When I hear Thomas’s stirrings on the monitor, I leave Jack and Grace to their pretend play and climb the stairs, listening to the cartilage in my knees crackle. I don’t remember when my body got old. I fell down the stairs last week and it wasn’t the embarrassment that hurt—she fell down the stairs!—but the purple bruises on my right butt cheek.
I push open the door to the kids’ room. Truthfully, it’s the first time I’ve ever put the baby down in the crib. He’s spent these past six months on me and next to me, then in the swing, the pack and play, the rock and play, and now, on the guest room bed. But he naps in a crib at daycare so what the heck. I tried it today.
I near the crib and see his mouth turned down, not wailing, but not too far away. He is still blinking awake; I’ve caught him in the tiny window in which he can be nursed back to sleep. I lift him—all 22 pounds— to my left shoulder and begin to sway. It’s automatic. I have been swaying for four years.
We sit down in the blue chair and I lean all the way back, then rock us forward with the motion of my head. He latches blindly. I can’t remember when nursing became effortless with him. Third child and the roughest start to nursing of all my babies, saved only by a lactation consultant. When did I stop needing both my hands, four pillows, and a burp rag? I’m glad for the ease with which we now move together.
His eyes close and he leans heavy into my elbow. He is snort-breathing. I pull away from his nose to help him breathe through this cold he’s had all month.
Pretty soon, I hear the kids on the stairs. Someone is crying; it’s always Grace these days. Please don’t wake him. I shoot laser beams toward the door with my eyes. Jack creeps in on all fours; he’s a puppy. He sees my wide eyes—the Mom Look I have perfected—and backs out of the room, keeping Grace out.
It doesn’t last. Soon she’s in the room, with books from the guest room, toys from downstairs, and an old medal from one of Jon’s marathons—Where does she get this stuff? She’s insisting she doesn’t need to nap now, but if she waits until later, there will be Dire Bedtime Consequences. I’m solo today and pick my poison: A no-nap afternoon makes for many dinnertime meltdowns, but an easier bedtime.
Thomas wakes in my arms. He is always happy to see me.