The Things We Hold On To
"Do you realize
All the falls and flights,
All the sleepless nights,
All the smiles and sighs,
They brought you here,
They only brought you home?"
~from July by Boy
I've been listening to the same song for months. When I first heard it, I only caught a few of the lyrics, but the few phrases I caught, tucked as they were into a kind of lilting lullaby, were so sweetly reassuring that I had to go look it up and listen the whole thing. And it was one of those moments when you find just the right song for a moment in your life, like it was written just for you. It was even called July, the month I was desperately praying I would bring my little girl home.
I've been absent from this space for a long while now. At first, I told myself it was because I was so tired, that I couldn't focus enough to write through the first trimester fog. But, as the months passed, I had to admit that I wasn't writing because I only had one thing to say, only one thing on my mind, like a mania and a sickness at once, the never ending obsession with meeting this baby. There were so many nights when I lay awake in terror, sure that something was wrong and all this pregnancy would yield was yet another heartache.
Strange as it seems, when I found that song, I held on to it for dear life. I listened to it over and over, reciting the words like a mantra. I would imagine playing the song for our daughter in the hospital room while I held her head just like the song said and tried to make her understand how she had come home at last, carried in on the kind of joy that can only come in the wake of grief. The kind of joy that is so raw and acute, so welcome that it just goes rushing into all the dark places and scours them clean.
Some evenings, I would lay in her nursery and hold one of her tiny dresses, listening to that song on repeat because as long as the song was playing I could believe I would get to play it for her one day. I would look around at everything, the crib I had meticulously painted spindle by ever-loving spindle, the quotes from children's books we had hung on the wall, the little bedside table I had spent weeks shopping for only to go back to the first store and buy the very first one I found. I would look at it all and, as long as I was listening to my song, I could almost believe she would sleep there one day.
~ ~ ~
Tonight, I put our Eleanor in her crib and let my hand linger on her chest to soothe her. She was not quite asleep, and I knew that meant I might be back up in her room in a few minutes to comfort her. The room was dark, but from the light in the hallway, I could still see her room faintly. The mobile I made for her hangs over her crib and clinks softly in the breeze from the fan. It is a tinkling sound almost like rain that we both sleep with now. I listen to it over the baby monitor, waiting to see if she has fallen asleep, and I hear it when I wake in the night, too, a staccato lullaby for the both of us. After all those months of worry, waking in the night from nightmares to lay in bed and feel the frantic rhythm of a racing heart, after those many long nights of fretful waking and waiting, it's hard to describe how beautiful that tinkling mobile sounds to me.
These days almost everything reminds me of how light I feel. Every twist and bend reminds me I no longer carry the physical weight of pregnancy, and every time I hold our daughter, I can feel the weight of that old worry slide right off of me. These good, long, hard days of raising three kids can almost feel like the saccharine denouement of an 80's feel good movie. I could not say when I've been happier.
And while I am so good at waiting for the other shoe to drop, right now I'm holding on to this lightness for dear life. I am smiling and breathing deep, happy breaths. I am saying thank you to myself a thousand times a day like a constant prayer or a protective spell or maybe just a mantra. I am sinking into the aura of hope and joy that just comes off new babies like a vapor. I am realizing again and again how Eleanor was brought home, but also so was I.
So you see, I am holding on to these days, this homecoming, this extended birthday party. I am savoring our last time for all of these firsts, our last first smile, our last first time to watch one of our sweet babies learn to roll over. I am leaning into this life we have been given, this crazy, wonderful time of raising three children and finding and re-finding ourselves in the process. I am remembering how we all are brought home, inch by painful inch, to a place where we find sometimes, at least for a few brief moments, that all the weight falls away and we remember how light we can really feel.