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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Next Step in the Traumatic Beginning

Standing on the porch, six-month-old Susie* clinging to my neck and her two- and four-year-old sisters pressing into my legs, I raised my hand to knock on Carroll’s door. Before my fist connected, the door flew open.

“Come in! Come in!” said the beautiful blond rescuer. “We’re so glad you’re here.”

Carroll stepped back to let the tight cluster of four bodies pass. Shannon and Stacie huddled together in the kitchen, silently anticipating the okay from Mom to respond to the new arrivals.

“Hi! Uh, what do I do now, Carroll?”

I’d babysat kids since the age of eleven, but they’d always been bathed and in pajamas when I arrived. Carroll’s laughter instantly relaxed me.

“I’ll show you how to bathe the baby in the sink over there. The two sisters can use the bathtub down this hallway. Stacie just finished filling the tub. Okay, girls, come greet our guests,” Carroll said, turning to her waiting daughters.

Stacie stepped right over, smiling at the visitors. “Hi, I’m Stacie. What’s your name?”

Again Jamie* said nothing but Deni* answered. “I’m Deni. Her’s Jamie. Her don’t talk. The lady has Susie,” she said pointing at me.

 “You can go with Stacie,” I said. “I’ll be with Carroll and we’ll wash Susie in the sink over there.” The little faces turned towards Carroll, who had begun setting things up at the sink.

Though normally shier than her older sister, Shannon moved in to take Jamie’s hand. “C’mon, little girl. I’ll show you.”

I peeked in to be sure the girls would let Stacie help them. Seeing all was well, I smiled and waved my Okay before walking back into the kitchen.

Carroll had begun rubbing shampoo into the baby’s hair. Susie sat rigidly, watching Carroll’s every move.

“Kind of a shock, isn’t it? Getting three kids all at once?” Carroll held on to Susie but turned to look at me.

“It shows, huh? Carroll, I feel like I’ve been swept up in a whirlwind. Am I really ready for this?”

“Seems like the Lord thinks you are,” Carroll said with a chuckle. “Time for a little stretching?”

“More than a little, I’d say. I’ve never bathed a baby, never.”

From that point, Carroll instructed me step-by-step through the process, answering questions without making me feel like the dunce I believed myself to be at that moment.

When my mothering-mentor reached Susie’s legs, Carroll looked over at me. “Can you see how rigidly she’s holding her knees? Usually, babies are kicking, because rubbing soap behind their knees tickles them. I’m not sure if she’s just resisting my touch, or if her legs are stiff for some other reason.”

“She never pulled her knees up to block my embrace when I first lifted her out of the swing, but I didn’t notice that she never bent them.”

Suddenly, I heard the splashing play coming from the bathtub and realized I’d not brought anything in for the kids to wear after their bath. “I’ll run out to bring in some clean clothes for the kids. Their stuff’s all in the backseat.”

“I can use one of Chip’s diapers for Susie until you see what you’ve got there. She’s ready to get out of the sink now.”

Hurriedly, I rifled through the little stacks of clothing, finding shirts and shorts for the older kids amongst the array of mismatched, worn clothing. I spotted a tee shirt in the baby’s little pile and rushed back to the house.

Tossing the shirt over to Carroll, I headed for the bathroom. I smiled at the two girls waiting, large towels wrapped around them. “You ladies smell so good,” I said sniffing the air.

They giggled as Deni said, “You’s the lady; we’s just kids.”

Thumping the open palm of my right hand against my chest, I feigned shock and said, “No! Well, then, you kids smell good.” Everyone laughed as Deni reached for the clothing I held out. Jamie didn’t move.

I thanked Stacie and Shannon for helping, and made my way back to the kitchen. Only then did I realize the savory scent of supper. Had it been coming from the oven all the while?

After a delicious dinner around the family table, we walked out to the car. As I opened the car door, Carroll gave me a one-armed hug, followed by tapping Susie’s leg. “It’ll be okay; don’t worry. God knows what He’s doing here. I’m only a phone call away, you know?”

I acknowledged her generous offer of help. As I backed up, I wondered if God had actually asked me to do this or if I’d just been swept along in the stress of the emergency. No time to fret over the question now; I heard all the yawning and knew I had to get the kids to bed.

Bringing the car to a stop by the back door, I took a deep breath but didn’t move. Oh, God, I need your help, and I need it right now, please.

“When do we get out?” said Deni. Her words broke into my stunned silence, and I laughed.

“Oh, well, right now is good for me. How about for you girls?” I looked back to see Jamie’s eyelids drooping as she nodded. Deni had already opened the car door.

I stood with the key in the lock, aware that this big, old house would never again contain the silence of one solitary inhabitant. Turning the key, I remembered that the Lord had moved me from the duplex for just such a time as this. Here we go, God. C’mon in.

*Name changed.

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