He’s been feeding off my stress these last few weeks. E has always been so sensitive to my moods, even as a baby.
Today, his actions are a reflection of my emotional mirror. Frustrated outbursts complete with tears. Spinning in circles. Covering his ears. Then quiet withdrawal as he curls up in a corner, whispering to himself and rocking.
He’s trying to self-soothe. I can’t blame him. So am I.
I’m humming as I clean up toys nearby, both to try to distract him and to calm my own mind. I have to disrupt this cycle he is in. I must exude calm right now if I have any hope of stopping the runaway train that is E’s meltdown. The train that my stress has been fueling.
This isn’t the first time I’ve known my stress has had a direct impact on him.
Four years ago, when E was only three months old, my husband was deployed to a disaster zone to help with a major recovery effort. He was gone for seven months.
From the time E was 3 months old to 10 months old, it was just he and I.
The stress and exhaustion of being a new Mom – let alone a temporarily “single” working Mom – began to overwhelm. I realized how intensely it was affecting E when for a solid week he wouldn’t sleep more than an hour at a time, and only if he was laying on me.
One night late in that week, when nothing I had tried was working to get him to sleep, I sank into the rocking chair in his nursery, snuggling him to my chest. Over his cries I began to sing a lullaby, making up the words as I went:
Lullaby, and goodnight, to my sweet baby boy,
Mommy’s here, God is here, there is no need to fear.
Close your eyes, say goodnight, and dream away,
Lullaby, and goodnight, ‘til the morning light.
A miracle happened. Like a salve to his soul, the more I sang, the quieter he became.
After repeating the lullaby about a dozen times, he stopped crying. I kept singing. His breathing became steady, soft. He was asleep.
I can still feel the calm of that moment. The relief. I can smell the sweetness of his skin as I gave him one more kiss before laying him in his crib oh-so-gently and quietly backing out of the room.
I was so sure he was going to wake up again in minutes that I didn’t even go to bed. I just collapsed on the couch in the living room, close enough to listen for his cries when he awoke. And for the first time in weeks, maybe months, I dreamt.
The dream is as vivid today as it was that night: the melody of the lullaby is playing softly in the background. There is calm. Peace.
And an angel. An angel standing at the head of E’s crib.
I’m looking at the angel, in awe. He is tall, strong, intense. But there is no fear here. Just peace, and beautiful music. I’m trying to figure out where the music is coming from. His mouth is closed; he’s not singing. Not humming. But I hear the melody of the lullaby. And E’s soft breathing as he sleeps.
“For He will give his angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.” The words of Psalm 91 leap to my mind. The Psalms. The laments, lessons and lullabies of David.
The angel looks at me. He says no words, but in his eyes are written the conviction, intensity and passion of his mission. His job is to guard E. I know it.
I nod my head to him, as if to say “thank you.” He turns his eyes to E. He’s focused on his mission.
At that moment I wake up. I’m holding my breath. Was that real? Did that just happen?
I jump from the couch and take the few steps to the door of E’s nursery. Peeking in, I see him still lying peacefully in his crib, sleeping.
I look to the head of the crib. My eyes don’t see the angel this time, but my heart does. And my heart is singing.
My reverie is halted as I realize E is still in the corner. He’s stopped rocking. He’s humming, but he’s stopped rocking. His legs have relaxed onto the floor, and he’s playing with some Legos I haven’t yet cleaned up.
Moving closer I get down on the floor next to him.
“Buddy, I’m sorry. Mommy has been sad and I think it’s making you sad too. Let’s not be sad. Let’s play Legos and be happy, okay?”
He doesn’t look up at me or respond, but I see his body relax. I wonder if his angel is helping me out right now. Bringing peace. Fueling calm.
Like the lullaby did that first night four years ago.
Like it will tonight when I put him to bed.
When the angel stands guard.