December 10, 2004
It is black outside. Soft pits and pats against the window…rain…and I pull the blanket closer, sinking back into the arm of the recliner. A hot cup of tea rests at my elbow. It is my favorite time of the day.
In the darkness, I think back to other special mornings, twenty years ago. Wrapped in my green plush robe, rocking back and forth, it was many a quiet dark morning when I would slowly sense the presence of another person. My son, a toddler of three, had padded into the living room, up next to my chair, with his small eyes fixed on me.
Wordlessly, in agreement that the peace of the morning was large enough for both of us, I would open my robe. Knowing what to do, he climbed onto my lap, and I pulled the robe around us, a snuggling of two. In many a dark early morning, so many years ago, we kept the peace together.
Snuggling…it’s hard to know the best part. Is it the dark, the quiet, the soft touch of a hand on the shoulder? Is it protection, comfort, acknowledgement, relationship? Safety? Is it the promised assurance between human beings that what happens to you will happen to me because I share your heartbeat?
I was jarred to attention last week. I was asked to consider the first time I ever snuggled, my earliest snuggle of life, and the question brought me up short.
Was it inside the warm white blanket wrapped around me as I was laid into the arms of my mother in the hospital? Or was it later…close against her as she nursed me, her firstborn? Maybe my father was the first to snuggle me, peering intently, measuring the smallest eyes and lips of a baby…his…held in the crook of his arm.
Maybe…but the magic of science has opened the window on snuggling, and I think it must surely have been weeks, even months before my birth, when I knew I was safe, a knowing of safety available to all living beings even before they can explain it in words.
Surely, weeks before birth, wrapped into a bundle of baby, between my bursts of pushing and kicking against the walls of the womb…surely there were quiet moments shared with my mother where we snuggled and dreamt. Already at this stage I had fine hair, teeth, and eyelash fringes around eyelids that opened and closed…and opened again…for infant eyes that looked around. When she spoke, I knew my mother’s voice…outside…serenading me as I waited my time.
Certainly, even weeks earlier, when the womb was large enough for me to swim and stretch and turn somersaults, I took time to rest and sleep and snuggle. Inside my mother’s quiet belly, worn out from my infant gymnastics, curling my toes, I would have stuck my thumb into my mouth and felt the safety of darkness…protected and safe.
One thing is certain. I know I snuggled long before I made my first appearance under bright hospital lights. No matter what some want to claim I was back then…a blob, a mass of cells, an embryo, a fetus…a product of conception…I was, without a doubt, a flourishing child of my parents, thriving and growing.
Today, cloaked in a battle of terminology, creating labels devoid of humanity, there are those who wish us to forget that we once snuggled in the womb. They will not have their way with me.
I claim my existence, refusing to be dehumanized at any stage of development. Supported by the miraculous development of four-dimensional ultrasound, doctors and parents can follow the development of babies like me. At eight weeks, I was fully formed, a human of one inch in length, every organ present, with a strong beating heart.
At nine weeks, my fingerprints were already engraved, and my fingers were ready to grasp an object placed in my palm.
At ten weeks, my body was sensitive to touch. I squinted and swallowed. I puckered my brow and frowned.
And then I smiled…at eleven weeks. And if I could smile, it is certain that I smiled because I felt safe, snuggled inside, nurtured and protected…my life ahead to be enjoyed and cherished.
So many years later, watching the dawn break on the mountains outside the window, I follow the beads of rain that trickle down the glass. Another beautiful day outside, crisp and damp. The garden will sparkle when the sun breaks through the clouds. I take a sip of tea and pull the blanket up under my chin.
My son is grown now, and I must snuggle alone. It’s enough, but it’s not the best there is.
If there really is a best thing to snuggling, this would have to be it…revived by thoughts of long ago…a bundle wrapped together, two of us sharing the morning…the best thing of all surely being the promised assurance between human beings that what happens to you will happen to me…because I share your heartbeat.
This column is dedicated to the many committed educators who are not afraid to teach our children about their earliest days of life inside the womb. May these faithful teachers be encouraged in their work.
See Archives for past editorials.
June 25, 2004: Unplanned Joy