Last Smiles Before Falling Asleep
Paradisaea # 7 // The Happy Slumber Collection
80% cotton, 20 % linen
Woven with Paradisaea's Caleidoscope twill
3,1 m - 250 g/m2
Tapered ends, hemmed rails
He is not quite awake nor quite asleep yet. I watch him open his eyes and close them again, I follow the small movements of his tired hands and feet when he searches for sleep. His head falls to the pillow but then he is awake again, opening his eyes once more. His eyes wander for a while, looking around - and then they find me.
A smile flashes across his face like light moves on water. It flows across his features, starting in his eyes, moving to his cheeks, falling on his lips. He is fighting sleep and his eyes close again, but the smile still lingers on his face. He reaches out and grasps my shirt, holding tight. And then his head rests on the pillow - still smiling.
And so he goes, sailing to the shores of sleep. I lay next to him, astonished, in awe, in wonder. How have we come here? How have I landed in a situation in my life where I am something like this? How did I become the person who is granted the last smiles before falling asleep? How did I become the person who has the privilege of being so safe that my child will fall asleep grasping my shirt? It fills me with wonder that we have these moments - that in the middle of all the exhaustion, all the chaos, all my uncertainty and in the middle of all my fears we have these moments of smiling in the middle of sleep. That my child thinks I am this safe.
Babies have a special privilege: they can still be extremely vulnerable. (At least they should have this privilege.)
Hardly any other creature in the world has the same possibility. Practically all other mammals have to be able to either run, hide or escape only minutes after their birth. A newborn human, however, is completely dependent on his mother or other caretaker for many years - he cannot even feed himself without the help of another human being.
The whole thing is so disarming. It feels incredible to be so important to another human being. For a baby, a mother or a father is the centre of the known universe - the source of all comfort and goodness, the basis for all trust and safety. Moms and dads carry a responsability that is so huge it is almost scary. Luckily a child doesn't even know how vast, how dangerous and how uncontrollable the world is. He doesn't even know what adults have to face in order to keep him safe. It's the adults' job to manage the unmanageable - to tame their own fears and worries so that they cannot disturb life.
A child who sleeps in my lap has been the strongest metaphor of vulnerability that I've ever faced. A tired child, happily drowsy in my arms, unaware of anything dangerous or bad in the world, slowly falling asleep, feeling absolutely safe and satisfied. I've tried to imagine what it feels like - to be embraced in the arms of someone who is about five times bigger than you, to be warm and snug in someone's lap, stomach full of milk, with a mind that is still unburdened and unstained with the worries of the world. How does it feel to be absolutely loved, absolutely safe, absolutely happy?
Babies have the priviledge of not knowing how bad the world is. They have the rare priviledge to be fully happy when they are happy. Knowledge brings pain, they say, and babies don't have the painful knowledge of the world. It must be a bliss.
But it is a bliss to be the one who can provide that safety for a baby. To be the one whose eyes they seek on the verge of sleep, with smile in their eyes - to be the one who receives the adoration and the love of a baby. Those moments need to be remembered, they need to be deposited deep in the brain in order to be withdrawn when they are needed: they testify that sometimes something has gone just right.
The biggest difference between the life of a human child and the offspring of any other creature is just this: life is not meant to be about survival but about love. Life should be about unconditional love, and that love should wash away all fear.
I suppose the pain of adulthood greatly consists of the longing to go back to that place again. The need for love never disappears. Even adults long for unconditional love and knowledge of being accepted just as we are, we long to be adored, cherished, kept safe and sound, we long to be free from fears and worries, carried by someone else into the safe space of happy sleep. We long to be held so close that it makes us whole again.
One of the wonderful things in parenting is that it can provide also the adult with an experience of unconditional love. A baby does not question or doubt, does not blame, does not dish out his love in calculated portions. Children are still more... whole than adults, more full somehow. They live fully, they love fully. One way to experience this unconditional love as an adult is to carry the child in a wrap. There you can have the child absolutely close to you, warm and snug next to you, completely relaxed in your arms, full of love.
These thoughts were in my mind when I was weaving Happy Slumber's 3rd wrap, Last Smiles Before Falling Asleep. The weft is a blueish dark grey, misty like the evening light in the nursery, drowsy and soft.