“It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.”
― Annie Dillard,
Three AM,0300, on a moonlit night. My baby cries.
Babies don’t have a rhythm yet. They start to develop a body coordination and memory from the head down. Like a wave of sentience, a wave of self-empowerment, the current of development travels downward in their new bodies.
Nurses check at intervals, to see what strength there is, what focus and awareness has opened. They don’t look at it as a race, but rather as a progression.*
My son was now three months old. He’d been born sturdy, strong. He had a lusty cry, a strong appetite. He was a solid, sweet bundle of baby humanity.
The baby has awakened, and I have gone to him. A soft light comes through his nursery window. The gauzy moonlight touches the room, illuminates his round perfect head.
Picking him up from the crib, I sit down with him in the turquoise wooden rocker which my husband, who is now sleeping, has painted, for resting in these early morning moments.
Soon, I will have an extraordinary moment, a glimpse into mystery, and all its glory.
I put him to my full, aching breast. We are both relieved; me, for the release of tension as he suckles, and he, for the warm sweet nourishment I now provide.
He looks into my eyes. He focuses now,and with his free, sweet, chubby hand, he pats my chest rhythmically. Gulp, pat. Gulp, pat. Gulp, pat. Can you hear it? It is music to my ears. I am enthralled.
We rock in the silence for a moment, the only sound, his happy swallowing.
Then, he stops. Stops gulping, stops patting.
And then, he looks. Really looks. Into my eyes. Not just a flicker. Holding. Holding my eyes. Holding, holding.
I see, in his now wide-open gaze, a second of understanding. I see, looking into his, an experience of who he is, of who we are, not just mother and son, but as selves who are both becoming.
I’m a shy, socially awkward, frightened young mother. Much of that will change over the years, but not all.
In this profound moment, I see his soul, and more, the soul of all that is. It swirls all around us and through us and with us. It cares for us, all of us. It is silver and blue and pink and green and loud and soft and everywhere.
And then, he resumes drinking deeply, patting me once again, closing his eyes.
I rock him gently and hold him near, not wanting to ever let go. Knowing that he has only been loaned to me, and I, to him. It is a moment in 2 lives; one which he will undoubtedly not remember, nevertheless one of deep profound connection.
He falls asleep. I put him into the crib and stumble back to bed. I wish I could tell my husband, but he too, sleeps, his body replenishing for the next day, for work, for fatherhood. He won’t be with us forever. He’ll leave, seeking something. But nothing will take this away from me, away from us, away from a mother and child.
The moving moment will be with me for all of my life. One I remember as years go by, when I sometimes feel despondent and afraid. A moment which keeps me going onward, on through to the other side of despair.
Now 40 plus years later, after remembering it often, I still give thanks for it.
Alone with my sweet baby, alone with me in an enchanted hour, taking only what I could give, what I so gladly gave.
Thank you Creator. All My Relations.
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