On Friday, Molley had some fairly significant dental work under sedation.
The Dentist and I, we are not on good terms. (“The Dentist” = anyone in a white coat, wielding a drill.) I have some rather unfortunate and serious dental phobias that I refuse to pass onto my children. They will have to develop those on their own. As a result, I don’t go back into the room with the kids for anything more than routine cleanings.
So Ed, always unaffected by anything and everything horrifyingly gross that involves teeth, took the bullet that wasn’t really a bullet for him and sat in the room with her during the two hours of work.
(To his credit, he didn’t tell me about the part where Molley partially woke up and cried out in the middle of it until much later in the evening.)
I sat in the waiting room for all two hours, plugged in with my air card, working furiously to distract myself from what I could only imagine was happening behind closed doors. At the mid-point, one of the amazing girls at the office probably couldn’t handle any more of my disgusting and loud chewing at my nails, so she offered to walk me back to “take a peek.”
(To her credit, she was trying to help me and didn’t know I’d nearly pass out at the sight of what was, to them, routine dental work. But mamas, if the dentist ain’t your thing, trust me when I say you never want to “take a peek” at your 4-year-old under full sedation, having her teeth drilled out and capped.)
As expected, it all went well. Moll emerged after two hours with three capped teeth, a fourth filled tooth and very woozy. As soon as they handed her to me, she began to cry. We drove home – a fast three minute trip to our house – and I laid her down in my bed.
She was hungry (she wasn’t allowed to eat since the previous evening), her teeth hurt and she was understandably upset by what happened.
I gave her some water and Motrin and told her she needed to sleep for a few hours, as recommended by her dentist.
“But will you stay here?” she sobbed, big, giant tears falling down her cheeks.
I assured her I would sit right next to her on my bed and work for the rest of the day.
“But are you going to leave later?” she asked.
I promised that even if I moved, I’d be in the next room, working on my laptop.
“But what if I need you?” she asked, her voice full of worry.
I promised I’d be available immediately.
“Don’t leave me, Mommy,” she pleaded.
I promised I’d never leave her.
“Okay,” she said, uncertain. “I’ll try to sleep.”
So I knelt down beside her and rubbed her head and sang to her.
And that’s when she did it. That thing she did as a baby. That thing that I understood at the time, but that wore me so thin I’d eventually cry myself.
Her eyelids, heavy with sedatives in this instance, exhaustion in the past, would fall, but she’d use all of her willpower to snap them open and look right at me – just to be sure I was still there.
“Moll,” I said. “You can’t keep opening your eyes. You have to sleep.”
“But I want to make sure you’re still here,” she responded.
At four years old, she could verbalize it.
I’d once again reassure her I would simply move to the other side of her.
And I’d go back to rubbing her head, and her eyelids would get heavy and she’d start to drift off. Then she’d snap those gorgeous eyes right back open.
And we’d have the same exchange again.
Eventually, she gave in. So much faster than she did when she was a baby.
During the first few days we were with Moll in Ethiopia, she’d reluctantly fall asleep facing me or against me. Like this. I loved this. She slept against me during the long rides on the dusty roads, the choking diesel fumes filling the van, on many occasions.
(My gnawed down nails in the above photo were the result of nearly an hour of our plane circling above Ethiopia. Bad stress habits span a lifetime.)
But by the end of our time in Ethiopia, that intense insecure attachment to me had taken hold, understandably so, and falling asleep like that was quickly becoming a thing of the past.
By the time we got home, Moll would fight sleep for hours on end if she was facing me. I’d rock her in the glider, her tiny, sick body cradled in my arms, singing to her. She’d drift off… then open her eyes as wide as possible, looking right at me. And we’d do it again. And again. Eventually, I’d lay her parallel on my lap, facing away from me, so she couldn’t see me.
I’d try the first way for an hour or two, knowing it was best for our attachment, but at some point – at 11 pm after hours of rocking, then again at 2 am, after an hour of rocking, and again at 4 am… we both had to sleep. We were both so sick. And we were both so tired. And I know we were both so scared, too.
We tried co-sleeping. She’d lay right next to me, those gorgeous brown eyes staring straight into my soul. I’d lay my hand on her tummy so she knew I was there – but it never helped. She needed to see me.
After many, months of sleepless nights, we moved from the very insecure phase of attachment into the more secure phase, but it wasn’t quick (I never expected it to be) and it wasn’t without a lot of tears (from both of us).
On Friday, I was reminded how fine the line is between the two places.
It was a good reminder and one I needed. I won’t forget.