“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” –Br. David Steindl-Rast
Last month, I wrote about A Small Bit of Gratitude on Hopeful Parents. I’m still working on creating gratitude as a state and not a goal. Today I am grateful I can give my bosom as a pillow to my daughters. Let me explain:
For the last month, my daughters and I seem to be fighting (and mainly losing) battles with sniffles, coughs and sneezes. Mine started as allergies, then developed into a cold (thanks to a horde of over-stressed and sleep-deprived college students!). When Sylvie starts getting stuffy, things get a little scary. She cries more, she has more difficulty swallowing and breathing and lately she has been going into this regular pattern of wailing after her afternoon bottle for 2-3 hours. Last week I got a desperate text message from Sylvie’s dad: “I can’t do anything for Sylvie.” She had been crying uncontrollably for four hours—a state she hasn’t been in often since she’s been on phenobarbital. As a parent, I find it is one of the biggest sources of stress to not be able to comfort a crying child.
When Sylvie first started showing symptoms of Krabbe disease back in 2007, the one thing that was a guarantee to calm her was to breast feed her. She would snuggle into my arms and her tender flesh would melt into my belly as she sought comfort and nourishment from my milk. Once she lost her ability to suck effectively, even breast feeding proved to be more of a frustration for both of us than a comfort. Because I was still busy nursing Sylvie’s twin sister, I don’t think I grieved the end of nursing. What I did miss was the instant satisfaction of being able to calm my child by bringing our bodies close together.
Recently, I have really started to feel a great deep love for Sylvie that I haven’t allowed myself to feel often. I know her feeble little body is going to be ripped away from us at some point, and without even realizing it, I had stopped really touching her, gazing at her, loving her. But lately, I’ve been holding Sylvie, straddled on my lap, chest-to-chest. Our breathing starts to coincide, I stroke her hair, and she nuzzles into my chest. During my radiation therapy this summer for breast cancer, this position was a little tender given my daily treatments. But now, the weight of her body pressed upon mine seems to be soothing both of us. It’s better than a little afternoon chocolate or a hot cup of tea. I sit and read or type or snooze with Sylvie on my lap. I feel her body just lose its tension and melt. Sometimes I wrap her tightly in a blanket, sometimes, I just play with her fingers and hair as she sleeps. Sometimes her sleep is long and deep, other times it is fitful, but quiet. I think her father is a little aggravated that he does not have this same ability to calm her down right now. But we’ve taken turns—sometimes, he’s the only one that can adequately feed her or make her laugh.
So today I am grateful for bosoms! May the body that gave life be forever a source of comfort for my daughter.
When Kirsten isn’t fighting off allergies and lymphedema, she works as a professor of Communication Studies at the State University of New York and is the mother of 4-year old twin girls. She also was quite fond of the 1998 Cornershop song that claimed: “ Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow/Everybody needs a bosom.”