August 13th, 2015
After a twelve-hour day at the hospital, I finally sit down for dinner with Blake. I’m exhausted and starving but grateful to be off my feet. We watch the red sun sink down behind the trees, illuminating the water in purple hues. Then, mid-meal, a slow wail cuts through the silence. Blake and I look at each other, perplexed. Henry’s been asleep for just over 2 hours, going to bed at his usual time of 6:30pm. He rarely wakes anymore, sleeping solidly until 6-7am. As parents do, we start to rattle off explanations for his rare protests. Maybe his teeth are hurting him… Could he be hungry still? What if he’s too hot in his sleeper?
Secretly, I am rejoicing at this unconventional wake-up. Running to work at 7:30am and returning after 7:30pm has meant that I have only spent a measly 30 minutes with Henry all day. Worse yet, I have missed his bedtime – a sacred ritual that I cherish with Henry every night. Wake-up and bedtime are always my job and I wouldn’t want it any other way. No matter how utterly, bone-aching tired I am, I never tire at being the one to be the first to kiss his chubby cheeks and the last to stroke his hair at night.
I listen to his cries, watching the clock intently. I wait an entire 8 minutes. “I can’t wait until 10 minutes, I’m going in,” I announce to Blake. Grabbing a bottle, I slip into Henry’s room. He hears me enter and immediately stops crying, anticipating comfort. I gently lift him out of the crib. He’s getting so heavy these days – a solid little ball of muscle and fat. With his chest against mine, I link my hands under his bum and rock back and forth slowly, while he buries his face against my neck, smearing his tear-soaked face against my skin.
His cries subside and we settle onto the rocking chair. I rest my face against the top of his head, running my lips and nose along the silky strands of hair, breathing him in slowly. I close my eyes and rock him gently. As I listen to the cadence of his breath slow, my mind drifts to all of the women I have seen in the busy prenatal clinic and on the maternity floor in our little hospital. I think of the young woman, only four-weeks post-partum struggling with homelessness, anxiety, depression, domestic violence all the while, trying to care for her infant and one-year old. I think of her baby, wide eyes fixed on me, smacking his lips, while his mother, turned away from him, face in her hand, weeps in desperation. I turn this devastating image over in my mind, contrasting it with the beautiful moment where, seconds after the arrival of a new baby boy, he squirms on his young mother’s chest while his father touches his face with wonder and love.
I squeeze my eyes tightly against the inevitable flow of tears that slide down my face onto Henry’s angelic mop of red curls. Despite holding Henry close, I continue to ache for him as if the void of missing him all day cannot be filled. And yet, I feel incredibly grateful to be able to savour this rare moment of closeness with him. As always, these moments of joy and sadness ebb and flow through our lives, running up against each other in contrasting ways. After a time of silent meditation, I gently place Henry back in his crib. He immediately rolls onto his belly and buries his face into his lambskin, sighing deeply. I am filled to the brim with love.