Come Away to Sea

Grace was a colicky baby. I was a colicky new mother. Those first few weeks and months involved far more crying than they did sleep. First, I was lost in the 24 hour tilt-a-whirl cycle of newborn-ness where day and night blend into each other in an endless wash of tears, milk, and a general soggy grayness. As a routine slowly, awkward emerged from this murk I started trying to put Grace to bed around the same time every night. This was no small feat. And it was so scary to me that I remember feeling full-blown dread as night approached, feeling each afternoon as the sun went down as though my anxiety, which started in the pit of my stomach, would eat me alive.

I started playing a Martha Stewart lullabye CD at bedtime. I don’t remember where this came from, but I chose it basically at random and put it into the CD player in Grace’s room. The dulcet tones of “Baby Mine” and “Blackbird” accompanied those early evenings when I would rock her in the ivory rocker, nursing her to a calm but not asleep state. I was obsessed with her learning to put herself to sleep. I’d burp her, swaying with her over my shoulder in the darkened room, humming along to the familiar tunes that got even more well known because I was hearing them every single night. Then – oh, careful, oh careful – I would put her on her back in her crib, standing over her as though she was a grenade about to go off. Well, let’s face it, she sort of was. I’d gradually inch backwards out of the room, freezing in my tracks as though caught in a bad act when she turned to watch me. At the beginning of this enterprise my success rate was low but it climbed over time and she eventually became a great sleeper.

I remember so many nights my anxiousness to get on with my evening. Two feelings, truly, coursed through my veins in those evenings: I wanted to have some time by myself, and I wanted my baby to damn well do what I wanted her to do. I wanted her to just obey and go to sleep. I also wanted a couple of precious hours where I could be nobody’s mother. I hate now knowing that I had both of those feelings. Why was I rushing those minutes past? And why did I care so much about her doing what I wanted? I guess it’s normal that I wanted to get some rest – but, still. I wish I had not wished those evenings away. I wish, now, that I could have those baby-drenched evenings back. Every single one of them.

And that CD still sings her to sleep. To this day, she listens to it going to sleep. Her bedroom is next to mine, and every time she goes to the bathroom or anything in the night she turns it on again. In many ways this CD is the soundtrack of my life. I’ve had to replace it twice. I can sing every single song from that CD, though the ones that come to mind most viscerally are Come Away to Sea and Home. I imagine a day when I am walking down the street – or being wheeled – at 80 years old, and I hear an acoustic version of one of those songs. I will be, instantly and powerfully, back in a darkened nursery suffused with the powder smell of baby, a dark-haired infant scrunched up against my chest, rocking her back and forth.

When I think back to that 28 year old woman I feel flickers of empathy for her but mostly I feel frustrated at her, even angry. I wish I could shake her – myself! – by the shoulders and let her know that she would spend the rest of her life wishing she could reach back to live these minutes again. There’s things I’d like to tell her … but I can’t. Of course I could not know that then.  Isn’t this, in fact, the struggle of our lives?

Come Away to Sea (David Wilcox)

The wind is right for sailing
The tide is right to go
So come away to sea with me
There’s things that you should know

There’s things I’d like to tell you
That words can’t seem to say
Unless we’re on this simple craft
Sailing far away

Sail around this sound
Far away from shore
Come away to sea with me
Sail your heart once more

Join me in this simple craft
Welcome to my home
The things I’d like to say to you
Are better said alone

So let your heart sail with me
We’ll cast away from town
And we’ll sail away on music
Inside this simple sound

This simple craft I play upon
Is made from wooden parts
Its never sailed an ocean
But is sure can sail my heart

And if you feel the music
Then we’ve raised another sail
The ocean wraps this world around
The wind will never fail

Inspired by Jo’s Flashback Friday prompt at Mylestones. Thank you Jo!

13 thoughts on “Come Away to Sea”

  1. I don’t know if I have ever heard this song but I love the lyrics. I also remember things from my children’s childhoods/infancies that will always take me back – regardless of where I am or who I am with. Wonderful words, Lindsey.

  2. What a beautifully written post. I feel so much like that. I wish I could it again being the me that I am now…knowing what I know now.

  3. I love that she still listens to that CD at night. And I bet as she grows older, she too will find strength, nostalgia, comfort in hearing those songs played.
    That newborn stage is so very hard, so bittersweet. If I’m honest, I just muscled through it, surviving more than savoring. I look back and remember sweet, precious moments, but the reality is that it was full of many more screaming, tearful moments.

