“There is a kind of ‘holding’ we can do as mothers and caretakers that takes place in our hearts and minds; we can create an atmosphere for the child that is filled with the warmth and protection they need. When my son is out on his own in the space around me, I am always ‘holding’ him with me; in the way I move and the songs I sing and even in my quiet meditative thoughts (when I can keep them calm and tame that is).” Sydney Steiner , Learning Motherhood

When I read these words today, I thought of this:

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It’s the first time…the first time I’m meeting her, the first time I’m holding her, the first time I’m feeding her, and now, the first time I’m changing her diaper. She isn’t even a month old yet, and she is so incredibly tiny. We only have an hour together. She is awake and aware, even though she keeps her eyes closed tight against the bright, overhead, florescent lights of the playroom we are in. She’s been cuddled in my arms for about a half an hour, and she’s eaten, and it’s pretty clear that she needs a diaper change. The circumstances are less than ideal.

There is no changing table, so I place her on a blanket on the couch. My mother is hovering over my shoulder, and a social worker is present watching my every move and taking notes. She begins to cry as soon as I put her down and start undressing her, her face turning bright red, contorting and scrunching up, her arms flailing, and her legs kicking. Whoever invented the term “non-mobile” baby, had no clue. I feel tense. I am supposed to be the “expert”, and yet…

Her wails are so loud, and plaintive- “I don’t like this!!!”  I briefly wonder if there is a way to change her while still holding her. “Breathe, Lisa,” I tell myself. Then I enter a quiet, focused space within, and bring my full attention to her in the moment. Everybody and everything else ceases to exist. “We will get through this together.” I resist the urge to hurry through the diaper change, and quietly talk to her, remembering to tell her what I am going to do before I do it. She continues to cry and flail. She kicks off a sock. She screams louder as I wipe the tender, reddened skin on her bottom, and apply the diaper cream that the social worker hands to me. She urinates just as I am going to fasten the new diaper into place. Almost done. “Breathe.”

I finish, and lift her into my arms, one sock still off. My mother brings her sock and tries to put it back on just as she is calming down and settling comfortably back into my arms. “Give us a minute, Mom. Let her get settled, first.” It was the longest five minutes of my life. But we did it, together, and the world didn’t end, and the next time will be easier….or not, but my commitment remains to hold the calm space for her, to slow down, to talk her through it, and be with her in it, even if I can’t physically hold her through every minute of it. “Breathe.” And so our relationship begins.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Celia September 28, 2012

Your title reminded me of an experience with my daughter today. It turns out it was quite different from yours, but a similar message will help me so thank you.

My daughter is 9 months and teething, as well as having caught some sort of cold. She is miserable, cranky, and mobile. She was not feeling snugly at all, but she was tired and unhappy. I held her to me through her tears and struggles until she gave in and fell asleep. She had been awake for 7 hours and needed her rest. I will admit though that I had mentally shut down and wasn’t really holding her. I had disengaged from the struggle and was just hoping for relief. Next time (or many next times, all night long) I will remember to really hold her and help her through her struggle. Thank you.

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2 Sarah September 28, 2012

I just feel so touched. I kinda know u in an online way and it is truly touching to hear ur experience. How incredibly special this time is for u and how blessed she is to have u.and the best part is, u are more than aware how blessed u r to have her! U are such a wonderful teacher thru your sharing and ur honestly help me to be a better carer! My tiny baby in my womb will experience an educarer from birth and the changes i have made while my other children grow has changed our lives dramatically and i look forward to it with love in my heart! I hope u get the chance to share a little despite the busy times ahead.

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3 Gina Osher October 1, 2012

So touching Lisa. I know I have said it over and over but she is such a lucky girl to have you. She is being given a rare opportunity to be truly seen and heard and this will change her life. And you will change, too, I am sure. She was meant to be in your arms even though you weren’t looking to hold her. You were meant to be in her life even though you had other plans. Thank you for giving us this small peek into your first time with her…and for showing us that even you can get flustered and need to remind yourself to breathe. Sending you love along your journey together. xo

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4 Emily Plank October 1, 2012

What a beautiful reflection – thank you for allowing us into this space. What an honor for you that you were able to share this moment with her, and what a gift you gave – holding her, moving slowly, breathing together, respecting her with your words and slow movement…Thank you. All the best to you, Emily

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5 Lilly October 11, 2012

You are both so lucky to have one another, and I am in awe of you, and the difficult choices you made to be by her side. It’s almost like you were put on this earth (and led to your vocation), so that you would be prepared for this moment, for this little girl who would need you so very much.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but never commented. I was very moved by your story, and wanted to say that your love will make all the difference in the world to this little girl. I often pray that every child in the world has someone to love them fiercely and well. It’s so heartbreaking that’s not always the case.

Sending many good wishes your way, and many kisses to the baby girl.

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6 Rachel January 2, 2014

I wish someone had shown me how to do this through months of colic. I was a mess, and I’m sure I made it worse for my frightened baby. A good thing to keep in mind going forward!

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7 Jessica Garcia January 4, 2014

Beautiful! Love and Simplicity, This is all we can ever do.

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