A Quiet Pocket of Space
My daughter was three months old when we bought the chair from Babies R Us. My in-laws had given us a wooden rocker that was beautiful but hurt my back, and jammed on the thick, wall-to-wall carpet. For twelve weeks I couldn’t find a place to soothe my baby at night. I’d schlep from my bed to the downstairs couch and eventually back to the wooden rocker in search of a comfortable place to pacify her cries, satisfy her hunger, and be one with her again, like when she was cushioned inside my womb.
A co-worker once told me that those nighttime feeds, though exhausting, could hold a sense of peace. “It’s just you and the baby,” she’d said. But she must have had the right chair. A sanctuary to revel in stillness.
“This one,” I said to my husband the afternoon we went shopping, our daughter dozing in her stroller. I could picture myself sitting in it at one a.m., three a.m., five a.m. It was ivory-colored and cushiony, and glided like a Mississippi River boat over the smoothest waters. Even the ottoman glided. With this chair, my girl and I would take the sweetest nighttime rides.
Though the chair careened with fluidity in the store, at home it didn’t go anywhere. It kept my sleepless daughter and I stationed in the nursery each night for a two-to-three-hour marathon of rocking, nursing, bouncing, and praying for sleep. Yet the moment her body hit the crib mattress, crying ensued. Her white pajamas, the ones with the tiny blue cherries would glow in the darkness as I stood over her crib. My knees buckled, my sense of inertia unsteady, like I was going overboard.
Things worsened when my husband and I bought a new home, and the moving process began. Our house was a playground of boxes, and my hands were darkened with newspaper soot from individually wrapping single drinking glasses and mugs.
“Did you pack anything today?” my husband asked, exhausted from dealing with lawyers and realtors.
My eyes bulged with exhaustion. “She won’t let me!” I’d protest. “She screams the second I put her down. I can’t pack with one hand.”
Our daughter mirrored our frustrations. She was a stray violet caught in an unexpected patch of shade, absorbing our depleted energies. Six months old and she was as flustered as her parents.
Then one afternoon in December, mere days before the move, I entered the nursery, my daughter astride my hip. There were three major pieces of furniture left—the crib, a dresser, and the chair.
For three hours, we rocked into stillness. I transcended into a meditative state while my daughter slept, soundly, for the first time in weeks. Specks of dust, kicked up from all the packing, orbited a cone of sunlight cutting through the vinyl blinds. The day darkened. Degree by degree, our bodies settled into the chair’s expanse.
The early weeks in our new home were filled with the creaks, groans, and shadows of an unfamiliar place. This further disrupted our daughter’s rhythm. For twelve-hour periods, I was in and out of her room like a pin ball caught in the machine’s labyrinth. My whole body sagged. Nighttime became one giant mirage. I saw a mouse run behind the crib, a green laser beam dart across the floor.
“I just need to lay down!” I screamed at my husband, the red, digital numbers on the clock blasted my brain. 2:24 a.m.
“I don’t want to roll on her in my sleep.”
“Fine, I’ll just spend the next two hours rocking her then.”
The slamming door echoed through the hallway. My daughter and I returned to the chair to dwell in the ruptures of a promised peace.
But the fog lifted as she grew, and the chair remained in the corner of my daughter’s new lavender bedroom, serving as a post-nap refuge. Each day, until she turned three, I’d pull her from her bed, and we’d convene in the chair. My daughter would curl into my lap as if she were trying to fit inside a conch shell. I’d stroke her hair and we’d have nonsensical conversations. This sometimes lasted forty-five minutes after her nap time, an extended respite that wouldn’t have been possible without the chair.
And as my belly grew into a giant orb, and we all prepared to start over again, the chair migrated to our son’s room. On his second night home, as his cries signaled in the middle of the night, I lifted him from the bassinet. Instead of retreating to bed, we slipped across the hallway into the nursery and into the chair where he nursed and settled and slept and the world waited.
I remembered my co-worker’s words. Just you and the baby. Me, the baby, and the chair.
The chair where both my babies posed, twelve times a year, for a photo with circular stickers fastened on their chests branding their ages. The chair, where I put myself in time outs when the chaos threatened to crack me in two. The chair, an ebb from the constant flow, a quiet pocket of space.
My kids, now five and two, have found a new purpose for the chair. At bedtime, they sit, pressed together as my daughter helps her brother navigate the pages of a cardboard toddler book. I rest on the ottoman in front of them, supervising, watching them in awe. They take turns leaning forward, offering their foreheads for a kiss. When the go back, the force of their little bodies causes the chair to smack against the wall. They pause and check my reaction. I smile, because I don’t even mind.
Katie Greulich is a mother, wife, and writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared previously Mothers Always Write, Mamalode and on other sites. Along with her personal essays, she is currently writing her first novel.