They say that every writer puts something of himself into his words, and that’s especially true for this chapter. The conversation you read about here is my experience from more than a decade ago. The lesson Alex is trying to teach Grace is one that was taught to me by one of the most loving and caring people I have every known; my beautiful wife. I’ll be forever grateful for her pushing me beyond my limits to understand this very important lesson.
I hope you like this,
Alex stood rocking her for some time, loving the way it felt. He was in love with this baby girl, there was no doubt of it now. She had shown her trust in him every time he turned around tonight. First the willingness to follow the rules he had set down for her. He had thought a lot about what he was going to ask her to do prior to coming home. Each and every one of the rules was designed to circumvent control she had over her life. By doing that, he hoped she would turn to him and her comfort items, and in the process see that this was a part of her that wasn’t going away.
Second, she called out to him each time she was frightened. That showed him that she trusted him. And last, instead of insisting that he release her from the stroller, getting up and leaving, she laid still as he changed her, and dressed her for bed.
He felt guilty. He had purposefully manipulated her, by insisting she wait until after he got her ready for bed to talk. The lure of what she had just experienced would make it harder for her to walk away.
“Okay Baby, I need you to lay down for me. I forgot to tell Joan something, and I need to call her,” He said as he laid her gently on the mattress. “Lay still and snuggle with Bun-Bun. When I’m done with the call, and dressed for bed, I’ll get you under the covers,” he added with a kiss to her cheek.
With a fearful look, Grace said, “Tawk Daddy.”
“I know Baby, we will talk, as soon as we’re snuggled up in bed, I promise.” He watched that she would stay put for a second, and then moved to the phone and dialed the front desk.
“Front desk,” Joan answered.
“Hi Joan, this is Alex Cleary in 122. I forgot to ask you to please ask the manager of this facility to come by the room in the morning. Is there any way that’s possible?”
“Sure. Is there something wrong?”
“No, I just wanted to talk about Gracie’s needs that’s all. Everything is perfect,” he assured her.
“Okay, I’ll speak to her in the morning when she arrives.”
“Thank you, you’ve been such a big help with everything.”
“Oh, don’t mention it. It’s what I’m here for.”
“Well, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can do?”
“No, I think that’s about it.”
“All right, you snuggle that baby and get some sleep,” she told him in a motherly tone.
“I will, I promise.”
“Good night then.”
“Good night,” he told her, and hung up the phone. When he looked at Grace, he saw that the fear was back. He knew he was pushing her limit, but there was no help for it. He went to her, kissed her forehead and said, “It’ll be just fine Baby, I promise.” He got some clean clothing from the suitcase, and headed into the bathroom.
Three minutes later, he came back into the bedroom, lowered the rail on the left side of the bed, and then went to the refrigerator to fill her bottle. He returned, set the bottle on the end table next to the bed, and went to Grace. He picked her up, brought her to the side of the bed, and slowly lowered her to her feet as he said, “Stand up for me Baby.”
Pulling the covers back, he lifted her, set her diapered bottom on the bed, and told her, “Scoot over Baby.” When she moved over, making room for him, he slid under the covers, and pulled her close, her head on his chest. He snuggled with her for a couple of minutes, before moving her over, turning on his side, and putting his head on his hand, leaning on his elbow. “Okay Gracie, talk to me.”
With a fearful look, she asked, “Why did you ask for the manger to come here?”
“Because I want to talk to her and explain about you and your needs,” he answered, purposefully being vague.
“Where will I be?”
“In my lap Sweety, where you belong,” he tried to comfort her.
With a terrified look, she cried, “No! Please! I’ll be good, I swear! I’ll never do it again, I promise! Please! Let’s just go home.”
Alex felt like someone just punched him in the gut, and he was having a hard time getting a breath. He couldn’t believed he had overlooked this possibility, and wanted to kick himself for putting her through this. “No Baby,” he managed to say, pulling her into a tight hug, one hand holding her bottom, the other gently holding her head to his chest. “Please…Jesus…please don’t think that this is supposed to be a punishment. I could never, ever hurt you like that, do you hear me? Ever.” His eyes burned with tears as he rocked her back and forth, trying to calm her fears.
“Please, I want to go home.” she sobbed.
With reluctance, he said, “What did I tell you before we pulled out of the driveway Baby?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this.” she cried.
He didn’t want to do it, but knew no other way to get her to see why she needed to stay. “Do you want to give up all of this? Your paci, your ba-ba, Bun-Bun?” He saw the tug of war going on inside her as he looked into her eyes. With a firm pat to her thick diaper, he added, “Your dipeys?”
Her tears flowing free now, she said, “I can’t do that again, I’m sorry.”
He hated himself as he said, “Am I not doing a good job as your daddy?” The look she gave him made him feel like someone just stabbed him in the heart.
“No, you’ve been more loving and caring than anything I ever dreamed of. I just can’t go through with it. It’s too much,” she cried.
He knew the risk he was about to take was immense, and prayed it made her see what he wanted her to. “Do you really want to go back to the way things were?” Not giving her any time to answer, he added, “Sitting alone in an empty house, trying to care for the little girl inside you?”
