Saturday, 20 July 2013
My wife and I began a memory box for our daughter, Maggie, shortly after she was born. In it we write about milestones and memorable events, first time rolling over, first time sleeping through the night and so on. We figured this would be a nice keepsake for her when she grew up, to read about all of those little moments that mattered so much to us, her mommy and daddy. I had a moment with Maggie last night that would not fit on one of those cards and will share it here.
There are many things of which I had no idea in regards to being a father. I didn't know how peaceful and fulfilling it would be to watch a baby sleep. I didn't know how incomplete I was having never seen that beautiful smile. And, I didn't know how my heart could break, only to be mended, in a span of minutes.
Miranda and I knew we had an early morning ahead of us. We had to make the 10:40 showing to watch a movie (The Conjuring, good and scary/recommended) and that meant waking up no later than 7:00. We have been on less than five dates since Maggie was born, so this movie/lunch date was a big deal for us. Maggie had already been up twice before we tried to go to bed around 11:00 at night. Miranda finally got her down and it seemed like she might make it through the night.
Unfortunately, one clattering crocheting hook (I think they're called hooks?) upset that plan and Maggie was awake and screaming. One thing we've struggled with as parents is allowing her to cry herself to sleep. There is conflicting literature on the topic, but most people believe that, as long as the child is safe and lacking nothing (food, clothing, etc.) it is good to establish those kinds of boundaries. We agreed to let Maggie cry herself to sleep and turned down the baby monitor so that it was just barely audible. Mind you, her room is four feet from ours so the baby monitor is almost for decoration at this point.
I might have drifted for a minute or two here and there, but I was aware of Maggie's cries the entire time. And, man were they some powerful cries. This is when my heart began to break. I imagine I will feel much the same sending her to school for the first time, knowing she will be in pain and knowing I should restrain from intervening. It's like when wildlife photographers come across a runt cub (lion, tiger, take your pick) left by its mother to die. They could interject themselves into this cub's life and nature's plan, but is that the right thing to do?
I believe it was around 11:30 when I couldn't stand it any longer. Miranda had previously called me in tears after enduring Maggie's cries while I was at work. I now know how she felt. The first thing I did was get some water in a sippy cup. Her voice had begun to sound hoarse, though no less urgent as she cried.
I opened the door to her darkened room and saw her pale, tiny shape standing in her crib and looking at the door. I first grabbed her and felt cold wetness down the front of her shirt. In Guam, where we live, it's a nightly struggle to find the right balance for a/c settings. 72 degrees can feel like a sauna and 70 is just north of freezing. Last night 70 was freezing. I turned on the lamp next to her bed and saw the source of the wetness was a combination of snot and tears. My heart began to split along its seams.
Maggie drank a bit and resumed her scream crying. Even showing her my face in the light did not calm her. When I turned the light off to sit with her the screams escalated. I didn't know such a tiny set of lungs could be so powerful. We sat in the recliner and she thrashed a bit, crying like it was the end of the world. In the past I have been able to put her to sleep by singing to her, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, ABC's, and, oddly enough, theme songs to 90's sitcoms like Family Matters and Full House.
Her screams were so loud I could not hear my own voice. I sang her the songs I made for her:
Maggie I love you,
Maggie I love you,
There's no one above you,
Maggie I love you.
I love Maggie,
I love Maggie,
Maggie loves me,
Maggie loves me.
Fearing that I was failing and that Miranda would have to take over, as she always does and I do feel guilty about that, I began to sing the songs from Maggie's favorite show, The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
M- I- C -K -E -Y- M -O -U- S- E
It's the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,
Come inside it's fun inside...
Hot dog hot dog hot diggety dog,
It's a brand new day what you waiting for?
Get up stretch out some on the floor,
Hot dog hot dog hot diggety dog.
Her cries began to soften. Her little chest began to hitch with every few breaths as she calmed down. That is when my heart ripped in two. She wasn't thirsty for milk or hungry. She wasn't upset about a full diaper. She just wanted one of us with her. She just wanted something warm and familiar to be near her in the dark.
As I sat there in her darkened room feeling like a ten ton pile of shit, Maggie reaches an arm up in some netherworld between sleep and wakefulness. She touches my face and holds my chin in her tiny fingers. She fell asleep like that and stayed that way for a half hour.
I eventually fell asleep with her on my chest and did not wake until after 3 AM where I safely returned her to her bed. I give credit to my wife for all of the times she has felt this way while I am at work.
When Maggie held onto my face as she fell asleep it was like she was telling me it was okay, she understands. She just wanted me (probably Miranda but beggars can't be choosers!) with her until she was safely asleep. Though she didn't know it, that small gesture mended my heart.
Daddy loves you, Maggie! (pt. 1)