Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Loving Arms

Elise has been thoroughly blessed in her short life to have been held in the loving arms of so many--cradled, hugged, rocked, squeezed, bounced, embraced.  For a little girl who has a difficult time showing love back, she sure has received her fair share!
What must it be like to never sit, crawl, roll, walk, or stand up, always relying on others to hold you?  It seems to me that, for a child like Elise, who is born without these abilities, being held is the next best thing!  She will never understand how blessed she is to have so many laps to sit in, so many arms to hold her. 
In Elise’s life, I have not had the experience of holding her in the way I have held my boys.  Their legs tighten around my waist, while their arms hold onto my neck like little monkeys.  You never realize how much your little one helps out until you hold a child who cannot.  Holding Elise is tough.  She can’t contribute anything to keeping herself up.  Her arms and legs hang, as if weighted down by sand, just waiting to be placed somewhere by me.  Her head nods, too weak to keep an upright position for very long.  Even as a baby, Elise was either super stiff or completely loose.  Never, though, was she the right mixture of the two to aid the one holding her.  As she has grown taller and heavier, I have sadly and reluctantly given up on carrying her around.  I now call my husband to get her from her bed to her wheelchair, from the bathtub to her bed, or from her bed to my lap.  At least I can still hold her while sitting down.  This is something that I have enjoyed doing since she was a newborn, but not without its struggles...
Around 4-years-old, Elise’s love for being held by me changed.  She began to act uncomfortable, unable to find a good position.  My favorite time to hold her used to be after feeding her a meal.  Elise’s new behavior after taking her last bite and being cued to the end of her meal by a wipe of the bib across her face, was to then start squirming, struggling, and fighting against my arms.  Once she was full, she wanted to be put down, robbing me of that coveted time of holding her close, patting her back, and just enjoying her. For a long time, I would just give up trying. I couldn’t very well tell her to “cut it out and get still!”  So I was forced to take her to her bed or put her on a blanket on the floor.  I would accept her request to be let go, and would instead stretch her muscles or brush her hair to satisfy my desire to be “with” her.   I slowly began to realize, though, that I was truly missing out on something big with her.  By not holding her, I was finding myself disconnected and lacking something in our relationship.  I caught on to the fact that if I would just let her fight through it for a few minutes, she would realize that Mama’s not giving up either.  She now finds her way through the cycle of wiggling and restless tossing and turning, only to end up submitting to my arms, settling in for a much needed rest in my lap.
Only when she tires out, will she give in.  This reminds me of our relationship with God.  He will hold us, offering us safety and unconditional love, despite our squirming and fighting against Him.  We can always count on Him as our ultimate parent to hold us close, just as our children trust us to do.  
Holding and carrying our kids is primal.  It not only serves as needed transportation and protection from the world, but it also fulfills something emotionally within us.  My mom has admitted to carrying me through the Longview mall until my feet were dragging the ground (shame on you, Mom).   In our arms, children find safety.  They feel our strength, and enjoy resting on us, recharging their bodies and spirits.  
I will definitely miss the memories made by my boys over the years as they continue to grow older.  Lane would gently pat my back as he rested his head on my shoulder, always the compassionate one.  Ty likes to press his chubby, warm cheek next to mine while being held, allowing me to feel his young skin.  
Not experiencing these kinds of moments with Elise most likely drives me to overdo the babying of Lane and Ty.  I often motion for them to each come to me, crawl into my arms, and stay. 
 “Just for a minute,” I will tell them.  
At least the sadness of the loss of my ever growing boys is softened by the fact that no matter how old Elise gets, she will never deny my need to hold.  I have been given a “forever baby” to fill my arms, my lap, and my heart, fulfilling my desire to hold tight to all that God has given me.   
When I picture a mother holding her child, my mind immediately goes to the movie “Passion of the Christ”.  It is the ultimate imagery of the love between a mother and her child.  Mary’s love was carried on from the stable all the way to her son’s crucifixion.  In a particularly poignant scene, as Jesus was carrying His cross through the streets, He falls, while continuously being pelted with rocks and spit upon.  When His mother sees this, she is immediately reminded of when He was a little boy, running along a path.  He suddenly trips and falls, catching her attention.   Mary ran to Him with great concern, picking Him up and cradling Him safely in her arms.  Thirty years later, she again runs to Him, desperately wanting to give Him that same comfort.  That scene is hard for me to watch.  Maybe because of the fact that I myself know that love for a child, but lacking the ability to understand the pain involved in her hurt of not being able to grab Him and Hold him in his time of need.  
If compared to the perfect life of Christ, our shortcomings are themselves major disabilities in the eyes of the Lord.  We can always, though, rest in the knowledge that He welcomes us to crawl up into His lap for comfort and peace, in the same way that we invite our little ones into our arms, naughty or not.  We will never grow too old or too disobedient.  He extends an open invitation to us all.  
Lane and Ty, born 6 years apart, both had a unique way of asking to be held.  Each one of them would approach me, gaze upward, and say, “Hold you.”  Apparently, they were taking the phrase away from my question when I would ask them, “Do you want me to hold you?”, or “Let Mama hold you.”  Isolating those two words, and using them to request being held was such an endearing thing to hear as a mother.  (Ty still says it, and I will not be correcting him any time soon!)  What I would give to hear these words from Elise!  Instead of being summoned in this way, she has her own style of asking me to pick her up.  I know the cry when I hear it.  The tone and intensity says:
“Mama, hold you.”
And hold her I will.  As long as I can physically do it, I will enjoy cradling, embracing, hugging, squeezing, cuddling, and loving on my forever baby girl.  

