You woke up early this morning. 5:45. You must have been hungry, because you woke up demanding a cup of warm milk in pretty strident tones from your crib, which is at the foot of our bed. "Rhee have warm milk! Rhee have warm milk! Please!" Your Papa oozed out of bed, rubbed your tummy and told you that he'd go and make it for you, and I lay in bed and talked to you from across the room about what he was doing, to help you be patient. Eventually I looked at the clock. Ugh. No.
I was so tired. It's easy to be tired, when I'm almost 30 weeks pregnant and had stayed up quite late the night before sorting and folding your old baby clothing, trying to get the nursery ready for your soon-to-be little brother. Pausing often to remember you in certain garments, like the little blue cotton gown with the ribbons at the wrists and the tiny mother of pearl button closure at the back of the neck, and how your fingers would curl out of those sleeves like hermit crabs. I can't believe we are having another baby. I can't imagine anyone but you. Nothing seems real yet. The clothing, your old clothing, is folded in the drawers. Each drawer a different age, and when I look at the little label that says "0-3 months" on the top drawer I can feel this time, this time that is just you and I, running through my fingers so quickly, and I want to close my hand on it to keep it still.
On mornings like this morning it's hard to keep the promise I made to myself when you turned a year old, to always say "good morning Rhys!" so that a smile is the first thing you see every day. You drank your milk and your papa helped you up into our bed for morning snuggles, which you initially did not want. You insisted upon lying between us without touching, like a little island of tired toddler, getting your emotions under control and finishing the process of waking up. Eventually you rolled over to me and tucked your head under my chin, one little brown arm snaking around my neck. "Good morning, Rhys." Sleepy smile. I closed my hand on the moment. Tried to keep it still.
This afternoon, you didn't really want to eat lunch so your dragon figurine Raar pretended to eat your chicken while you laughed and said "No Raar! Say please!" We headed up for nap, and I got you tucked in and you informed me that you had Simba (your teddy bear) and your cup of water, which I dutifully admired. I asked you if you'd like a story or a song, and after a little thought you said "yes. song." I rattled off a quick list of your favorites to see which one you'd like to hear: The Blackest Crow? No. Sir Eglamore? No. I sang you a quick snatch of "The Crane Wife" and you approved, so I switched gears and sang you "The Mariner's Revenge" while I stroked your little suntanned arm, the only part of you I could reach through the bars of your crib while sitting on the floor. You fell asleep while I hummed the refrain, one of the few times that you've fallen asleep while I've sung to you, and I leaned my forehead against the crib, watching your fingers move a little while you dreamed. You're so beautiful, little one. So beautiful and so good. And I'm so grateful that you and I have this time together, that I can sing you to sleep, watch your eyes close and know that you know I'm here watching over you. I sat and watched you sleep and thought about how very much I love you, how hard I try to be worthy of you, and what I would do and give to keep you safe, and I cried.
It's a strange thing about our culture, the way it makes mothers feel a little guilty for loving their children so very much. We're taught by all the other adults around us that constant closeness is debilitating, somehow - female relatives and friends started offering to "take the baby so you can get away, it will be good for you" when you, Rhys, were only a few weeks old. The few times I left you to run to the store or spend a few hours at a wedding I felt like a wild animal desperate to get out of a trap, and BACK to you. Then I worried that maybe there was something wrong with me. Why didn't I want to spend time away from you? When everyone else seemed to take it for granted that I NEEDED to get away from you? They spoke like the person I was would drown in all the care of you, and I felt instead that you were teaching me to breathe underwater - to become a new sort of creature entirely.
There are days when you make me so crazy I think I must be the least patient mother in the world, and I worry about what will happen when there's a new baby here to keep me up at night, to make it even harder for me to smile and say good morning at 5:45 a.m., to take some part of me away from you, to nurse and always be in the way, needing so much of me the way babies do, the way you did. But always, always, there are moments like this afternoon, when I know that it won't matter, because we are in this together, my song and your little brown arm, and you will help me figure out how to be the best mother I can be to both of you. I've already learned so very much. Every day, you teach me grace, and I'm so grateful to you, my teacher. I love you, little Squeak.