My fingers are cold. The back of my neck is cold. My toes are cold through my fuzzy socks. My sweater's sleeves are pulled down past my wrists and my legs are curled up beneath me but still the chill of this house creeps in.
I crave tonight the ability to focus on one thing but my mind is jumpy and electric. It is listing for me things I need to get done before the contractor starts work on our bedroom next week, the list of topics I'm narrowing down for queries, the format of the magazine I was studying earlier today, the schedule of my busy day tomorrow, and telling me I really should get up to get another of those yummy heart-shaped cherry jellies I brought home from Whole Foods this evening. In the space I can wrest between those thoughts the sound of the monitor flows in. I hear the hum of the humidifier which has become our white noise machine but my ears strain for sounds of rustling or cries. The baby is sick and as much as I have things I need to do on my computer tonight before I go to bed, the length of the house feels too far away from her. The audio thread keeps me just enough in the room with her to let me keep working away at my list for just a little longer.
The LHM texted me tonight to tell me he had posted and then pulled a photo of our Bean joyfully eating a birthday cupcake from Facebook because one of his friends had just posted that his nephew had died after surgery yesterday. "How, exactly, does one observe the period of mourning on Facebook?" he asked. I don't think I would have pulled down the photo, were I in his shoes. I have lived enough life to have felt the continuum of it, from heartbreakingly beautiful to heartbreakingly awful, often enough side by side. Somehow it seems fitting for even my Facebook news feed to reflect that ebb and flow. My heart breaks for the grief of his friend (more for that child's mother), but my first response to the news was to pull my daughter close and look again at how beautiful and miraculous she is. I would not wish to rub my joy in my daughter's life into the would of that family, but my joy is fierce because I know how much I stand to lose. I know how easily I could be destroyed if anything were to happen to her.
I knew something was not right with her all day today. There wasn't any one particular thing she did, but I kept looking for clues. Twice she pulled on her ear, and several times she lost her balance and bumped her head. She has wanted to nurse much more today than is usual and she hasn't wanted to range far away from me in her play. Over and over she would pull up on my legs and ask to be held, ask to nurse. And then tuck herself in to me, far less squirmy than usual, and gaze up at me with drowsy eyes. When we were out running errands this afternoon she was drowsing between each stop, which is unusual. In the grocery store she stayed tucked in to me in the carrier and still, just looking out quietly over the edge of the hood. Once back in the car she feel asleep before I even pulled out of the space. These things are not normal. I knew there was something wrong. When I took her temperature tonight I was almost relieved to see it was a bit high. Finally, some proof of my intuition. But also, the prickle of fear knowing that something is wrong with my baby and I don't really know what or how long it will take her to ride it out. Always the fear that it will turn dangerous, that we will need to rush her to the ER for help. Always I imagine that the worst will happen. Not the worst - even in my imagination my fear stops me short of the actual worst. But the worst I can imagination, that I have imagery for. Always I go there right from the start.
My child has been healthy in her first year. She has had a couple of colds and only one with a fever, but even then the fever was not so high and acetaminophen brought it down quickly. We have been lucky. I know mamas who have been though much more with their little ones, walked much closer to the edge of despair than I have had any reason to. Because it is such a fine line we walk. Babies are so small, so fragile. So much can go wrong. So many things can hurt them. And I have lived enough life to know that many things will, whether they leave visible scars or invisible ones. And it is not possible to love our children less to protect ourselves. I love her full tilt. I would not love her any less.
And so I sit here next to the monitor, straining to hear her soft sleeping breath over the hum, and know I will soon give in and go curl up next to her to keep vigil over her sleep.