It’s been one of those days. A day that starts with interrupted sleep and an early wake-up. A day when grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning up are all negotiations with an infant who cries every time he is put down. A day when the second I turn my back to try to do something, there is a fall and bump or instantaneous whining, or both. A day when I find him trying to gnaw on his diaper pail and climb up onto the toilet. A day with more crying in his crib than sleeping in it. A day where he sobs hysterically from the middle of his bath to bedtime out of hunger, exhaustion, and teething discomfort.
It is a day that ends with me rocking him to sleep, even though I know that I shouldn’t, but selfishly, I just can’t handle listening to any more crying for one day. I sit there in the dark, listening to the sound of the ocean playing on his white noise machine, rocking him back and forth until his body, taut with tension, finally relaxes onto mine. In my head, I make a list of all the tasks I have to do after I put him down in his crib, prioritizing what I have to take care of before I finally pass out from exhaustion myself. I stare at the tiny clock, counting down the minutes until I can finally leave and have some time to myself without his neediness hampering my every move.
Then, as he nestles his head into my chest and his breathing finally evens out, his little hand reaches up, finds the neckline of my shirt, and grips it tightly.
And with that half-asleep, mostly unconscious gesture, all my anger and frustration dissipates, leaving love and compassion in their void.
That little hand completely undoes me every time.
Sometimes it catches me off-guard, the pressure of that little hand on my calf, using my leg as leverage to pull his body upright, and I look down to see two big brown eyes peering up at me. Other times, it’s the intimacy that gets me — the way he places his little hand on my arm or on my hand while we’re sitting together on the couch. Nowadays, I marvel at how his little hands are becoming more capable of tasks that I’d previously have thought impossible: putting food into his mouth and using his finger to make sure the morsels stay in there rather than falling back out while he chews, dexterously picking up items that he spotted from across the room.
And now, just like every time I see those little fingers, I am reminded of how both simultaneously small and big he is. He’s three times bigger than he was when I held him in my arms for the first time, but he’s still such a tiny human being that needs my protection and guidance through the world.
I remember that today, right now, he is the smallest he will ever be from now on, and there will come a time when he won’t want to or be able to curl up on my chest and fall asleep; that someday he will begin to walk and run away from me instead of constantly crawling toward me; that one day I will count down the days until he comes home again.
So even though he is soundly asleep now, and doesn’t even stir at the gentle kisses I leave on his tender lips and cheeks, or the strokes of my fingers through his soft, fine hair, I continue to sit, in the darkness, listening to the sound of waves crashing in the background. I watch his chest rise and fall rhythmically and inhale his sweet baby scent.
I relish this moment of peace with my sweet baby boy who won’t be a baby for much longer, for whom my love has no limits. And as his small fingers finally release my shirt, I am the one who clings to him tighter.