Sunday, September 29, 2019

"Baby's Breath"

The American Lung Association says...
"If you can't breathe, nothing else matters."

Photo credit:

Have you ever kept vigil for a child with asthma?


Shortly after I weaned her
from my breast at eight months,
she endured her first asthmatic attack.
I hadn’t even known
what asthma was,
though I soon came to know it
as the violator
that stole my baby’s breath.

Her little chest rose and fell
in tumultuous heaves.
Haunting rhythmic wheezes
and mournful moans
disquieted me
hour upon hour
for days...days.
I re-attached the umbilicus.

During one intense episode,
I bathed her, rocked her,
sang soothing lullabies,
read stories
she was too young to understand,
trying to relax us both,
all to the constant
wheeze and moan,
rise and fall
of her straining rib cage.

I tucked her spent frame in the crib
and kept vigil,
daring not to close my eyes,
daring not to leave her side.
What if it got worse?
What if…she stopped breathing?

I reclined, just to rest awhile,
weary eyes wide
in faithful night watch,
weary ears tuned
to the eerily whistling
wheeze and moan,
wheeze and moan,
wheeze and moan,
ad infinitum,
ad infinitum.
At some point,
like a shameful apostle
at Gethsemane,
my heavy lids closed.

I jolted awake,
bolted upright,
by the startling silence.

In panic, I reached frozen fingers
toward her…

O praise God!
She lay warm
and gently breathing,
sleeping the peaceful sleep
of an angel.

Maude Carolan

The above poem originally appeared in Sensations Magazine.

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