The petal lashes blink once, twice. A third time.
I don’t believe you, his blue eyes say.
This is what he knows:
There is a bed in my room now. Next to my crib.
I pull tufts from my blanket, white balls that look like bubbles.
Mama’s belly is hard and tight, bigger than it used to be.
I want grilled cheese for lunch. But I am not hungry. Yet.
We are on my bed, my son furled into me like a conch shell. When his father’s out of town for work, we slip easily into crankiness.
We are both of us out of sorts. I’ve scooped him from his pile of toys, a discarded sippy cup tipped over on the who-cares carpet.
It’s time for an impromptu snuggle.
“Just the two of us,” I say. His second birthday is a month away, but mother-time still teases me. Long minutes drag while days slip through my grasping fingers.
How do I make room for another? Why did I steal his babyhood? What words might reassure my firstborn that his world may be different but this fierce, complicated love for him will never change?
We have told him this:
You are our first baby.
We love you. Very much.
A new person is coming to stay with us.
Here’s what he believes:
Tummies are for fishy crackers.
Daddy will be home soon.
He pushes on the bulging drum of my stomach, nudging closer. I cradle him with one arm, reaching across my body with the other to stroke his silky hair. The fluff of him tickles my palm. We are warm together here and the day slows. I do not hear the clock ticking, the second hand arcing and unstoppable.
I say, “You’re my Hunny Bunny,” and he juts his chin in protest. “No!” His lips purse in a pretend pout. “You’re my Hunny Bunny.” He giggles and I pull him into me. He smells like baby shampoo. And certainty. He rests his head on my belly and there is no space between us.
I’m sorry my sweetheart. So sorry.
There is irony in loving one child so much you feel compelled to create another. I trust my heart to multiply. My time I will divide. But he is not yet capable of solving such equations. He counts on his fingers. And on my complete attention. One hundred percent of me will soon be split. My unborn child prepares to claim her half of me.
Without warning, she kicks from the inside, a tiny poke against his cheek. My boy sucks in breath, his mouth a wide O of astonishment.
He pushes at her and she returns the pressure. An elbow? A foot?
My children meeting for the first time.
She shifts, a rolling heave beneath her brother. She is somehow both closer to me and also more separate. But we are together still. Now.
Just the three of us.
My son, not yet two, tilts his face toward me. Every curve and angle of him is open to discovery. His eyes lock with mine.
Petal lashes blink once, twice. A third time.
And he believes.
This one’s for Jack.
And for Karly.
With all the love I have.
*I originally wrote this for Nichole Beaudry of Take Flight, and she graciously let me bring it home.
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