My middle child. She's nearly 4 now. A strange concept to a mother who waited 32 years to give life and then birthed 3 times in 3 years like rapid fire, only to watch her children sprout up before her in the blink of an eye. It's sobering to watch the years rush past us.
For many months when she was a wee babe, we shared a bed. Daddy was downstairs, Brother was down the hall. It was just the two of us, breathing and dreaming in unison. Like those months she'd spent in my womb, we were like one being. She'd stir in the night, locate and then latch onto the bare nipple she'd abandoned only hours before. She'd lull herself back into deep sleep with a drawing of milk, whilst her mother dreamt of strange tugging and letdown sensations.
These days she sleeps bravely on her own, in her lavender room, surrounded by a small harem of plastic baby dolls she nestles close to her body like I once nestled her. She insists on having three of them - emulating her mother's three babies I imagine. But each night before I submit to my own slumber, after I've checked in on her sleeping brother and then her dozing sister, it's her turn.
My middle child - who is often happy reading or painting on her own like her mother did as a child - I sometimes fear she is unintentionally drowned out by her baby sister's needs and her big brother's enthusiastic insistence. She is never forgotten, however. She who looks so much like her mother; china doll face with looming blue eyes and bouncing brown curls. She's simply unforgettable.
This is the time we take for ourselves, to reconnect as mother and daughter each night, when the fights, angry words and misunderstandings of the day have been laid to rest and forgotten.
She looks for me every night. Even as she dreams, she waits. The hinge on her door pops softly as I open it. The carpet padding crackles under my careful steps, and by the time I reach her bedside, she is sitting up, groggy voice asking for a snuggle. So I pick her up in my arms. Where once she fit safely as a cocoon, now she overflows. Striving not to bump her long legs on the doorways we once skirted with ease, we plod quietly to my room, whispering so as not to disturb its sleeping occupant, and together we crawl toward the pillow and snuggle under a blanket.
In the soft glow of the iPhone lamp placed strategically under my pillow, I watch the outline of her resting face: the sweep of her still chubby cheeks, the dark lashline of her eyes, and her lips forming the soft pout of a child in repose. Nose to nose, in the dim light, she's barely changed. I could even convince myself she's still 6 months old, resting in a blissful milk coma beside me. Back then, when she lay at my breast, her little body barely cleared the length of my torso. Now her head is parallel to mine; her toes bump my knees. She is unmistakably my baby girl but so quickly becoming a force - a force that keeps growing and changing daily, seeking to conquer the world around her, not unlike a storm front gathering strength and picking up speed the further she progresses. Her joy, her stubborn nature and pure heart will serve her well. I can't wait to see her wake. But for now, we rest here and dream.
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