23: The Noisy Nest

23: The Noisy Nest

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

The Noisy Nest

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness.

If you are attentive, you will see it.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

The baby howled as I made my way down the two flights of wooden back steps. They were wet with snow and slippery. I gripped the rough gray railing with one hand and held my squirming daughter Kelly with the other. Her tiny face was scrunched with fury and her wails were so insistent that I felt frightened. My heart pounded as I made my way through the back alley and into the yard next door. I knew everything would be okay if I could just locate my mother.

She must have heard us coming because she stood still, broom in hand. She’d been sweeping snow from the walkway. Her cheeks were pink from the cold wind. Instead of a smile, she greeted me with concern. I knew she had read my face as I’d approached, just as she had all my life. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

I held the baby out in surrender. The blanket flapped as my daughter flailed. “I can’t take care of this baby,” I said simply. My mother didn’t take the bundle from my arms as I expected. She smiled slightly. She looked me in the eyes. And then she replied firmly, “You have to take care of that baby.”

I stood, shivering and pondering. This was not the response I wanted. Couldn’t she hear the baby crying? Couldn’t she see that I was no good at this? I was waving the white flag. I wanted her to fix this problem, just as she had so many times before when I needed her. Instead, she shook the snow off the broom and took off her gloves.

“Come on in the house. I’ll make some coffee,” she said. I must have relaxed at that small offer of support, for at that moment the baby stopped crying… finally.

Mom held Kelly while I gripped the coffee mug tightly. “She cries if I hold her, and cries if I don’t,” I explained.

“Does she cry all day?” Mom inquired.

“Well, no,” I admitted.

Mom continued: “She sleeps, drinks her bottle, snuggles up to you?” I wiggled in my chair, just as I had during childhood inquisitions. I glanced over at Kelly, content in my mother’s arms. Her tiny blue eyes were fixed on me, as if to ask, “What’s the problem here, Mama?”

I set the mug on the table and stood to reclaim my baby. Her sweet, familiar scent evaporated the stress in the air. Her tiny fist gripped my shirt, reassuring me that our bond still existed. I looked at my mother, feeling both foolish and relieved. She stood and placed an arm around my shoulders. “You were my seventh child,” she reminded me. “By the time you came along, I was confident and experienced. But with my first child, you can bet that I often felt overwhelmed.”

She ran her hand over Kelly’s downy hair. The baby showed no signs of our afternoon struggle, while my own hair remained damp and disheveled from sweat and worry. “Crying is the only way babies have to communicate. Try to listen to her cries and hear them as language. She’s not crying to annoy you; she’s trying to convey a message with the only voice she has.”

I looked down at my tiny infant and knew that I could never quit on her. Besides, my mom had made it clear that there was no backing out now. We would get through this newborn stage. My mother had gotten through it seven times! I thanked mom for her help. Once again, her gentle guidance had steered me through a storm and back into clear skies. As I headed back to my own home, Mom reminded me, “It won’t always be so hard. Children grow fast. Before you know it, you’ll have an empty nest and you’ll miss her.”

Kelly and I survived those early months. As Mom predicted, she grew quickly and soon mastered language. Her babbles turned to words, and then sentences. She chattered and sang and her soft voice filled my heart with warmth and love. We took long walks, hand in hand. My toddler became a girl, a teen, and then a woman as I watched in wonder.

One day, as I walked alone on the path we used to share, I heard a frantic commotion in a nearby tree. Three baby birds were wildly calling out, their necks stretched high. Their cries filled the air, sounding an urgent alarm towards the sky. With a whoosh, the mother bird swept in, rapidly filling the open beaks. She flew off quickly, and the babies resumed their loud and relentless pleas. Again, the mother reappeared, silencing them for a moment. I looked at her with empathy as she tried to smooth her ruffled feathers.

“It won’t always be so hard, Mama Bird,” I whispered to her. “They grow fast. Before you know it, you’ll have an empty nest, and you’ll miss them…”

~Marianne Fosnow

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