The old rhythm comes back quickly, it has been stored up deep in my bones where it lay these eight years, dormant. The years pass and the mind forgets, but somehow the motions of mothering an infant have stayed true and fresh, wrapped tightly ’round sinew and bone like a double helix deep in the soul. The steady rock, the gentle bounce, the swaying motions are as instinctual as breathing, a primal need to give, to protect.
It is somewhere in the shadowy hours of early morning, that no-man’s land time of day when nothing stirs, when all is dark and quiet and warm, womb-like and soft as velvet. I sway, hold the bottle just so. In my arms, a wisp of a baby boy lies still, drinks in. His eyes are dark in the faint light coming from the hall, his brow wrinkled with some neonatal question, some deep thought. Tiny hands reach out, find mine. Wrap like soft cords around my finger and hold, hold.
I lay my cheek against the curve of his head, the impossible softness of newborn skin. His breath is milky and soft, I feel the sleep take over his tiny body one part at a time, feel the tension ease and he becomes somehow heavier as he gives in to sleep. The heater kicks on and I hear warm air glide into the room, I hear the clock ticking out this moment in tiny increments and the dog at the foot of the bed sighs, re-arranges in her sleep. The baby’s breath comes steady, even, slow. I stroke his tiny fingers, wrapped round mine, feel his grip loosen, fade.
In this quiet moment none of it matters, he is not my child and I will choose to love him as though he were for the time he is here, and yes, he will break my heart and yes, he will not remember this but yes, it matters and it is worth it and somehow even the breaking is a gift. Everything I cannot fix for him does not matter in this quiet moment, I can only love him for his mother now and I have found that holding back is not possible, the love comes just the same as it did for each of mine, it is what will mend and what will fill the broken places and it does not matter that this is only now, it is all I can give and it is enough and nowhere near enough, both at the same time.
Caring for a newborn this week, blessed and overwhelmed and tired and joyful and so many other things. Prayers, please, for this sweet child and his sick father and his care-worn mother and his 13 month old brother, too.