The small alive one is awake.* But her breathing slows ever so slowly, evens, opens to the hint of a snore. I stroke her hair a little more gently, telling her sleepy head that I am going to stop soon and that it is not a big deal. She turns her head toward me, eyes wide open. They look liquid black in this dark room. Her eyelashes are deep slate against the gray wall and flutter, sink, swoop, spring, slow, sink. Her breathing doesn't change, her waking-up is half-hearted. It's 3 hours past her bedtime and I'm lying on her floor with a pillow. I keep stroking and she sinks deeper, her face toward me now, her squelchy sinuses resonating more with each little snore.
The babysitter called while I was out. Eva had been lying on the couch, drowsy, having her hair stroked there too. Then her head started shaking, then the rest of her body, her muscles tense. It was not her So Strong game. It lasted less than 10 seconds. By the time I rushed in the door, she was jumping around, trying to taunt Max into nipping her. Chelle Grrl** said she looked fine.
I had to stay with her to make sure it didn't happen again. Potty time. Bed time. More potty time? No, bed time. My Nana Big Doggie? OK, here she is, bed time. Wrestle with Nana Big Doggie time. Wrestle, roll, wrestle, oh, here's the lavender bunny, bunny-wrestle, where's Copper? Here's Copper. Put him on mommy's back. Here you go, Mommy! Lie down. Now. It's sleepy time. Wrestle. Roll. I sleepy wif Mommy? On the floor with Mommy, 10 inches from her spot on the mattress. A tiny arm trying to reach around my neck, a kiss on my nose. I sleepy bed? Back up. Another tiny hug, another big kiss, a soft and sweet giggle in my face. I sleepy piyow Mommy? Down. Another utterly determined hug and kiss. I sleepy bed? Up.
She usually hates it when I stroke her hair. She so often reminds me of an ornery pony, ready with a nip or a kick for when I try to guide her. She knows what my hand on her head means. But maybe she is finally, finally tired enough for this. She takes it, yields to peace. Her lids flutter sooner than I thought they would. This is all she needed. I'm here, I'm not leaving, I love you. I love you so much. How could God entrust you to me?
I sink into the floor, afraid to move or think too loudly. She sleeps so restlessly when she's this tired. Tonight I will stay here by her, and tomorrow my stiff back and my foggy brain and my frayed nerves will pay. My elbow will be swollen to a firm 135 degrees and I won't be able to carry her on that side. And I will be able to say that I was there watching her and she is fine.
It's been a hard few weeks and I've probably been venting too much to friends, not enough to God. The glorious weight of motherhood is that these tiny people are so helpless. They need love, attention, 1,000 hugs, the occasional toe kiss, to be stopped and to be encouraged to go, so much work, and sometimes they need us to let them fall but sometimes they need us to stand guard over them. My big, strong, smart, opinionated daughter--she needs me every moment of this and every day.
That night will be one of many that disappears into our blended family memories, just a "Remember when...? Crazy times!" I praise God for this intensity and this beauty; the down days and the grueling days and the amazingly, hilariously fun days that are all part of it, making us who we'll be and them who they'll be. I hope I will be a mother who has loved thoroughly and well, and she will be a woman ready to pass that on to those in her path.
**our friend, on-call nurse, and international travelling buddy