For the first couple months of his life, Henry had this tiny squeaky cry that sounded like you were stepping on a kitten (I assume at least- I don’t go around marching on baby cats). It was objectively not very loud, and kind of cute.
But then two events happened in close succession that changed his cry. Ok, so really I’m sure that it was just him getting older, but it coincided with first – his 2 month shots. A couple hours after that round of shots, he started crying a cry we hadn’t heard before. A deep cry, a loud, mouth-opened-in-pain cry that just about killed me as I rocked my sweet boy. The only thing that made it better was knowing that the pain he felt was ultimately for his benefit, as those shots delivered vaccines that will protect him against much greater dangers.
But the following week, Henry had his first experience where someone deeply wronged him and caused him pain.
And it was me.
As happens to many parents, I was trimming his nails and I cut too deeply. The blood gushed at an alarming rate, I froze, and Henry’s eyes opened wide in shock. For one split second he was too stunned that someone had hurt him to respond, and then he screamed for a solid 45 minutes before drifting off into fitful sleep. He bled through multiple Band-aids, causing frantic internet searches for “can my baby bleed out from his finger.” He will surely forget this event, but I never will.
Ever since that traumatic week, he has maintained this new cry, this cry that sounds like it knows pain like it has seen things. He cries with less innocence now, if that is even possible for a baby.
Obviously I am overthinking it all, because that is what mother’s do. But still.
When I sit in his rocker for the millionth time each day, I sing hymns to him and I always come back to “It Is Well with My Soul.” So much is not well with my soul right now, so much evil in the world, so much pain among my friends that I fluctuate between anger and sadness. And then I look at my baby, with his newly educated cry, and I know that it will get so much worse as he grows. He will learn to mourn and have deep sorrow- of this I am sure. The world will teach him pain and suffering and injustice and I can’t prevent it. I sing the words of that hymn over and over and I wonder if Spafford actually believed it when he wrote it, if he actually watched all his children die and reflected on his lesson and then wrote a hymn. I doubt it. I think he wrote it in an effort to believe it. Like, if he sang the words over and over enough — maybe they would teach their truth to him. Maybe they could act as an incantation that convinces. Because even though I know that I believe all the things in that old song, my heart rebels against the idea of calm acceptance of all the things that are unwell with my soul. And I think that’s ok. I think our souls should be bothered by a lot of what they experience in this world. They should need reassurance that there is something beyond what we are living now. Our souls should grieve and grow angry and cry out that things aren’t the way they should be. Because they aren’t. But if we repeat truths back like the ones in this song, we have something to cling to when everything is profoundly not well with our souls.
In the meantime, I’ll just be here rocking and singing and teaching my boy a truth that often won’t feel true, and that is the most important time to cling to it.