Wednesday, March 25, 2009
There are things that I want to tell Alice, like how no matter how hard she tries, she's never going to catch Fergus. Don't eat the carpet lint. This bite of chicken and rice is really good. Washing your face is not the same thing as torture, no matter how much you hate it. I want to tell her these things and have her understand me. Have her face flash a sense of recognition. Have her nod her head in agreement - or even say OKAY, YES, I GET IT. I know we're a long ways off from such a thing, and really, if I'm being honest with myself, we get through our days just fine with our communication shorthand. But last night, oh last night I realized just how much I would trade to be able to teach Alice to breathe.
She is struggling to sleep, and I can see the toll it is taking: the dark circles under her eyes, her lack of spark and energy. Her body is heavy with the need of it, her arms sluggish. She is very cranky.
We spent the day together trying to make do - my low energy, her one desire to be held and comforted. We read books. She didn't want me to leave her to make lunch or dinner. At bedtime I set the steam vaporizer up in her room. I carefully added eucalyptus, watching the oil serpentine through the water. After a bottle, I lay her in her crib, her small body impossibly limp. Less than an hour passed before she was up crying through a fit of coughing. I went to her room, stood at the crib rail and leaned in as far as I could go, rubbing her back - soothing her back into sleep.
I had the room monitor downstairs to listen to Alice while I loaded the dishwasher and put the toys away. Her breaths came in ragged wheezing fits. I counted between them, hoping she would calm herself, hoping she would settle into sleep. It wasn't long before she was awake again and again and again. Each time I went to her, I stood at the crib rail and hoped my presence would speak to her in a way that my words cannot: Be still. Trust. Each breath will come. You cannot force it. Don't panic. This is a night that will pass like all the others. Don't fight. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I wonder how often I'm going to be doing this in Alice's lifetime, how often I'm going to be at her side - knowing everything she needs to do, but having no way to tell her so: lacking the words, lacking the vision, lacking the simple ability to communicate the answer. She will have to trust in my presence, understand that I'm there next to her, that she is not alone, that she is going to be fine, that she shouldn't panic, that each breath will come, she cannot force it, breathe, breathe, breathe.