Teething sucks. This was one of the many things I apparently blocked out of my memory in the intervening years between kids. I really don't recall dealing with Kai's teething on such a prolonged and drawn-out level like I am doing with Elias. Not content to be able to simply gnaw on an apple slice until it is softened, Eli has decided he wants to cut his bottom molars. Like, now. He's already cut his top molars and to be fair, he currently only has two teeth on the bottom. He probably wants a few more down there to be able to rip into a strip steak or something. Yet for as much as he may want more teeth, neither of us wants the byproduct of his teething: restless sleep, constantly fussing, rolling, hitting, pushing away - all be because he's unable to settle. We've tried almost every (legal and safe) method of calming him at nights, but nothing works.
I suffer from depression. There are deep-seeded feelings and emotions at play, struggles I have dealt with for years. I've spent over two decades of my life feeling at times like the world would be better without me, like I have little to no intrinsic value or worth at all. Most days, I'm okay. The darkness stays at bay and my heart stays light. But for whatever reason, today was not one of those days. It was a bad day. One of the days where I want to withdraw inward and just be alone, but I had to step up, wear my Dad Hat, and take Kai to a birthday party. A loud birthday party, complete with dozens of kids hopped up on cake, sugar, and fruit juice, running about like crazed weasels. I smiled as best as I could, and I genuinely loved watching him with his friends. But given my druthers, I'd have just as soon not spoken to anyone at the party.
After first being awoken after only two to three hours of sleep, I have just spent an hour and a half being hit and having my chest hair and arm hair alternately pulled by a cranky, teething toddler. But then, something happens. It happens. I had three failed attempts at getting him rested and settled, but he finally gave in. Nights like this where he just won't stand for being rocked or held, he likes to lay on the floor. Here he has the room to roll and flail his arms, but I make a pillow nest to give him boundaries. Because God knows the last thing I want him to do is "sleepwalk" to his toy chest and cut something on.
But his falling asleep - and STAYING asleep - wasn't the moment that struck me. It was somewhere around 1:15 AM. It happens. One moment. One brief, fleeting moment in the quiet and dark of Eli's room. He sits up, eyes still closed, and crawls over to where I am resting my back against his currently not-in-use crib. I'm sitting not more than one foot from him, and he by instinct navigates towards me, and lays his head in my lap.
Me. Despite the physical abuse he inflicted on me not five minutes earlier, he wanted me. He wanted to hear my breathing, wanted my to hold my hand, wanted me. His daddy. He scooted his shoulder deeper into my lap, heaved a deep sigh, and fell into a contented, relaxed sleep. And I swear that in the moonlight, I could almost make out a smile on his face.
At one point earlier that evening, I joked to myself - in dark humor - that I couldn't feel my heart beat, thinking maybe I didn't have a useable heart.
But ultimately, maybe I don't have to feel it. Others do. Others draw comfort from my heart. Kai. Eli. Ashley. I have friends who don't so much as rely on me; instead, they simply love me.
My family helps me find a life where sometimes I instead find a void in my own existence.
There is something indescribable about holding your child as they sleep, and feeling the rhythm and cadence of their breath, their heartbeat. To this day, I fight wanting to hold Kai all night long if he happens to fall asleep in my arms. I regularly sit and just watch him for a few minutes every night after he falls asleep from my reading to him.
Maybe I don't have to feel my own heart beating. Maybe others feel it for me.
If nothing else, this thought helps to settle my mind for a few hours.
Like I hope my heartbeat settles Eli's mind.
Until breakfast time, hopefully.
Tell me, what to do with this beating heart?
While I bleed alone tonight
And it's alright if you don't say a word
Or make it all work right
Oh, and I can wait
It's enough to know you can hear me now
Oh, I can wait
It's enough to feel so near you now
And when answers don't come easy
I can wait
(c) 1987 Leslie Phillips. "Answers Don't Come Easy." The Turning.