillow). Our breaths are the only sound, her faster, shallower breaths a counterpoint to my deep and steady rhythm. I slow the pace of my breathing to guide her into sounder sleep, hoping her body will follow mine. She is warm and solid next to me, tangible physicality grounding me in embodied reality and relationship. There are books I wanted to read, projects I wanted to work on, chores I ought to take care of, but I stretch out this moment much longer than necessary. There is such immense privilege in being the one whose presence can calm her fears and dry her tears; there is such wonder in being able to soothe and comfort another when I cannot do so for myself. I recall her newborn months, when I sat in the hospital rocking her, deep into the darkest depression I have yet experienced, and yet somehow able to calm and comfort her anyways.

Maybe none of us can completely accomplish that for ourselves; maybe consolation and peace are gifts we can give to others better than we can create them for ourselves, and which we must in turn receive from others if we are to experience them fully. My baby cries out for me to come to her and restore her to peace, to console her in the loneliness of the night; we grow, and become independent, and pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency and strength, and we stifle our own cries in the darkness. Maybe we have cried too many times into an unresponsive void, and have decided we don’t want to risk adding the pain of rejection and worthlessness to the burden we already bear. We forsake the openness and vulnerability of our infancy, protecting our hearts – and closing the door to the fullness of comfort and peace that only comes through the love and presence of another.

I come to my babies in the night, though I may be exhausted or frustrated, because I know the pain of crying when no one hears, and I don’t want that pain to be theirs. I lift them in my arms, my little ones wakeful and sad for reasons beyond their ability to explain. And in the teary eyes wiped on my shoulder, the little head laid against my chest, the arms wrapped around my neck, I receive gifts just as powerful as any I give: love, meaning, and worth. They remind me of my own need for love and connection even as they show my my own power as a giver of that love and connection. However weary I may be, all the sleepless nights, all the hours pacing and rocking and snuggling, all the worry and time and energy spent, are nothing compared to what I have received simply be being their mother.

Posted in family life

how babies are made

“It was Spring.
The leaves burst out.
The flowers burst out.
And robins burst out of their eggs.”

“How are the baby robins made?”

“The mommy robin makes the baby in the egg inside herself and then keeps the eggs warm and safe while the babies grow big enough.”

That answer would have been enough a few months ago. Now there’s a pause – this clearly didn’t answer his real question.

“But how does the mommy robin make the baby?”

Oh shoot. I guess there’s a reason they call it “the birds and the bees”…

“Well, a special cell from the mommy robin – called an egg cell – meets up with a special cell from the daddy robin – called a sperm cell – and they combine to make a brand new cell that grows and grows into a baby robin. Baby birds grow inside eggs just like baby Aubade grew inside Mommy.”

Pause. He looks like it makes sense to him but he’s still thinking it over… I’m hoping this is all the information he needs and I open my mouth to start reading the book again.

“How did Mommy make baby Aubade?”

“The same way a mommy robin makes her babies! An egg cell from Mommy and a sperm cell from Daddy got together to make a new cell that grew and grew, forming Aubade’s shape and organs until she was big enough to be born.”

Then I quickly kept reading before he could ask how the sperm and egg cells found each other!