Friday, March 25, 2011

A Comforting Hymn

Each of our boys has their own special lullaby. We did not plan that, it is just what happened.

Charlie's lullaby is Silent Night.

Calvin's lullaby is a also a Hymn, Be Thou My Vision.

But this story is about Miles' song.

When I was a child, I had a special way of dealing with anxiety. A way that involved darkness, layers of starlight, the sharp shadows of pine needles. And Hymns. 

I grew up in a little mountain town called Truckee, in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Our house was in a sparsely populated neighborhood where most of the homes on our street were cabins, uninhabited most of the year. There were no street lights. The air was thin at 6000 feet elevation, so you can imagine what the sky looked like at night.

It was beautiful. The deepest navy, filled with bright stars. Beyond the bright ones were faint ones. Layers and layers of starlight.

Below the sky was a mountain range, just a black silhouette in the distance. Our house stood among tall pines that would sway back and forth during a storm, but on the starry nights--the dark, sparkly nights--the motionless pines framed the sky above in needled fringe.

I would sit on my bed at night and look out my window at the stars and sing softly.  To me, the very act of singing hymns out into the night was like enacting a Holy kind of protection I could count on. It gave me peace in the dark and the silence on nights when my mind would begin to race. Three Hymns in particular: Holy, Holy Holy, Lord You Are Beautiful, As the Deer.

Some have read the story of Miles birth. It didn't go so well. It was traumatic for me, and it was traumatic for him. We were separated for some hours afterward, always with people or machinery between us. Miles was in a pitiful condition, having a hard time breathing, a hard time settling down. He was frantic.

After a few hours of trying to settle him and figure out what was wrong, trying to get him to breath well and simultaneously planning his transport to a NICU, our pediatrician decided to do something unusual for the situation. She decided to bring me into the nursery, and let Miles nurse... To see if a mama's touch could settle him. Soothe him enough to take a deep breath.

I was wheeled in, not doing so great myself, running a high fever and, you know, just given birth. My baby was plucked off the warming table, tubes and wires following in a tangled mess, and gently placed in my arms. I looked deeply into his face.  I hadn't yet seen it but from the side. He continued to scream and grunt. And at a time where he so needed comfort, and also I, a song came to me.

As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.

Miles calmed immediately, and nursed as if it was the first drink he had taken after a long journey through a desert.

The song came over and over. Raymond and I sat and took in our new son, our son who was now quiet and still, save for his hungry gulps. We stared at the monitors hooked to his body, and watched his pulse calm down, his oxygen levels slowly rise. The nurse turned off the light in the nursery, and we continued to sit in the shadows nursing amidst the beeps of monitors, watching our baby settle into his life.

That is how Miles got his song.  His lullaby.  And, while I don't care to go through trauma like we did that night ever again, the whole thing is worth it to me for that moment in the cold, quiet hospital nursery.

Even now, when Miles is unsettled the song comes and does its work like a miracle. A miracle for us both. He is calmed. I am calmed. He listens and remembers those first moment of being reunited with his mommy, those moments where stress and fear left his body. Maybe he does not know what it means, or why he suddenly feels well and whole and fine.  He just knows all is okay again.

When I sing it, I am reminded of the cold metal daybed against my arms, the stars over the house, the way the needles on the trees seem to point like fingers to the sky, the feeling of what it is to have the hand of God come to me as a child.

And the very promise of peace.


Lisa said...

Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this.

Grandma Alice said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! It is amazing how hymns of praise and peace can calm us. I've been blessed by music all my life. I sang to my babies while nursing and rocking. Our God knows what He is doing! He is in control!
Grandma Alice

Cindy said...

This was a great post. I too love the song, As the Deer. Our souls do long for God, the One who created us in our mothers womb.

No wonder it calmed Miles so well.

skiingthroughlife said...

love this song, what a beautiful post and family. my first time here, you are blessed!!!!! Miles is perfect!! My grady is 13 months but miles reminds me so much of him.

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