When Z was an infant, I gave her a massage every day, usually after her nightly bath. As a new mother, I was intent on doing everything right and well and took great pains to figure out and apply whatever that might be. As one of my few marketable skills is massage, I took a class in infant massage, studied several books on the topic and was intent on doing it regularly as part of my bonding time with my child.

You can probably guess how well it went. Yep, she hated it.

Well, she would tolerate it for a few minutes, as long as I sang to her and she wasn't too sleepy or too hungry or too excited or too awake or too gassy or too something I could never figure out.  I did love those moments she was reasonably content: the squish of her buttery soft thighs, the smell of Burt's Bee's oil, the feeling of connection between us. But it was always short lived.
It's a miracle this picture even exists.

She was a highly reactive baby, easily overstimulated and upset. My books all said massage would help calm her down. So I kept trying. I tried first thing in the morning. I tried before her bath. I tried after a nap. I tried deeper pressure. I tried lighter pressure. I tried with music on and off. Lights on and off and every dim-able setting in between.

It often seemed to be just too much for her, no matter what I did. 

I gave up her nightly massages around 5 months. She was starting to flip over then, and so spent much of the massage intent on flipping to whichever side she wasn't on. It was clearly becoming more of a fight than a massage and I finally got the message.

I felt like a failure. 


Yesterday was Z's first day at public school. First day riding the school bus. First day of first grade.

She was up early, nervous, excited, ready. She bounced her way through breakfast and tooth brushing and had to give herself a pep-talk as she struggled to tie her new tie shoes, the ones she insisted on buying. 
She was early to the bus stop but the bus was early too and so our goodbye was rushed and before I knew it she was off. 

When I met her at the bus stop that afternoon she was still bouncing, but with a weary look in her eye that I've come to know well. She whined about wanting to play with her neighborhood friends but I gently and firmly guided her home for some down time. We read some books, spent an hour playing with Legos and she and her sister watched a video while I cooked dinner.

After dinner, we took the girls upstairs for a bath, which hasn't been nightly in many years. They fought over space and favorite bath toys and Z seemed on edge in that tired-yet-wired way.  Her younger sister quickly got pulled out and put to bed and she and I were left in the bathroom as the tub drained out.

"Do you want a massage?" I asked, expecting her to say no, as she often does.

"Sure," she said. "With a song, please!"
She lay back on the tile floor, wiggling until she found a spot where we both could fit in the small bathroom. I rubbed my oiled hands along her impossibly long legs, still soft but now covered with downy hair.  I moved very slowly, watching her face, noticing when she closed her eyes and relaxed her face a little. Ticklish spots were skipped; I stopped immediately when she seemed done. 

"Thanks Mom. That was nice," she said giving me a hug.

"I'm glad, sweetheart. I'm so very glad."


Cortney said...

Ah wow. That brought tears to my eyes. What a connected mama you are. My daughter HATED her nightly infant massage sessions as well. I, too, felt like a failure. As I still sometimes do, when I don't know what to do to help my anxious girl. She's never been one for touch or cuddling. But you reminded me to check in, because I might find that magical moment when she just might accept it.

Erica said...

I love, love, love this!

KG said...

Teary!! So many things I imagined doing with a baby have been just impossible with twins: infant massage, nightly baths, etc, and I mourn that. It's so wonderful to be reminded that I can continue to find moments like your's with Z. I just love that you met her needs so beautifully the first night of first grade.

grammalouie said...

Me teary too!!

Pamela Hunt Cloyd said...

You are such a great mom! I am always inspired by your posts!

twisterfish said...

Oh how wonderful!
Tears in my eyes too.

Ginger said...

Yup, that has me choking up.

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