I heard him from the living room as I was browsing TV listings with a responsive remote, heard the small little gasps he made seeking air to fill his little lungs. By the time I opened the door to his bedroom, the gasps were turning into high pitched wails. I reached into the wooden crib and opened my hands for his little body, bringing him to my chest. I carried him from the room, leaving his brother in the arms of his own dreams in the darkness.
“What’s wrong baby?” I asked with concern, giving his downy covered head a few soft kisses.
In the dim light of the hall, just a few steps from the kitchen, he was not consoled. Wiggling in my arms between gasps for air, his face contorted into a red mess of anger. A sudden fear ran through me, “he’s choking.” I held him upright and patted his back and he cried harder. He wasn’t choking, just mad.
“What’s wrong baby?” I asked with a smile, looking at him.
His face was completely red and his little mouth opened wide with each wail, showing the pink soft gums that would one day house two rows of teeth.
Cradling him in my arms, we went back into his bedroom, I groped around his cradle for the pacifier I expected to find in the left corner. When my hands found nothing, I turned on the light to look again, I still didn’t see it, though I had the memory of his father placing it there earlier. I took a quick look at Noah sleeping in the other crib against the wall, his body in a contorted angle on one side, undisturbed by the noise.
Jonas continued to scream, and we walked back into the hall, taking a few steps to the kitchen. Moving him into another position in my arms, I scanned the kitchen, searching for another pacifier and finding one the side of his automated jumper. I inserted the pacifier into his open, crying mouth, he did not latch on.
I brought him into the living room and sat on the suede couch. I sat him on my lap.
“What’s wrong baby?” I asked smiling at him.
I kissed his head again, feeling the few wisps of his silken hair on my lips. I tried the pacifier again, he didn’t want it.
“What’s wrong baby?”
Not a bit of anger or agitation in my voice, just pure questioning.
“What’s wrong honey?”
I tried holding him in a variety of ways, but nothing seemed soothe him.
Then my eyes fell on the mechanical baby swing by the window. I tried to lower him into the seat, bumping his little head on the three stuffed animals that dangled from the upper plastic arm of the mobile. I realized that his legs couldn’t spread because of the baby suit he was in, it was like a sleeping bag over his legs that snapped at his chest like a vest. I pulled him towards me again, brushing his head against the stuffed hanging animals once more. I let out a little embarrassed laugh and his little face scrunched tighter.
I unsnapped his jumper and then his legs were free, I lowered him into the seat. There was a seatbelt, but I didn’t worry about snapping him in. I sat right in front of him, just inches away and turned on the swing.
“Rockabye baby, on the tree top…”
I held out my two index fingers and he grasped them, holding on tight with his own little fingers. I looked at him, his eyes were still all scrunched up and wet, his mouth was open, showing his red gums.
“when the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”
On the edge of my mind, I remembered the preschool I had worked in for a week, one of the little boys there liked the song, “itsy bitsy spider,” and we sang it to him over and over when he was crying.
“when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”
I opened my eyes wide as I sang, smiling at him.
After repeating the song several times, insisting on the melody, his crying slowed, then eventually stopped.
He looked at me, with his eyes that were turning from blue to brown. They would open wide as I reached for the high notes with my voice. I pushed on him gently with my fingers even though the machine was rocking him, pushing just a little so he could feel me. He looked at me, seeing me, seeing deeper than what was available in the mirror. I looked into him, seeing beyond the baby, seeing a universe of beings.
“Rockabye baby, on the tree top…”
As I sang, and as his crying became a thing of the past, he would break out into a quick smile every now and then when our contact grew strong, then he would sharply turn his head to the left or the right, grasping for something with his open mouth.
I kept singing, kept looking at him, kept providing a bit of pressure with my fingers as he rocked up and down on the swing. He repeatedly returned my contact, his eyes opening wide from time to time, perhaps seeing sound and feeling color. Between phrases I would purse my lips and blow on him gently, letting my breath move across his soft face.
Experimenting, I stopped singing for a moment. When I did, his body would start to squirm once again, preparing to cry.
“rockabye baby, on the tree top…”
I started to forget the lines, or I was repeating them so much, it seemed like there were lines I had skipped, but I kept going, dropping any armor and image, just giving my rawest self.
Soon, I felt like improvising and started making up another melody. From time to time, I went out of tune, and found it difficult to get back. I kept my eyes open, a smile on my face even when I remembered another me that would care about performance.
But here, with him, my desired image was easily dropped. I felt only love for this being in a little body. We could be together without my human ways, I could give my voice to him, calm him, love him with my most intuitive self.