Lyra is sitting in her bouncer watching me make blonde brownies in the kitchen. Her attention is rapt. She watches every scoop of flour and each turn of the spoon. I am pleased to have an audience. Proud at how intensely my infant pays attention. in many ways she behaves like a baby much older, her legs furiously trying to stand up, before she can manage to sit. Her brow furrows as I talk to her, her lips and tongue desperately moving to imitate my mouth shapes. As I slip the square glass pan into the oven, I am smiling to myself, envisioning all of he days to come where my eager little sous chef will be cooking at my side, studying my every move.
Then she lets out an eardrum -piercing scream; giant tears brimming from her eyelids. Fists quivering in the air.
Though I have heard her cry several times each day for all 100-days of her life, I have never heard this sound. My empty
uterus quakes at this noise. I run to scoop her up. A quick once-over does not reveal the source of this agony. But the agony is real. Lyra is in pain and the pain terrifies her. Her eyes look to me for help. I am helpless.
When shushing, cuddling, and pacifying fail to work, I pull her to my chest and nurse her. She has just fed within the last hour and shouldn’t be hungry, but she shudders and gasps at my chest and bites down with a fury I haven’t felt before. Eventually, calm overtakes hr and she drifts off to sleep. I remain rattled and completely confused as to what has just happened.
Then I replay some her latest mysterious behaviors through my mind—ear tugging, excessive drooling, biting and chewing—and it hits me. She’s teething. A Google search of teething symptoms confirms my suspicion. But teething? Already? Apparently it’s not unheard of for babies to start teething as early as three months. The first teeth may follow soon after, or they may drift in slowly with recurrent episodes of pain.
For Lyra, the pain has been obviously agonizing. After five years of braces, two years of constant jaw aches from my wisdom teeth, and two crowns within six months (one without proper anesthetic), I am deeply sympathetic to her plight. But pain—even pain that makes you weep, scream, and curse—is a part of this life. We may sob, we may enrage, we may grieve it, but it is inescapable. Some of us have more pain than others, but we all experience it. As her mother it’s my job to help her though it. Not to make it go away, but to show her that she can get through it. Just as I needed my mother to say, “I know it hurts, baby, but you’re gonna be okay,” as I sobbed, bent in half, unable to stand straight during those first days in the hospital, Lyra needs me to whisper calmly in her her ear, wipe her tears, and reassure her that the pain will pass.
No matter how bad it is, it will go away.
Even if it has been three months since your massive abdominal surgery, and you can’t remember when the last tme was that you’ve gone twenty-four hours without feeling the hurt, it will end. No pain is permanent. Not even heartache. It’s a lesson we all must learn more than once in this life, because it’s so damn hard to believe it when you’re in the midst of grip. It’s a lesson that I will have to teach Lyra again and again, through many scrapes and bruises, friends who no longer want to play, boys who don’t know you’re alive. She needs me to teach her that all pain is temporary. Even when I am forgetting to believe it, myself…
You’re an uninvited guest. I don’t like having you here. Please make arrangements to be out by the first of the month.