We’ve only put Ian down a half hour before when he suddenly wakes up, screaming. This isn’t his usual “Hey, I’m awake and would like my breast now” cry. We can hear those coming. This is his Cry of Injustice – a quietly shrill, sustained wail that, loosely translated, means, “What did I do to deserve this?” This cry can break your heart. It’s reserved for pain, sudden surprises, and when we wake him after he’s only just fallen asleep.
But last night was different. This was a Cry of Ultimate Injustice, something we’ve never heard before. This was a cry designed to transcend all baby monitors. Something was very, very wrong.
I worry. A lot. I’m picturing Ian’s room, in flames, his ladybug curtains browning and curling at the edges. Or one of the cats, claws drawn, having finally decided to retaliate for a flailing left hook. Mostly I run because of things I can’t imagine.
He’s fine. The curtains are intact, and the cats are stationed at Ian’s bedroom door. “Where the heck have you been,” they accuse. I pick him up, and he downshifts to a whimper. I hold him close, stroke the back of his head, and whisper, “Shhh, shhh. It’s okay. I’m here. I’m here.” I repeat this several times, trying to make up for the thirty seconds I wasn’t there. He burrows under my chin, and falls back to sleep.
I don’t know what happened. Did the roaring of a passing motorcycle from the pub down the block startle him? The dog next door? A bad dream? What does a 4-month-old’s bad dream look like? A cold bath. A bottle of formula. A too-tight onesie. Daddy going away forever, instead of 8 hours a day. That one hurts.
I guess the most distressing thing is that, whatever the reason, something was wrong, and Ian realized that we weren’t there to make it better – that he was alone. We can line his crib with ladybugs, paint a friendly sun on the wall, or hang a mobile above his head, but in the dark, they don’t matter. And even if he could see them, they still won’t help. The mobile just sits there, silent, still, and uncaring. He can’t even reach the faces smiling down at him.
I’m sorry, Ian. I really wish I could fix anything that might go wrong in your life, and I’ll try. But sometimes I won’t be there, mommy won’t be there, and you’ll need to handle things on your own. Your baby monitor will be replaced with a phone, and we won’t know that something’s wrong unless we hear your voice on the line. Please remember that we love you forever, and that whatever happens, God will always be with you.