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Last night, I woke up to use the bathroom, and when I got back in my bed, there was an extra little person in the bed, curled up on one side of my pillow. As I slipped under the covers and snuggled up next to her, I couldn’t help but notice that all was quiet, except for the soft sounds of her breathing.

From the time my children took that first gulp of air after birth, the next few months (who’s kidding who… years) my husband and I spent far too much of our time checking on them to make sure they were still breathing. I can remember placing my hand on my baby’s back to feel the lungs rise and fall with each breath. Sometimes I’d go so far as to place my fingers under their noses or mouths to feel the warm breath – just to be safe.

Even now that they’re officially kids and not babies, toddlers, or even preschoolers, I still check on them at night and, when they have a cold, even listen for that breath.

Breath is the sure sign that we’re alive. From that moment we take our first breath, our lives are a series of breaths, and we always know that something’s amiss when breathing becomes labored, noisy, or irregular.

Our breath sometimes is an indication of what’s going on in our lives. When we’re waiting to hear news, or are watching something suspenseful, we often hold our breaths. Children often hold their breath when they have tantrums. We can give someone the breath of life through CPR.

In our house, when our kids can’t sleep, or are freaked out by something, we encourage them to take slow, deep relaxing breaths. Adults often find themselves doing this very thing when about to speak in public, interview for a job, or even propose to true love. In Yoga, there’s a very specific cycled breathing that’s done in order to find that zen place during your practice.

We find ourselves out of breath after exercise, great excitement, or times of great stress, and who hasn’t taken that big exhale when we’ve had a close call, or are relieved for one reason or another.

Lying in bed, in the stillness of night, listening to the soft breathing of my five-year-old is a reminder of how precious this life is, and the rhythmic sounds of her sleeping lulls me into security, knowing she is – at least for now – safe with me, and allows me to relax into my own slumber. I will try to conjure up this memory when my children get too big to crawl into our bed; when they start to date; when they move out of the house.

And with each life changing moment I will remind myself to just breathe.


One response »

  1. I’ve been there, counting the breaths. Sometimes I even count how many when I’m afraid that I’ll have to rush my asthmatic daughter to the ER. Just recently, I had the privilege to be there when someone I love (a grandparent) took his last breath. Breath really is elemental. Thanks for your post, Genevieve.

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