Welcome to the world!  Elise's nurse, who was one of the first people to hold Elise once she was born.  

Proud PawPaw holding Elise the night she was born.

G-Maw Goerner and Elise

Aunt Sissy and Uncle Jimmy with baby Elise

Great-Grandpa Watts with Elise and Chris in the hospital

Uncle Monty with Elise

My good friend, Laurie, and husband Billy cradling Elise.

Elise’s wonderful doctor, Dr. Sanchez, at Children’s in Dallas.  
(She was loving that glove, huh?)

 Elise receiving oxygen treatment with caregiver, Jackie, as an infant. 

GiGi holding Elise at her 1-year birthday

Great-Grandma Goerner holding another great-granddaughter!

Great-Grandma Mozelle trying to quiet Elise

Big brother Lane holding his new baby sister

A nurse trying to calm Elise while prepping for an MRI.

Daddy holding Elise during an EEG

Cousins, Madison and Bayleigh, loving on Elise

 Great-Grandma Watts swinging Elise to sleep

Mama and Elise relaxing

Aunt Tracy loving on Elise

PawPaw and Elise taking a nap

Poppy holding Miss Elise

Elise and Daddy resting together
(there are no pictures of me and Elise napping together, b/c my husband doesn’t think to get the camera!)

Bubba holding Sissy  (they are about the same size!)

 D’Layne, Elise’s teacher for several years, carrying her when she was still pretty manageable!  

Elise with Jackie and David

Daddy and Elise on her 4th birthday

Curled up in Great-Grandma Wilson’s (Memaw) lap

 Western Day at school with D’Layne

 Mama and Elise before leg surgery.

 Working with GiGi in her lap

Face to Face with D’Layne

Sleeping in PawPaw’s arms

Laying down on the couch with Mama

Too big to be held on Lane’s lap!  This will have to do!!!

 Snuggling up with Jackie

Getting kind of big for even Daddy’s lap

Uncle Brent doing his best to hold Elise 

 There is always room on Mama’s lap… 


  1. Awwww. I love it!! My favorite posts are always the ones where you share a lot of pictures. :) We were honored to hold her when she and WE were both SO young! :)

  2. Beautiful, I love your blogs Ashley, and the pictures that followed were fantastic. I so relate to the "legs hanging like sandbags" and "my forever baby". I love my little boy to pieces too and steal all the hugs that I can. On the days that I am blue, it always cheers me up and calms me.

  3. I LOVE the comparison of how we hold our disabled child being like how God holds us! That is just beautiful!