Kelley is a mother, a doula, and an ex-producer. She shares this with us in hopes that it might remind us of what we have been given. Enjoy
I pull on the tights. Oh blimey, lint. Lots of it. Maybe I shouldn’t go running after all. My body feels slow, and heavy. But these nerves, spawned by fear, not only linger. They multiply, encroaching upon the heart and swallowing up what life-giving hope remains there. Yes. I need to shed the nerves, so I run.
I see trees, and clouds, and his blue baby body, limp on my living room floor. My pace quickens, and I exhale. A new breath works its way through my insides, gathering some of the yuck on its way back out and expelling it into the cold winter air. In comes life, hope, to replace death, fear. I am alone with my Maker, with the baby boy’s Maker.
“Is he breathing yet”? I re-live the 9-1-1 call, the slow panic, the suffocating thought that maybe this was it. All because a toy was carelessly tossed, and toy met head. Such a small event seemed to frustrate the life right out of him. Inhale, exhale. A song blares in my ears: “We live and die like fireworks…” Duncan, he is young, but he’s not a fizzle. He is an explosion of life, and like each child born he shocked my heart awake, flooding it with love. My heart, thus linked, lay pale and quiet on the carpet as the rest of me made phone calls in the other room.
For 29 months we have shared this planet’s air. At first, I could breathe for him. Now he’s on his own, and this mother dislikes feeling helpless. “He’s dead!” cried a brother. “He’s not,” said a paramedic, “he’s just sleeping now.” He finally got his air. I was still holding mine, craving more signs of vitality. Then, as strangers poked and prodded, his blessed cry of anger was like a song from Heaven. Though subtle, color began to return to his body, as if to mirror the cautious hope resurging in me.
Cautious hope? Isn’t that an oxymoron? What I see is rose mingling with grey. The joy and sorrow of what-ifs all tangled up in a traumatized heart. What can I do to keep this from happening again? In striving to shield him from death, I would inadvertently shield him from life. In truth, the best life lived is one that doesn’t hang onto itself so tightly.
Inhale, exhale. Blood surges through my veins. I am alive. The little one is alive. Now a new song: “It is well with my soul…” Really, God? I was working towards that. Would it be? Well? This is Duncky Boy we’re talking about: Bright, bashful, soft, doe-eyed, coy, quirky, smelling always of sweet milk. How tight is my grip on this precious gift? You know I often ponder the giving and the taking away. It seems, however, that in this moment, the best I can muster is “I love him. Can I keep him?” At home he sleeps peacefully in his crib. I exhale a weak “thank you,” and inhale Grace.
Living and dying, all the while loving and being loved…that is Grace. Though harder to swallow, suffering is grace, too. Through suffering, I am reminded that each day of air shared with little Duncan Smith is more than I deserve. I’ll take it. I turn the corner towards home, leaving at least some of the nerves, the fear, in the dust. Still unsure of what lies ahead, I breathe two hearty prayers: “Lord, please…” and “…Lord, thank you”.
– Kelley Smith