Her daintily thin, yet strong, arms wrapped around my shoulders. Even her right arm, despite being the weaker of the two, worked its way to an outstretched position. As I supported her bottom, she leaned forward. Her chin rested on my neck. Squeezing slight enough to not pinch but strong enough to announce it was not in my imagination, her loving grip fulfilled my yearning to feel her love. With a soft high-pitched”awww” mocking my own matured voice, Evelyn learned to hug.
On the day of my angel Sophia’s birth, we could not hug her. Her delicate red skin was not ready to be touched. She should not have been exposed to the outside world yet; her fragile skin was like tissue paper wrapping together her frail bones and under-formed organs. Never getting a chance to pull her close, snuggle her neck, and feel her arms around me, we succumbed to not only the grief of her death but also that of not being able to comfort our baby the way a parent can–the way a parent should. Holding her delicate body, our my hands cradled her through the cotton between us. Lightly touching her tender hands, caution hovered as we never forgot the risk of creating a tear. The white blanket stained in reddish hues provided a frustrating–yet necessary–barrier between my skin and that of my daughter.
Now, after nearly a year-and-a-half of nurturing Evelyn, guiding her through many doctors’ appointments, ear infections, illnesses attacking her lungs, foot castings, physical therapy sessions, and two surgeries, my protective hug came back to me. A boomerang circling back, Evelyn’s arms wrapped around my own, comforting my soul. Her cuddling squeeze told me my efforts are working. My persistence with her health concerns, always advocating for her well-being, encourages her growth, her skills, her emotional health, and ultimately her entire being. Always her cheerleader when she struggles with her gross motor skills, throws her head back in anguished cries, and falls from her feet for the hundredth time, my support nurtures a fierce determination in her. My loving hugs have calmed her tears, cultivated her giggles, and developed her empathic personality. When I am tired to my core, feeling frustrated with life’s struggles, or even just resigning myself to laughing emphatically at her silly antics, Evelyn now nurtures me with a hug.
Through each of Evelyn’s embraces, Sophia’s presence, too, holds my often weary soul. Through our child here on Earth, I sense my angel baby. And that deserves all the “awwws” I can get.