Yesterday, I gently held my infant son’s upper -body still as a nurse administered his first immunizations. I knew it wouldn’t be a picnic. I was right.
Oh, the sound he made—it was like nothing I’d ever heard come from my baby. That scream was so extreme, it was practically tangible. It practically had its own texture. I can describe it as if it were a fine wine—rich with sadness, sweetened with a shot of the purest shock, topped with gentle hints of betrayal. It made my heart wither around the edges. I know nothing of the intricacies that comprise the infant thought process, but I can imagine the gist of what was running through his mind: What was that? Why did Mommy let that happen to me?
As soon as the nurse finished placing Scooby-Doo Band-Aids on his little wounds, I scooped him up and whispered comforts into his ear. He wailed so loudly I could barely hear the nurse’s aftercare instructions. Pain was flashing through his brain, along with surprise and confusion. I gave him a bottle and looked into his blue eyes. A silvery sheen of tears coated them. I wanted to tell him that it was all over, and that he’d never have to go through that again, but I didn’t want to lie to him.
I understand that pain is a part of life, and sometimes we have to sacrifice momentary comfort for the sake of the greater good…but knowing these things doesn’t make it any easier to accept the fact that sometimes, my little one is going to be in pain, or scared, or confused. I can dole out hugs and words of comfort, but there is no way around the fact that I simply can’t shield him from the onslaught of challenges that the world will toss at him. Seems obvious. In practice, though, it’s a lot harder to accept.
Sometimes I see his little eyebrows furrow while he’s sleeping. Occasionally he’ll emit a tiny, solemn squeak. What could he possibly be dreaming about that has him so distressed? A dim memory of something that imprinted itself in him in the womb? That time I stumbled when carrying him? A loud noise he heard? Sometimes he startles himself awake and greets the waking world with a cry. But, thankfully, a few minutes later he’s all smiles again.
A little bit of milk and some rocking helped him forget the shots. But I’ll never forget his sad little face and that terrible scream. But now, I appreciate his smiles all the more.