He did a little drunk sailor walk toward his mama. She stood at the front of our congregation, preparing to sing. She reached for him just as the music started, just as she was to fill her lungs. Her eyes showed her love, and exasperation and a quiet pleading for just two blessed seconds of help.
When I saw the flash of desperation in her eyes, I sighed. I’d have to take him. It was my job, right? I saw a sort of resignation curling over her shoulders and she deflated even while snuggling him. I raised my arms toward her even while she searched the room for some kind of solid help, with two arms and a washable shirt to absorb the drool.
I took the baby in my arms and she shrugged off her worry. He arched his back in an unconvincing and short-lived fit. In the time it took me to return to my seat, he was already pointing out the window and cooing. I don’t have any special baby whisperer skills, but pretend anyway.
At the back of the room, little O and I swayed to the music and I sang in his ear. I pointed to his mama and to the shifting shadows cast by the trees just out the window. I breathed him in, that elixir of heaven scent: honey and soap and perfect new skin. I pressed my cheek against his. He allowed his face to rest on me for a blink, then his head bounced back up, to make sure he didn’t miss anything.
Each time, his cheek stayed pressed against mine a second longer, two song beats longer, a sweep of the minute hand longer against me. I smelled his little baby head and I felt his tired warmth and I sang with his mama and the rest of our church. His eyes blinked, and fluttered and finally, I felt that heaviness of a sleeping baby.
I couldn’t see his face, and I did’t need to to know he had found rest. His entire body was slack, like a sack of flour. Every muscle that had twitched to hold up his head and his spine, that worked to point and stretch and wriggle goes absolutely limp and still. Babies know how to rest. They know how to let everything fall away.
I sat with Baby O while the pastor preached, while the offering plate made the rounds. I listened to his soft breath, and I prayed. I prayed I could enter that kind of rest. I practiced with him. As he inhaled and exhaled, and he grew heavier and heavier, I let myself find a similar kind of rest. I found I could listen without taking notes. I could hear without being distracting by the fidgeting of my own children. Where my muscles let the chair beneath me do the job of holding me. I let myself find rest. I could settle right down into the presence of that rest.