On December 19th I met the newest member of the Walker family. The son of my niece, Jack impressed us all with his exceptionally good behavior and his patience as we each took turns holding him for the first time. Jack, born a month early, was celebrating his one month birthday on the same day that we gathered together to share a meal and open Christmas presents. Pictures of everyone holding Jack were snapped in rapid succession. Looking back on these shots now, I am thrilled to have some photos of Jack and I. I adore the little expressions on Jack's face and I love the natural expressions of both joy and peace that I see on my own.
From 1992 to 1999 I gave birth to three children of my own. For my first Valentine's Day as a new mom, my husband bought me a rocking chair. We placed the chair in the nursery. I remember rocking each of my babies there, but when I had my last baby, he and I spent more time in the rocking recliner chair that sits downstairs. That was a glorious 10 month maternity leave. I soaked in the stillness of our rocking that year and took my own mental pictures regularly, as I realized that time was passing quickly and I knew how very precious it was to be rocking together day after day in his infancy.
As my maternity leave was coming to an end, I was quite distraught. I knew my baby was going to be just fine. I knew that my two daughters were happy children and that my returning to teaching would be something I would adjust to and even enjoy after a transition period, but I was saddened at the thought of never having another baby to rock day after day. So, in 1999, I made myself a promise. Someday, perhaps when my own children have moved off to college, I am going to get myself a job rocking babies. I am going to volunteer at a hospital's neonatal unit that needs someone to cuddle their little ones. Volunteers such as I have described are in fact named "Baby Cuddlers". They are specially trained to handle, hold, and rock hospitalized babies who are in need of the power of the human touch.
When I returned to work in the fall of 1999 a coworker asked about my leave. "Weren't you terribly bored?" she asked. I barely had time to respond when she launched into a discussion of having needed more stimulation than she'd ever been able to get on her own maternity leave years earlier. I shook my head. I couldn't respond in fear that I might have said something judgmental. I respect her experience but give me a baby to rock any day. Rocking a baby and knowing that I might help provide the love and nurturing each baby needs so desperately is all the mental, emotional, and spiritual stimulation I could ever need.