We bought Eve a swing in a fit of exhausted frustration when she was about 5 weeks old and refusing to fall asleep at the end of the day. She was still so new and so foreign: this tiny, flailing thing, utterly at the whim of our resources and unable to communicate her needs plainly. We struggled, those first few weeks, as most parents do. I walked her up and down the halls, singing (When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother / What will I be?), humming (Hedwig’s Theme, in pitches that varied by the hour and by level of fatigue). Eric rocked her, strapped her into the car seat and swung her left and right, while I watched him wearily from the bed.

I still remember her tiny sounds, the way she’d suck her cry back in as she flew, voice stolen with the force of the swing. She’d lie still and quiet, transfixed, as he strained the muscles in his back, his arms, desperate to win us a few hours of sleep. Sometimes, when he stopped, she would be asleep, eyes fluttering shut, gentle breaths floating in and out. And other times, she would immediately grimace in dismay, ball up her fists, and wail at us, demanding more.

Our every breath centered on her. In, out: is she okay? Is she warm enough? It’s too hot. Take that blanket off of her. In, out: Where are her socks? Am I producing enough milk? Is she okay? Caressing, fretting, patting: robbed of speech, we communicated through touch, kissing her plump cheeks and wiping her little bottom with wipes that were too cold, I’m sorry Pea. She’d start, and shoot me an affronted look, a disgruntled furrowing of brows so hilariously adult for her small face. Is she okay?

Her first night in the swing, she sat in stupefied satisfaction, watching her warped reflection in the bulbous mirror, following the twirling animals that danced around its perimeter. We sat on the bed and didn’t say a word, hardly daring to breathe too loud, silently rapturous in our victory. We waited as her eyes slowly shut, her chest rising and falling with every contented breath. In, out. We watched her for an hour that night, our triumph trumping the rest we’d so desperately sought.

And now: do you think she’ll stay in the swing? She is larger now, stronger; deftly twisting and arching her body up and out when she’s had enough. Now we put her down and she rolls, now we put her in a bouncer and she grins. She stands on our lap, testing the spring and bounce of her legs, laughing in delight when we mirror her smile.

Originally published at www.carlawaslike.com on October 13, 2015.

Carla Bruce-Eddings

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writer, teacher, mama // getting in the mess