Friday, December 31, 2010

A Christmas "Gift"

Over the past seven and a half months, I have fretted over almost everything.

Am I feeding her too much? ("God, does your baby ever stop eating?" an acquaintance remarked)
Will my milk dry up? (Every so often, when she would fret or not feed properly, I would squeeze my nipples just to make sure there was still enough)

Was I dressing her warmly enough for the air conditioning? Too warmly for the blazing hot sun? Was I playing with her enough? Were the games appropriate? Was she learning all she should? Was I spending too much time talking to others instead of with her? Was she bored? Was she overtired? Was I devoting enough attention to her? Too much maybe? Most importantly: was I a good mother? Was I giving her the security, support and love that my baby girl needs to grow up with a strong sense of self and confidence, compassion, intelligence and the knowledge that she can do and be anyone she wants to be.

If she cried when I went for a shower, I agonised about whether she would grow into an adult with abandonment issues...

But on Christmas Day, none of that mattered.

In the week leading up to Christmas, DW had gotten ill and then better. I was so focused on his health and would we make it to our family Christmas lunch that it didn't occur to me that anyone else might get sick.

At about 2:30 in the morning, she woke with a start and burst into tears. A first in seven and a half months. I reached over to calm her and found her skin burning to the touch. Ridiculously, I hadn't figured out how to use the thermometer, so was forced to wake DW. (Stupid, I know)

She was running a highish fever but, more importantly, she seemed incredibly uncomfortable and upset. Every so often, her entire body would jolt, sending her into frightened fits of hysterical crying.

We were terrified and suddenly acutely aware of how ignorant we are about these things.

And, of course, it was 2:30 on the night of Christmas. Even on the easiest of nights, the emergency room is not a place for a baby, and there was no way were were going anywhere near that germ-infested mosh pit!

For the next day or so, we did all we knew: we took off all her clothing, dosed her up with homeopathics, sponge-bathed her, sang to her, and tried to make her comfortable without letting our panic be too noticeable. It was like a pre-choreographed dance -- the parents dance -- that
neither of us were aware we knew the steps to until we were forced into it.

And dance we did, handing one another wet sponge after wet sponge, changing the water when it got too cold, taking her temperature a million times.

This was all complicated by the fact that DW could not touch her because of his own illness that he was still recovering from.

DW, in his infinite patience, has the ability to make a book sound interesting even after he's read it four thousand times. Honestly, I don't give a crap where the damn fish is. It's still in the same damn place it was last time we read the book -- 30 seconds ago! DW loves doing the same thing over and over again. I'm not so good at it even though I know that's what she loved... Little baby girl, at seven months, is perfectly happy with the familiar, and repetition -- Where's That Fish, Berries for Jam. I know, I get it... But she's still tiny and learning.

So there we were, Christmas Day, as far from the fairy tale of Santa as is humanly possible. Being raised Jewish, I don't really care about Christmas, except that it offers the same thing as any Jewish Holiday worth its salt: an excuse to gather with family and loved ones.

At some point, I did realise the obvious: even though it wasn't all reindeer and jingle bells, we were all together. Baby girl, DW and I. Working together, being there for and with one another.

Vida was grizzling away, not able to find a comfortable position. She cried out, and arched her back. And forgetting about all the fretting and hesitating, all my guilt and self-doubt, I scooped her into my arms and held her tight. She instantly relaxed and fell asleep a few moments later.

Since then, though neither of us is prone to superstition, we've knocked on so much wood, I'm starting to see grooves in the furniture.

Thankfully she's better today (knock on wood).

And as I said to DW late Saturday night as we watched her breathing, with everything, there really is no other place I would rather be.

No comments: