I am sitting in a dark room on one end of my house, just off the kitchen. Carpet under my bare feet, a box fan going in the room for noise. My chubby six-month-old is laying in my arms wearing grey jammies with little black stars on them.
Agnes can’t breathe through her nose because she’s gotten a cold from somewhere. I’m praying and fighting bitterness about the cold—waves of the bitterness come again every time I suck out her nose with the tube sucker and she whimpers and tries to latch on again. How will she settle down when she can’t breathe? Another round of bitterness-fighting. Praying thanks for this and that. I’ve forgotten how long I’ve been sitting here with the light from the stove streaming into the darkness.
Suddenly, I look up just in time to see a mute and oblivious comedy routine. It’s mute because I can’t hear them, with the fan going right next to me. It’s oblivious because they don’t know I’m watching.
Entering the frame made by the doorway to the room I’m in, across the kitchen in the hallway, my two-year-old and husband creep in slow motion. Laying flat feet carefully on the linoleum, first my daughter and then my husband comes into view. They cross the hallway, ever so slowly, outlined by a light shining behind them. Walking exactly like cartoon Indians, single file, they disappear into the bathroom. In the dark, I throw back my head in delight and laugh and laugh. Agnes stirs; I realize my ribcage is shaking her a little bit.
Clearly, Justin had prepared Norah to cross the hallway quietly not to wake Agnes. So—a little silent picture show for me. Another weapon against the bitterness.
Later I lay the baby down and walk through the kitchen and into the living room on the other side of the house. I find my husband and his female mini-me on the couch together, watching videos of the Loch Ness Monster on Youtube.
I am so angry, so angry at the cold, and not really because it’s uncomfortable for them. Because it’s uncomfortable for me and I am sure that I can’t wake up every two hours every night indefinitely.
I show my anger at the world, and when I discipline my daughter for showing her anger at the world, she tells me that I’m mad at her.
I repent again. Norah, look at me. I’m sorry; Mommy had a bad attitude and I was mad at you. Will you forgive me? And then I pray with her again that God would help us to have a good attitude. Again and again. Five times in a day. Ten times. Fifteen.
I want to remember in ten years, if the Lord gives me victories in self-control, I want to remember how hard some of these days were.
It’s two a.m. I wake to the sound of some heavy-duty coughing in the next bedroom. I go in and put my arms around a little body and she’s half asleep but she hugs back. I bring her to the little plastic potty. I put her back in bed. The coughing continues.
My husband has to work tomorrow, but he stumbles in there. I wait for him to return and he comes in saying something indistinct about hot tea and humidifiers.
He has to work tomorrow. He shouldn’t be doing this. I turn the noise machine up and close our bedroom door behind me, and turn on the kettle. I feel around for her body again and lift her, wrapped in a blanket big enough for both of us. Into the living room—the farthest spot from sleeping Daddy and sleeping baby. I lean back on the couch, partially upright with her laying on me, to see if it helps her stop coughing.
The kettle clicks, a room away. I leave her there and tell her I’m going to make some tea, and her stage whispered “okay” is just adorable. A horizontal line of bangs, a horizontal line of thin smiling lips. She coughs again.
I get her tea with honey and now she believes that a party is happening. I cradle her and feed her sips of the tea, and every time, her eyes and mouth turn into horizontal lines of delight in the shadows created by a streetlamp outside.
We lie down sharing a pillow, sharing a blanket. She asks me if I’m comfortable. She whispers to me and I have to lean down to hear her over another noise machine.
Is Daddy sleeping? Yes.
Is Agnes sleeping? Yes.
I’m going to hold the tea in my arms. Okay dear.
Would you like a sip, Mommy? No thanks.
I like your hair mommy; I think it’s very pretty. Thanks, dear. I like your hair too.
Are we having a sleepover? Yes.