My tears suddenly fall as I press my oldest child against my chest, over my burgeoning belly. Our energies have been at odds for days. We are both trying to tread water in tense waves we know will be shifting tides at any moment. I know well that my sensitive one feels the gravitational pull of the baby's imminent arrival, but he clings and retreats to and from me so dramatically I have struggled to anchor us. The moment emerges out of nowhere to connect in the quiet, and here we are, holding each other, feeling as if we belong again.
I cry and tell him he was my first child, the one to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a mother. That I loved him more than I ever imagined I could. That I continue to love him more every day, just as he is, in a paradox that shatters all ideas of quantification. That I know things will change when the baby comes, and that we'll have to endure the difference, but that my love for him and what we share cannot change. I look into his eyes and meet his contented smile. When he playfully, rhetorically, asks if I'm happy or sad, I tell the truth: "Both. Because I love you." He holds me closer. "I love you too, Mom."
My littler one is running away from me gleefully, again, as the sun sets. In my awkward body, I struggle to catch up and reign him in to our established boundaries. I've always known this is how he will be, fleeing freely and fearlessly forward, turning to smile and eagerly encourage me onward, but the exhaustion of it as my body is weighed down by another babe stretches my edges of patience. He is still so small but too heavy to carry for long. He is eager to be a child, not a baby, yet seems too young to be an older brother. He will be the in-between, and although his spirit is buoyant, I feel grief that he'll slip and fall hard in that space. I see in his lowered lashes the little baby who arrived not so long ago, it seems. I whisper into his ear, "You will always be my baby. And I will always follow you, as long as you'll have me." He snuggles closer, clinging to my hair, his security blanket, whispering sleepily, "Mama."
Just before sleep claimed their consciousness tonight, my boys turned toward one another and tenderly touched each other's cheeks, rubbed noses, and held hands with soft noises of affection. They wordlessly said goodnight, expressed their care, and drifted off to dreams in love with each other. As I laid nearby and watched, I could feel my baby's hand by his face in my womb. I felt an insistent ache in my abdomen's muscles, precursor to the process that will bring them their next brother. I felt a jubilation my body almost seemed unable to contain as I felt the pain. I was both happy and sad. I was both aching and blissful.
The best moments of lovemaking are when you aren't sure if you can stand the pain at the edge of sweetness. In the rushes of labor, the intensity I have wondered if I can bear is simultaneously the same force that moves my heart to transcendent ecstasy, knowing I am about to meet my child, making me feel in love with every force and person helping me through. Tonight, wading in a sea of liminality, I see rainbows in the darkness, like light caught in iridescent crow feathers. Praying and at peace. Smiling and crying. Holding and releasing. Sinking and soaring.