“Are you telling me a story?” I whisper, watching Oliver’s tiny mouth open into a perfect O after he utters a string of sounds, his own little “words.”
Everyone said we would learn his language, his father and me; that, in time, we would begin to know what the whimpers and grunts and dolphin-like calls all mean. For nervous parents-to-be, this seemed impossible. “He won’t speak English,” I remember joking with Spencer. And we won’t know the Language of Oliver.
Despite assurances from seasoned parents, I pictured myself as this sleep-deprived, wild-haired monster pacing the halls with a howling infant in her arms. In these anxious daydreams, it was always dark, maybe even raining, and I was always exhausted. I imagined being frustrated, so frustrated, that I’m singing every lullaby-esque song I can think of . . . nonsense words to old tunes that rise up out of nowhere; often songs my parents sang to me. Yet Ollie stays stuck in his own frustration, ignoring my tunes and pleas. He bucks and howls louder in my arms.
Have I actually had nights like that? I have. I have. Our 10-week-old has wailed and begged for something I cannot see, cannot parcel out, and I have felt helpless and lonely and sad. We have tried fresh diapers and extra milk and swaddling with arms in, swaddling with arms out, and nothing pleases him. Nothing can quiet that wail from that perfect O mouth.
That is not every night — or even most of them. But on the rough nights, the hard nights, we rock and twirl as I hold tight to him, this warm little body somehow created out of nothing, trying not to trip on the too-long legs of my pajamas. We stand in the nursery prepared during the weeks Oliver was in a hospital far from us, Spencer and I worrying obsessively about his care and well being and when — when — we would finally bring him home.
And we sway, Oliver and me, two people watching another sunrise catch summer dew on grass I once danced through myself. The day slides in, already waiting for us. He finally quiets, a drowsy and reassuring weight in my arms, so I watch alone. And it’s hard to imagine feeling lonely ever again.