The bunk beds arrive this week.
I whisper this in the darkness as I haul myself out of bed, once again, at the sound of my three-year-old’s cry. We’re past the days of Mama, hold you! but we are still in the realm of Please change my diaper and sing me a song.
The light from the boys’ bathroom illuminates the hall and as I open the door to their bedroom I look straight into Henry’s beseeching blue eyes, a full head above the crib. The mattress creaks under the weight of his three-year-old body. To the left, Jacob’s brown eyes are still closed, thank God, but who knows for how long.
It’s a ritual I can do in the dark: pants down, legs up, clean diaper under the bum. A ritual that terrified me those nights in the very beginning, when Jacob’s limbs were so tiny and fragile, his voice so loud against the quiet of the night. And now, five years later, I’m on to the second child and I can hardly remember the details of those nights.
I mostly remember the feeling of panic.
Now, freshly diapered and back in his pjs, my youngest asks if we can both crawl into bed with big brother. It’s another ritual, a new one, one we began when we moved into our new house this summer.
It’s a ritual that must come to an end.
“Why do you stay with them when they wake?” my therapist asks me. These days we talk via video chat but she can still see the dark circles under my eyes. “You don’t comfort them and remind them it’s time for them to sleep?”
I do tell them it’s time for sleep, but then I gather them together like security blankets and wrap myself around them.
They need me, I tell myself. This house is new. Their room is cold. But also: The rhythm of their breath brings me comfort.
We are together. We are safe. We survived another day.
Henry curls himself under my chin, burrowing deeply into blankets and into my stomach. “Mama?” he pleads, “Please sing me ‘Rainbow.’”
I clear my throat and begin to sing the song that first tumbled out of me as I rocked his older brother so many years ago. It was Jacob’s song, but now it belongs to all of us.
At the sound of my voice, Jacob rolls toward me, his blue lovey blanket gently flicking my cheek. He sucks his fingers just off-beat from the song.
For a moment, my exhaustion doesn’t matter. They are anchoring me, like a weighted blanket, reminding me of where I am and just how far we’ve come.
I don’t know If they’ll remember this, but I know I never want to forget.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Remember This.”