The babies are (finally) sleeping again. Although it has been a rough week of tests, waiting, and results, there is another side now to my life as well, a side that is no less important now that I’ve got cancer. In fact, it’s more important than it has ever been. My babies — my little boys — sustain me, and keep me reaching within myself for more and more strength, more and more energy, more and more love to share with them.
It’s hard, this sharing. The cancer makes me want to curl up in a ball and go to bed for a week while we wait for the chemotherapy to begin. The pain, the stiffness, the aches, and the worry threaten to consume me in this time of uncertainty and waiting. But I can’t give in to this pull, this gravitation sucking me inside myself like a black hole, threatening to pull all of myself inside until I collapse.
Because I have two precious babies to live for.
One almost half a year old, and one almost three, they are so little and yet so amazing to me. They are people in their own right, and they have needs and wants and ideas of their own, and that in itself astounds me.
The little one is teething. His second tooth appeared this morning, after long days of screaming and screeching as the infrequent tylenol wears off and the teethers refuse to satisfy. We’re trying to encourage him to take a binky now, as we have off and on since his first airplane ride at 8 weeks, but he spits it out just as he always has. He’s suffering, a bit, with the teething now, since with his first tooth he had the ultimate mama-comfort available to him, and it got him through the tough parts. He nursed his way through the teething of the first tooth, nearly round-the-clock, and it helped. I know it helped, because every time he popped off, he screamed until he rooted around and found me again. With this tooth, we’re offering him binkies, and teethers, and cold jelly-filled teething rings, and bottles of milk, and frozen washcloths. But he screams and screams and all he wants is his mommy’s breast. Whenever I hold him, he lurches toward my left side and opens his mouth. That — and the screaching — is breaking my heart.
The older one — how funny it is to think of my little Widget as the older one — is talking so much more these days and telling stories all the time. He understands so much, this one, and yet I know he’s too little to talk to really about what’s happening. But he knows something is happening, and he hasn’t let go of Mama for a week. He comes and takes my hand, and asks me to “go play roads” or trains or outside, and we do. He cuddles up with me on the couch if I’m tired, and “read Busy Day books” or others of the dozens that we have at hand in every room. He cries for me if it’s time to go to sleep, and asks to “go Mama’s room” if it’s stormy outside, convinced that my room is where I can best “keep (him) safe.” I rub his back and tell him that I will always keep him safe. That Mama will always love him, and I will always keep him safe. And he relaxes and falls, reluctantly, asleep.
The boys are beginning to interact more. When Little Bear cries, Widget walks up and says “Bear cry,” offering ideas like “go sleep,” “tooth hurts,” and “want toy?” as he offers Little Bear a toy, or a teether, or just his hand to hold. Yesterday, he was holding the baby on his lap (carefully, oh, so carefully supervised), and he turned to whisper in Bear’s ear, “keep you safe.”
I’m not sure where this obsession with keeping them safe came from. I think it’s because that’s how I comfort Widget in the dark of night when the thunderstorms roar. He is terrified of thunderstorms, and he needs company and comfort if it’s stormy outside. So I keep him company, and keep him calm, and keep reassuring him when he jumps that I will keep him safe. And it helps him sleep. It is wonderfully reassuring that he now wants to care for his brother in the same way, offering comfort and reassurrance the best way he knows how — offering a toy, offering a binky, and offering him the words “keep you safe.”
And today, I pray that God will keep all of us in his hands, keeping us safe.