It was one of those days. One of those days I was feeling very sorry for myself. I had been stuck at home without a car for the entire day before because Brian had to take it to work. I felt like I was going batty. At the suggestion of my wise mother I decided to get out of the house.
My mother offered to give Little Owl and I a ride to a coffee shop so I could hang out away from home while my mom ran some errands. Little Owl fell asleep in the car. Perfect. I could hang out and read (a rare luxury these days).
We stopped the car. I got out, transferred my 17 pound bundle of joy to my Ergobaby carrier, and walked inside.
And, of course, as soon as I sat down... she woke up. Classic.
Not just a little wake up. She was WIDE awake. The coffee shop was alive. She wanted to be a part of it. She started screeching at the top of her lungs at a little girl sitting with her family next to us, at the guy across the way, at the woman ordering at the counter. She wanted to know and greet each person in turn.
Now, mind you, this baby girl has a set of lungs. (She has been practicing for her upcoming audition for the Metropolitan Opera for the past two months. I am pretty confident she will beat out the competition no problem.)
We are talking screeching. (Maybe we shouldn't have nick-named her Little Owl...maybe she got the wrong idea...?). Screeching so intense that when I give her a bath the sound reverberates through the bathroom and I swear part of my brain leaks out my ears...
So there I was bemoaning my pre-baby past. A past life when I could just sit and sip a cup of tea and read a book in peace. Instead, I was feeling extremely self-conscious. Despite how I was feelng, people were actually being quite kind. They were smiling at my babies happy (LOUD) noises. But I wondered how long it would last. Surely eventually they would get annoyed. Granted the environment we were in was not a library... it was a very noisy one. But, I was still feeling awkward. Dare I even say... embarrassed?
When, walks into my life, a reminder.
This woman comes up to me carrying a baby girl around the same age as mine. She smiles at me and says to Athena, "We heard you and just had to come say hi" The girls coo at each other and practice blowing raspberries. The interaction is between them is quite endearing and adorable.
I mumble something like "I know" with a slight eye roll. She poopoos my response with "Oh, we think it's wonderful! Such happy noises". She's right. My baby is happy. Extremely happy. And that joy comes out in her voice.
I ask the woman if the baby she's holding is hers. She says yes, but then adds "She's my foster baby."
I asked the woman how long she had had the baby for. Around two months, she said. She had picked her up from the children's hospital. She chit-chatted a little about the formula the baby was on when she got her, about the trauma the baby had experienced, and about her visits with her real parents each week.
It took a minute for the reality of what she was saying to sink in. For me to get the pieces. Children's hospital. Trauma. Two months when she got her.
I was extremely confused. I didn't understand. I naively said, "Was it trauma from birth?"
The woman looks at me for a moment without speaking with an odd look on her face. She kindly says, "Oh no, honey."
This beautiful baby girl. Not four months old. Had been beaten. Almost to death. She had had numerous bones broken. She was bruised and battered when this lady came to the hospital to pick her up.
I stood there.
Overwhelmed by thoughts, feelings. A sense of shame for the world I live in, a feeling of horror at the violence, anger towards the evil, love for this poor baby girl, love for my sweet daughter, gratitude for the life I have been given, for the life my baby has been given, respect for this woman, for all brave foster parents like her. So many things I can't articulate.
I wanted to cry. I felt ashamed.
How could I have been just moments before embarrassed over my beautiful, vibrant baby girl's sounds of sheer joy and love of life when this other little girl had been through more pain and trauma than I have known my entire life?
It was a slap in the face. The girls continued to coo and squeal at each other for a few more minutes while I finished my conversation with the woman. We said our goodbyes and I sat back down.
I shoved my book back into my bag, put my bag on my shoulder, and strapped my baby back into her carrier, nestled against my chest.
Her beautiful, loud, happy sounds were the soundtrack to my thoughts as she serenaded our walk together.
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