    Thanks so much for linking up this week. I loved this post!

  4. I have memories of rushing the infancy of my first-born. How much he was admired for simply being the first. First nephew, first grandchild, first son. I am sad for him because he was pushed to grow up so fast. And yet, I still do it. It’s like I don’t know how NOT to do it. Parenting is only most natural with my third baby. With the first I am learning just as much as he is.

  5. I loved this. My girls are in college now…my oldest was the world’s most agreeable infant and toddler but my youngest was ‘challenging’ . For the longest time I’d think of her toddler days and the word that came to mind was difficult. We’ve been watching some old movies recently that have been in storage and the sweetness of that child is so evident…it came back to me when I saw the dvd of her as a little one. We all were almost teary eyed at how truly adorable she was. She had challenging moments but such a sweet heart.

    Time is a funny thing. You are right about the music…it will take you back. And you’ll probably smile and shed a tear both.

  6. I’ve been following your blog for a while now Lindsey and this is the first time I’m commenting. Here goes:

    When one (and, I’m one of the “ones” to which I’m referring) walks through life with anxiety strapped to her back like an overloaded book bag, it’s hard not to wish away moments that add to that load. Every new encounter, routine, or lesson we experience with our children is wrought with uncertainty. This, in-of-itself, leads to great anxiety and discomfort. The real skill, that I’m far from mastering, is to find a way to be in those moments no matter how stressful because they will ALWAYS be there. We will forever be encountering something new (and, thank “god” for that!); something we don’t know how to handle.

    I admire you and your willingness to share your most intimate thoughts and feelings. You have amazing strength and courage. Thank you so much for your blog.

  7. I know that frustration of wanting so badly for them to sleep, or do anything that you say… and then the regret of wishing for those moments to pass.
    This was lovely – and that cd sounds like a beautiful soundtrack to your life 🙂

  8. I, too, remember the dread of nightfall with my newborns. Mine stemmed from knowing it was night for everyone but me and them. Together, we would be doing daytime things: feeding, burping, singing, diapering. And I so desperately needed a return to that clear delineation between night and day. Thank goodness for lullabies to help us find (and recall) the joy in those frightening first weeks and months.

  9. “I was a colicky new mother…” THAT MADE ME STOP IN MY TRACKS. I love it! Grinning from ear to ear. I’ve never, not ever, thought of things that way, but you make such a valid point…Damn, my poor husband those few months.

    Our particular balm was Lyle Lovett (Miss D.). We would put him on and rock back and forth and dance from 4-7, until hubs came home.

    Funny but true: the following summer (D. was born in December) we ran into our neighbor at the community pool. She was just pregnant enough to show and said, “Dan and I were really not sure if we wanted kids. But this winter? I’d be cooking dinner and I looked out the window each night and there you were, cuddling and dancing with your baby. You guys were so beautiful together. You totally convinced me to have a baby.”

    And I thought,”Did you not see the open, howling mouth?” SUCKER. I didn’t *say* that, but I realized that I pulled off my own version of a Ponzi scam.

    ~And if I were like lightning/I wouldn’t need no sneakers/I’d come and go whenever I would please/And I’d scare ’em by the shade tree/I’d scare ’em by the light post/But I would not scare my pony on my boat out on the sea…L.L.

  10. I felt kind of sad reading your post, for you of course, but also for myself. I’m just in the weaning stages with my youngest, he’s almost 13 months and our nights have been fraught with all of those sleep frustrations. What made me sad was the thought of the music. We never did that with our children. I nursed them, cuddled them, rocked them, smelled them, but never helped them to sleep with music. I was struck by the memories the music invoke for you and fear I won’t be able to conjure the same memories. The point is, you do cherish that time, as difficult as it was for you. I’m not sure there would be any different way to have lived it. It brought you to today, to who you are as a mother. Memories are as important as lived moments, because it’s the memories we get to keep.

  11. We have a certain lullaby CD also; it brings back memories of when my 5th child was a difficult-to-get-to-sleep toddler. I was so frustrated then; and, oh, how I wish I could go back in time for just 5 minutes now and hug each of my little ones. The time goes so fast.

    Nice to meet you – saw your comment on Motherlode and I thought I would drop by.

  12. Lindsey,
    Thank you for your utter honesty. It is so true – we want our babes to do what we want them to do! And this is what parenting teaches us…how to unwind that tangled web.

    Your authenticity is stunning here and I am so grateful. Would that I had your voice when my crying girl was little. I’m grateful for all the young moms who read you and feel a friend.

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