I awake this morning with a sickening swoop in my stomach as I listen to the sound of my husband backing out of the driveway on his way to work. He’s forgotten to take the baby’s car seat out of his car, I’m sure of it. Somehow, I just know. I skyrocket from sound asleep to all-out angry in the space of about a nanosecond.
I reminded him about the car seat approximately forty-two times last night. We have a busy day ahead of us, my daughter and I, and many places we need to go. In the car. With the car seat. “Don’t forget to move her car seat,” I’d said. All those buckles and straps are a pain to fumble with around my pregnant belly, and so whenever my husband moves the seat into his car, he always moves it back for me. Or should I say, almost always.
“Don’t worry, I won’t forget,” he assured me. “Why don’t you just move it now?” I asked. “I’m not going to forget!” he answered. So I let it go. But I knew he’d forget. And as it turns out, of course, I was right. Small comfort.
I lie in bed for a minute or two, fuming, before my brain automatically begins to form the words of a prayer: Please God, I pray, just stop him before he gets all the way to work, an hour away. Make him notice that he has her car seat in the back of the car so he can bring it back home. Please God? Please.
I can feel my heartbeat jump a notch faster, my hands clenching into fists and then releasing again at my sides. I’m really angry. Stop it, I tell myself. Calm down. I take a deep breath and mouth my current favorite word: perspective. Per-spec-tive.
I’m upstairs in the bedroom of our recently-rented townhouse, my car parked in our attached garage while my husband drives his car (a borrowed car, but still, a car) to work. He has a new, permanent job where he makes enough money to afford the recently-rented townhouse; we have the proverbial roof over our heads and food on the table. And we have health insurance. This is a far cry from our situation a few months ago, living in one room on a temp salary, relying on local assistance to cover my pregnancy bills.
Deep breath. I’m in a happy place. I love my husband, I love my daughter, I love the baby growing in my womb. I love my house, my car, the car seat, my life. Peace, love, perspective.
How many freaking times did I tell him not to drive off with the car seat??
Turn around! My brain screams at my husband, in what is fast becoming less of a prayer and more of an attempt at telepathy. I close my eyes. Per-spec-tive. My daughter rustles beside me. God, help me to just let it go. Help me to forgive.
But why should I pray that God will help me to forgive my husband, when God couldn’t even be bothered to tap him on the shoulder this morning and whisper “Hey dude, don’t forget the car seat”? Why should I now be the one asking for mercy? Certainly causing a seismic event to take place in my heart is a far bigger task then simply alerting my husband to the presence of the car seat, right? He had to turn around to back out of the driveway, for crying out loud! How on earth did he not see it in the back seat? And given a choice, shouldn’t God want to burden himself with the least difficult task possible?
Even beyond that theological humdinger, how am I supposed to trust in a God who’s proven he can’t even get my husband’s attention for two whole seconds?
Please God. I strain my ears for the sound of car wheels crunching back up the driveway, my husband returning home in the wake of a divine nudge. If I scrunch my eyes up tight I can almost hear his key in the lock. Or maybe he’ll leave the car seat outside the front door, like he did the last time he had it in his car. “I just didn’t want to wake you up,” he’d e-mailed after he got to work, and I could picture him setting the car seat gently on the porch, mindful of his sleeping wife and child. He’s really a great guy.
A great guy who drove off with the car seat and totally ruined my day. I am so ticked off.
Please God, I pray again, my daughter’s soft breath the only sound I hear as I strain my ears for the hum of the car returning. Why can’t you make him notice? I fume as I shift my belly from one side to the other, trying in vain to fall back asleep during these precious few minutes that my daughter appears to be sleeping.
But no car sound comes. Oh dear God, I continue, please help me not to be angry. Give me a sense of perspective. And maybe a sense of humor? Please, God. Please.
Perhaps because I’ve been exhorted to “pray without ceasing” my entire life, constant prayer is habitual for me, as much a part of my daily life as the rhythms of my body and the division of my very cells. Granted, I can’t exactly say for sure that the type of prayers that come so easily to me are the sort I’m supposed to be praying, being mostly of the Let me find a parking space and Don’t let the pasta boil over sort, but still.
We couldn’t be in a better place right now, my little family and I, and you’d think, for all the time I spent praying for a permanent job, a house with more than one room, a health insurance plan to cover my pregnancy, that now that I have those things, I’d be thrilled. And my daily prayers would showcase that fact. The truth is, when I remember to be thrilled, I am. It’s just that I don’t seem to remember as often as I’d like.
I think it’s like having a bad head cold, the kind where you lie awake at night, exhausted and unable to sleep from congestion, grateful for every molecule of air you can wrest past your sinuses. I often wonder in those stuffy wee hours how I ever manage to take a breath without being grateful for it, all the rest of the time when I’m healthy and breathing freely. And yet. Eventually the cold wears off, I get better, and I forget all about being grateful that I can breathe.
In everything give thanks, I remind myself, and grudgingly start a mental list of the things I have to be happy about. I wrap my arms around my belly and roll over, now nose-to-nose with my daughter, her eyelashes fluttering darkly against her skin as she dreams. She works her lips against an invisible breast and sighs contentedly, drinking up dream-milk as she slumbers on. It is 7:00 a.m.
This is the first time in recent history she hasn’t been up shortly after 5:00 a.m., and I am missing out on my chance to sleep in along with her, thanks to my husband. No, wait: happy thoughts. In everything give thanks.
I sigh as my daughter opens her eyes and looks right at me.
“I’m thankful for you,” I say. And I am. “I wanted you my whole entire life,” I continue. “And here you are!” I lean over and give her a kiss. “What do you think of that?”
“Go-gie,” she says, which means she wants to nurse.
I pick her up and nurse her. Without the car seat, I call and cancel my appointments and meetings, shift my schedule and per-spec-tive, and then we go downstairs for breakfast. We eat together, and I e-mail my husband at work to tell him that I love him. Then my daughter and I spend the rest of the morning splashing together in her baby pool, a veritable fountain of thanks.