It's another late night. My house is quiet, the buzz-hush-white noise of the fan in my bedroom masking any other sound there might be. From where I sit on my bed I can just see a light on in the living room - left on so that when I wander through for a snack I won't trip and kill myself on some random plastic toy.
Beside me my husband is a shadow, warm and solid and real the moment I reach out to touch him. My daughter sleeps nestled in the crook of my left arm, her cheek against my naked breast. She is a furnace - occasionally grunting and kicking at my healing caesarian wound.
I'm awake and writing this on my iphone, the glow of the screen dimmed. I'm awake and writing because I have reached a point of being so full, so filled, that I feel I might explode. My skin is tight with emotion - a roiling mix of hormones fueled by a string of sleepless nights. I am exhausted and yes, maybe more than a little stressed, but I am so joyful that there aren't even words for it.
Our lives, my husband's and mine, have changed. When we first met our plans did not include children. I never felt that I wanted to be a mother or that I'd be a very good one. We lived together, our days full of the things that people without children do. Friends, parties, double features at the movies, sleeping late on Sunday mornings and time spent talking about our writing projects.
We married. We bought a house. We got pregnant. I turned out to be a more traditional person than I'd suspected myself to be. Part of that discovery was children. I'd never wanted them, didn't think it was the right choice for me - until I did and it was.
Was it a ticking biological clock? I had my first child at 28 - not young but not old. But I did have this sense of pressure, a feeling that if I didn't have children before I turned 30 it was never going to happen for me. And suddenly I wanted it to happen very much.
Now I'm 30, happily married, and the mother of a busy one year old and a very hungry infant a few weeks old.
I never thought that this would be my life.
I am so incredibly grateful.
The best parts of me, the worthwhile bits, anything that's good comes from them. My husband, my son, and now my daughter. For someone who could never see herself here, those words are amazing. I am floored by them, staggered by the meaning.
I am always me, a wife or mother yes, but ME beneath those things. I am a writer, a reader, a lover of all things bookish and a craver of cinnamon rolls. But those things are made greater, better, given depth and soul and meaning because of my love for my family.
Long before I'd ever considered children my mom said something that's stuck with me. She told me that when she was pregnant with my younger brother she'd worried that she might not love him as much as she loved me because she couldn't imagine loving anyone more. But then he arrived and she discovered that it wasn't about loving more. Her heart, her love, expanded, grew, and reached out to encompass her children equally.
I might have worried, late at night, toward the end of my pregnancy that I might love one more than the other - how could I love anyone more I love my son? But my mom was right. My heart expanded and I feel so full, stretched to the point of breaking, with love for both of my children.
It's the strangest thing in the world to think that I now have two. And I worry about teaching them the things they need to know to be good people, to be kind and forgiving, to see beauty in the world but also give them the tools they'll need to survive and thrive.
I'm going to tell my children, I cried when you were born. I held you in the dark at several days and weeks old, running my fingers over the bridges of your noses, the arch of your brow, and I wept. Happiness. Amazement. Love. A touch of sorrow.
Alone in the dark with my daughter, the whole wide world locked out on the other side of my door, and I would do anything to keep it there. To keep any hurt and pain from finding you, to keep the petty and thoughtless from touching you.
I want to go into my son's room and wake him, pull him to me just to feel him in my arms and know that he is safe. He'd probably cry first because I'd startled him awake but then he'd get excited at the prospect of Muppet Treasure Island at 3AM. He wouldn't let me hold on to him for too long. He's busy. There are things to do, places to see, people (and cats) to talk to. But I live for that sleepy instant that he melts against me - his trust in my love and protection the most important thing in my universe.
I'm going to tell my daughter about staying awake all night holding her. Not because she was fussy or hungry or because I had to but because I was so awed by her presence in my life that I was afraid if I set her down she might disappear.
I watch her face change expressions in her sleep. I feel her restlessness. Her mouth is starting to form little O's of anticipation and in a moment she'll wake up hungry.
I should probably be sleeping or cleaning my messy house. I could be writing (on my laptop - working through a novel or short - not one handed on my phone) or editing the stack of printed pages on my nightstand. There's a never ending list of things that might be considered more productive.
But oh my god she just smiled. Who cares about anything else?