No one told me I would disappear, that with the birth of my daughter my ambitions and interests would be washed away with her very first tears and later sent spinning down the drain as her cries echoed in my ears.
To matter held new meaning. I was her warm milk, soft skin and her home, just as I had been when she was nestled safely and silently inside my womb.
I could see in the eyes of others that I was barely recognizable. Some showed concern for my lack of self-awareness, suggesting, “me-time” and the need for balance. But my choices were limited, I left once intriguing conversations to walk again into the bathroom, baby strapped to my chest, where the shower’s white noise would quiet her screams.
I sat alone there, willing her to sleep, swaying outside the shower’s curtain.
She needed me; I was all she had, and soothing her was my only task.
Her colic made me question my parenting as I wondered if all babies cried incessantly every evening, for nearly two months. After exactly four hours of inconsolable cries, the screams would flip off like a switch, willed by me, but ordered by some foreign entity, as if the clock’s hand had more control than my aching arms and my maternal want.
I swaddled, shushed, nursed, patted, and bounced my stitches clear through my broken skin.
And yet she continued to cry.
My only escape, the same shower she found comfort in. Ten minutes of hot water to reinvigorate me while her father attempted to soothe. I could not hear her cries over the water’s pulse and I would close my eyes and wonder if she had finally finished sobbing.
As the warm water poured over my tired eyes, I wondered what she heard when the white noise stopped, why the silence frightened her when I so longed for it.
Rushed, I would turn off the faucet and hold my breath.
And in seconds, I could hear her screams, panicked and shrieking. I would let down, prematurely soaking my clean nightgown before I ran to her, where I would once again disappear in warm milk, soft skin, blinded to all else by purpose.
Some weeks following her birth, after what seemed to be days of endless crying, I had to leave the confines of our tiny Cape.
It would be the first night she quieted for me, the night I fell in love.
Too fearful to venture far, I swaddled her tightly before bouncing rhythmically on the yoga ball, only this time outside on our porch as a cool early spring breeze poured in through the trees.
Bounce. Wail. Stitches pulled and her cries persisted, echoing in my ears until all was white noise.
And then, the storm finally came and amid strong winds and whistling chimes, she was silenced with a hush. Asleep on my chest, we continued to bounce softly as sheets of rain stained my cheeks, washing away the saline and our tears.
I had comforted her.
I had disappeared and been reborn, a mother.
Guest post written by Chrissie Williams. Chrissie is a writer and editor from upstate New York where she lives with her husband and daughter. Follow her @clynn418 for updates on her much-loved family and published work.