5:30am in the rocking chair.
These moments are pure bliss with Coral. There is stillness in the house- no pitter-patter of toddler feet, no excited screaming voices, no dogs barking.
During this time, I pray:
Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes.
I chant the mantra:
Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat
(I surrender to the 3-fold expression of life (creation, maintenance, and dissolution).
By surrendering, the sweetness of life permeates my being.
Like a cucumber that falls off the vine when it’s ripe,
Death falls out of my awareness.)
I meditate on words of guidance:
“Don’t confuse the map for the territory.”
(The territory is what actually happens (life’s landscape), but the map is my interpretation of what has happened. Throughout the course of my life, values, beliefs, and prejudices have created my map.)
I allow myself to recall some of the grief of the first month:
I watched my baby girl hover between life and death around 30 times; in some cases she was kept alive only by the artificial ventilations. At 5 days of life, when we did not know what was happening, I whispered in her ear, “It’s okay to go. We love you. You can go and be in Heaven.”
Inevitably, dawn transforms into day. During the busy days, I find myself whispering the Tryambakam mantra to bring myself back to the present moment. The world overwhelms me these days. Typical screams at me through the eyes of healthy baby girls. My map is written in black ink; it feels so permanent. It is a map with an ego based on a parental value code so ingrained by society that I don’t even recognize its presence until I am faced with breaking it down each day. This map is based on a lifetime of societal perceptions. Perceptions that say, without really saying, that special needs children are not the children of our dreams. As a society, we may know how to be politically correct, but we are often personally awkward in our interactions with special needs children- averting our eyes, telling our kids to “stop staring,” and acting like those children and their families can’t see us. But we certainly see them. Now I recognize that part of the map for what it is. On my map it is impossible to picture different as a reality. Different happens to other people, not me. But here I am. The map creates fear, oh so much fear, about what the future holds on this different path. I watch as friends and family try to assimilate Coral with their maps. I see their fear, too. The map, not the territory.
If the map makes comparisons, then the territory simply exists. Coral is the territory- a 3 month only baby girl with tremendous spirit and a beautiful soul. When I stand in Coral’s territory I allow myself to watch Coral develop and grow in her way. Coral holds her head at the midline a little more each day, reciprocating smiles, and my heart explodes. With Tate, I never celebrated milestones in such a huge way because they were expected. His milestones and my reactions fit the map. Coral’s milestones lie beautifully in her territory. And in this territory is complete freedom, like sweet, summer watermelon wrapped up in a baby’s blanket. It is 14 pounds of humility, showing me that life cannot be controlled; surrender has always been the only path. Things have never gone so off “course” for me. In fact, my life has been a beautiful symphony of creating what I want to happen. But now to be living in this unknown territory, I actually feel so FREE and so humbled. Coral has always been who Coral is now; the story and idea of Coral that Tom and I created during pregnancy, in fact never existed. The map is so often confused for the territory.
5:30am in the rocking chair
It is in this time that the world fades away, and I am left with my baby girl- laying on my chest, breathing in and out, head tilted ever so slightly upward so I can stare at her face. The world has faded away, taking with it my map and all of its perceptions, comparisons, and values, leaving space in its place.
Space for peace. Space for stillness. Space for acceptance. Space for unconditional love.
5:30am in the rocking chair. Just me, my daughter, and her complete perfection.