What is magic, exactly? There’s the wizardly, incantation-chanting kind – the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural powers over natural forces, according to Merriam-Webster. And there’s the kind inherent in encounters that uplift or defy our everyday comprehension, brushes with the extraordinary. And who couldn’t use a little bit of that kind of magic? Lucky glimpses of the captivating, the spellbinding, and the serendipitous can be what keep us going when so much of life ranges from frustrating to devastating.
I have a good story about magic. It fits the category of the specific, concrete kind, and it also fulfills my belief in the less-defined kind, the kind of magic we cannot pin down but still know is there.
Katie, my third and youngest child, was born during the conception and beta testing of what was to become Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. Creator (dare I say sorceress?) Maureen Howard and I had become friends as first-time mothers four years earlier. By the time Katie was born, we each had a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant, and Maureen was trying out various iterations of the Sleepsuit. As our playgroup friends kept having more babies, Maureen made a standing offer to everyone to “try out a suit” if we wanted to.
Well, I appreciated the offer, but didn’t really think I would need to take her up on it. Katie was my third kid. I had everything in hand. Sleep was down to a science in our household.
By then I shouldn’t have been so cavalier. I should have known that no absolutes transfer from parenting one child to the next. Katie, it would turn out, was nothing like her brother and sister as a baby, toddler, or preschooler. She still pretty much marches to her own rhythm, actually. This child required mothering in a whole new way. When she was about three months old, right on target with the developmental turning point that often disrupts self-soothing, Katie stopped sleeping well. She would not sleep in her car seat. Would not be swaddled. Would not suck her pacifier contentedly. Could not find her thumb. Would not even sleep in my arms for more than a few minutes.
I was chastened, bested. And really tired. I called Maureen.
“I think I’d like to try a suit,” I said. I’m sure she heard the exhaustion in my falsely chipper voice. She knew it well, after all. She’d been there, the “there” that is a nowhere land of plowing through the days on no sleep, not sure if you remembered to brush your toddler’s teeth, or, oh wait, your own teeth, come think of it. I admit there was little altruism in my request that day. Of course I wanted to help my friend with her developing idea, but even more, I just wanted my baby to sleep.
“Oh, great!” Maureen responded to my plea with enthusiasm. She was happy and appreciative to have a test case. And I was so thankful to have help at the ready. Because, really, third child and all, I was feeling the desperation of a first timer for sure.
Such was my fog that the one part of this story I cannot relate true to memory is actually getting the Sleepsuit. So, I’ll reimagine the scene here. I think Maureen drove over to my house that afternoon, her own preschooler, toddler, and baby all in tow. Because she’s like that. She lifted the palest pink, ultra-soft fleece suit from its bag with a sincere, hopeful, but slightly deprecating smile. Clearly, she believed it was something so much more than fabric and snaps, zippers and a cute logo. She knew there was magic in that bag. But she explained several times that she was still testing everything out and who knew if this would become a real thing and she just hoped it would help Katie sleep at least.
There was magic in that bag. It only took a few days for the suit to become part of Katie’s nap and bedtime routine. Pretty quickly, she associated her suit with bedtime comfort, and she slept solidly in it for naps and at night, home or away, until she was too big to fit into it anymore. And when that day came, one I had fretted over since the day the Magic Sleepsuit cast its spell, it turned out to be a non-issue. The suit just went into the crib right along with Katie. She couldn’t sleep in her Sleepsuit anymore, so she slept on it, spreading it under her head or lovingly onto her pillow. When she started talking, she dubbed it “Suitey.” I would be hard pressed to find a photo of her from ages one to four without her suit clutched lovingly to her side.
I try not to embarrass my kids too much, but this warrants the admission that Katie, age twelve, still considers her suit precious. It doesn’t travel with her everywhere anymore, but holds the status of “permanent fixture” in the comfort landscape of her bed.
I owe many years of solid sleep, both Katie’s and mine, to Maureen and the magic of her Sleepsuit creation. For Katie, putting on her Suit, or, later, snuggling with it, was like watching a spell being cast over my tired child, like having her fall asleep safely nestled in the familiar comfort of my arms or lap, except then my arms and lap were free to walk away. The Sleepsuit, in our life, was most definitely a charmed object exerting an almost supernatural force around what should be, but never quite was, the natural process of childhood slumber. That’s the concrete magic in a product lovingly and intelligently conceived.
The other, more intangible, type of magic, is part of this tale, too. The extraordinary, the unexplainable, the power that allows people to do impossible things. Because the story of the Magic Sleepsuit is more than the story of a product that works. It’s the story of a mother who wanted to help other moms, who wanted to share a wonderful and effective idea, and who wanted to build something real and lasting around that idea. The building of Baby Merlin Company was not impossible, that’s true. But it was not easy. It was accomplished through creativity and confidence, dedication and determination, cooperation, sacrifice, guts, and continual positivity. And the ongoing combination of all those traits to bring about something worthwhile and lasting is surely a manifestation of magic.
Photo: Magic Sleepsuit beta version, circa 2005, is in well-loved but good condition. Seen here on recent trip to Mink Lake, Ontario, CA.
Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelanc ewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.