Grace pulled back from him looking as if he just slapped her. He took both of her hands in a firm grip.
Pushing on, he said, “Scared to death that someone might find out that the baby girl exists?”
“Please…” she pleaded.
He couldn’t leave it there, it would do more harm than good. “And what about the poor baby girl? Are you going to leave her all alone?”
Grace tried to pull her hands from his, but he held her tight. “Please…don’t…” she sobbed.
Trying to get her to understand that he really cared about the little girl, he released his grip on his own emotions. With a thick voice, he asked, “How many more nights will that baby cry because she just wants to be held and cared for?”
“Please!” Grace begged.
“Especially after spending today in Daddy’s arms,” he persisted, hoping to God that he was doing the right thing. He knew that it was easy to forget the hurt when she was in a frightening situation. As much as he didn’t want to, he had to remind her. “Are you going to leave her to hurt from now on? Believing she’s a terrible thing, not worthy of anyone loving her?” he asked, trying hard to keep his voice under control as he cried.
Grace stopped fighting his grip and sobbed harder than he had ever seen her cry before. He wanted to hold her, but was waiting until her cries changed. He had to see the baby girl first. Pushing on, he said, “Baby…” stopping because his voice broke. “You’re not a monster…” he continued, sobbing himself now. “You don’t need to be hidden away somewhere to protect others,” his conviction clear in his words.
It was almost as if he had reached behind her and pushed a button on her back, the change was so sudden. Her cries became long, loud, and hard. They were the cries of a little girl in great pain. He pulled her to him and hugged her tight, crying with her. “That’s it Baby, let it out. Let the boo boo’s out for Daddy,” he encouraged her. She would wail a long cry, run out of air, and he would tell her, “That’s it, cry for Daddy.” She would eventually take a big breath and they would repeat the cycle.
He rocked her, letting her cry it out for a long time. When she showed signs of easing up, he reached over the side of the bed with his long arm and pulled a cloth diaper out of the diaper bag sitting on the floor. She immediately pressed her face against the cloth when he brought it to her face. That was a good sign, so he picked up her bunny with his other hand, and brought the sweet smelling animal to her chin, rubbing it against her skin.
Grace gripped her bunny tight between her arm and her chest, pressing her face to the soft fabric of it’s head. With shuddering breaths, she lifted her head, looked left and right, and then to Alex. He felt around until he had it in his hand, and offered her paci to her, glad to see that she was willing to take it.
His guilt getting the best of him, he said, “I’m sorry Honey, I really didn’t want to do that, but you needed to see why it’s important that you stay.”
When she hugged him tighter, he told her, “Yes, part of what we’re telling these people is a lie, but part of it is true. Part of you is a baby girl, and you do need your paci, your ba-ba, and your dipeys, just not for the reason they’ve been told. You need to be seen by people as a little baby girl so you can understand that you’re not a terrible person.” Grace cried harder, and he began rocking her again.
Needing to see that she was alright, he asked, “Are you okay?” When she nodded her head, he wanted to make sure that he hadn’t pushed her too far. “Do you understand why I don’t want to go home?”
She pulled her paci out and answered, “Yes.”
“Do you still want to leave here?”
“No, I’ll stay.”
He was so glad to hear that! “Good. Tell me, I thought your bunny’s name was Fluffy? What happened?”
She wiped her face with the cloth diaper, looked at him, and answered, “I don’t know. Just before I asked for him, I remembered having another bunny just like him when I was a little girl. I didn’t even realize I called him Bun-Bun until after you gave him to me.”
Alex smiled at her, and said, “I think Bun-Bun is a much better name for a baby girl’s bunny anyway, don’t you?” with a wink.
Grace blushed, and answered, “Yes.”
“Besides Baby, once you said that in front of the night clerk, there was no changing it. He’s Bun-Bun for the entire time we’re here.”
She hugged her bunny and said softly, “He’s Bun-Bun from now on.”
Alex laid down, reached for her and pulled her close. He made sure he had her paci where he could reach it, and the picked up her bottle from the night stand. “All right Baby, it’s night night time.” He gently raised her chin so he could look in her eyes as he offered her the nipple. She tentatively pulled it into her mouth and began nursing.
He felt the tension in her body and told her, “Let go Gracie.” He watched as her expression changed a little at a time. It took almost five minutes, but he now stared into the eyes of a small child happy to be nursing her ba-ba. The stress and worry of the adult woman he knew wasn’t anywhere to be found. “I love you Baby Girl.”
A second later, she smiled a little girl’s smile around her ba-ba and said, “Wub you Daddy.”
When Gracie drifted off to sleep a short while later, Alex pulled her bottle from her mouth and replaced it with her paci. She nuzzled closer to him, hugged Bun-Bun tighter for a second, and nursed in her sleep.
He lay there, gently patting her diaper as he gazed down on his baby girl. The last thought to go through his mind before he fell asleep was, Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace, my fears relieved.