The infant had blue eyes.
They looked like calm ocean waters, right up by the shore where it’s so clear that you can see straight to the starfish and coral set in the sand. Her eyes were intelligent, too, watching my every movement. She lay in my arms, delicate head and neck resting in my right hand and small back resting in my left. The width of her body was smaller than the spread of my fingers. She only wore a diaper, skin soft and warm against mine. Her thin legs were bunched up on her stomach, miniature feet pressed against my abdomen as I held her against me. Her little hands were loose fists, lying at her sides. She looked like a little gift, lying there so still and perfect and beautiful and trusting.
Looking back, I think that was the worst part. I could feel her trust, radiating from the peaceful way her body was arranged in my arms and from her wide eyes that hid nothing from me. I stared at her, hips swaying in a gentle rhythm that my mom taught me to use for infants. It calms them, and it calmed me. But when I took my eyes off of her, peace disappeared.
I was standing in the entryway of a large home. I craned my neck this way and that, taking in the stained white carpet and the three windows in a row that were the size of doors, which were right next to the ornate, polished front door. Daylight glinted from the golden handle and from the chandelier hanging above. Behind me was a staircase leading up to a loft, with polished wooden railing that matched the door.
Silence rang from the corners of the twenty-foot ceiling.
My heart rate began to increase. I pursed my lips, searching what I could see of the home with my eyes once more. My feet seemed frozen, sunk into the carpet, its tiny tendrils reaching around my thin socks to suck my feet further into the floor. My arms were frozen too, beginning to tremble, and my gentle swaying was quickening. But I needed to walk. So I took a deep breath and looked down at the baby, deciding to adjust her position. I recalled what my mother taught me. Support her head and back. Setting my jaw, I forced my arms to move, keeping my right hand beneath the baby’s head and neck.
My left hand slipped.
The infant’s waist twisted in my hand, and her whole body started as though shocked. Her blue eyes flew wide, staring at a point beyond my shoulder. A cold sweat broke out all over my body. I could feel the baby’s hip beneath my fingers. Where there should have been one large bone, there were two smaller ones. Broken.
I hardly dared move. But I swallowed hard and continued my attempts to adjust the baby in my arms, trying to lay her in the crook of my left arm. Another muffled crack came from one of her pencil-thin ribs, and another from her tiny arm. I was shaking, cold sweat dripping from my forehead, tears welling up in my eyes. What am I supposed to do? I cried out in my mind. It seemed to echo from the empty walls of the home’s entryway. Why was I given this baby? I can’t take care of her. I’m going to kill her!
A tear dripped down my cheek, burning my skin. The infant was silent, little pink lips forming an “O” and tiny lashes framing her wide eyes. Her small muscles were rigid in my trembling arms. I swallowed again, blinking to clear my vision, and slipped my fingers out from beneath her head so it could rest on my arm instead.
Her neck twisted violently to the side.
My feet had sunk fully into the carpet. Hot tears fell from my cheeks, dripping onto the infant’s still chest. I placed trembling fingers on her little stomach.
My hands shook and my body was practically drenched in cold sweat when I awakened.
The dream had felt so real. The baby’s skin had been so soft and warm in my hands, and like a cruel phantom, I could still feel her in my arms even though she wasn’t there.
I had no choice but to forget it and go to school, though. I did fairly well, but the dream never left my mind. For days and weeks afterward, those beautiful blue eyes haunted me. Even the idea of holding a baby made me nervous.
Then a woman came to my school. Brit Eaton taught my class how to use the Storybrand Brandscript, and during the course of the lesson, she had each of us read a piece of our writing to her. I chose a paragraph from this dream I had written down, then explained it. She smiled at me.
“I’ve had dreams like that before,” she told me. “When you have dreams like that–you’re holding on to something precious and breaking it–it means that you’re trying to keep control of something in your life that you have no control over. It means you need to let go.”
That blew me away.
Suddenly everything made sense. I was trying so hard to do everything right, to be someone I was not. What I had failed to see all along was that I just needed to do my best and learn from my mistakes. I needed to let go and forgive myself.
Those ocean blue eyes still haunt me. But no longer in a disturbing way. My memory of that dream keeps me grounded.
Sometimes I still try to hold on too tightly to a false image of perfection. I get stressed and worried and I feel like a failure. But when I remember my dream, I think of the explanation, and it calms me. All I have to do is let it go.
There are some things in this life that we can’t control. It’s a learning process. When you find those things, drop them.
Trust me. You’ll live better.