Lately I have been sleeping on my stomach, one arm tucked under my chest, the other nested against my naval. My belly feels foreign and flat yet soft. It still remembers the shape it held just a few short weeks ago. My dreams are empty and interrupted. When I wake, my arms are fast asleep.
It's dusk. The sky shades into a color that's not quite night and the
trees look black against it. Buds and baby leaves can't fill in a canopy
yet, so each branch points like a crooked finger at the moon and
pierces holes in the heavens for the first stars to shine through.
Squirrel nests hang ragged and exposed high above my head. Blood clots
in the branches, too large to slip like sand through outstretched
fingers. Once he told me that these are temporary shelters and hiding
places -- not nests to raise young. I wonder where they birth their
babies, then, and how long it takes the wind to loosen each leaf and
finally blow these not-nests apart.
The tree outside our front window leafs out before all the others and
turns golden when it's nowhere near autumn. He thinks it might be dying.
I'm not sure.
Last summer, I watched little, dark-capped birds tunnel into the trunk.
I'd never witnessed this kind of nest building before and it held my
attention. On the way to the mailbox one day I stopped and peered
inside. Two glittering eyes looked back at me. She must have been
guarding something precious or surely my bold approach would have sent
her into flight.
All the seasons of a single year have passed and they're back this
spring. I'm not sure if it's the same pair or two different birds, but I
see them dart in and out, busy with instinct-driven preparations. I
watch one fly away, its trajectory level with my line of sight. Even
though it flies from this tree to the next without deviating left or
right, its path is not straight. It
undulates up and down gently, wings catching on a breeze I can't feel.
Though this tree's sap might be flowing more slowly this year, it plays host to new life anyway. I think about going out there with a flashlight so I can see the eggs or even just the bits of straw they're weaving into a nest. But I don't. Maybe miracles need some mystery.
I hold the baby up on my shoulder, her warm, downy head whispering
against my cheek. Even from my peripheral view, she looks like a
picture: full and drowsy, hands folded under her chin, lips pursed,
cheeks drooping down. The house is quiet. He took the other three and
their chaos out to do some shopping.
I sit. I rock. I breathe.
I don't think about how loud it will be when they get back or what we'll
have for dinner or the mess in the living room or the circle of my arms
that used to be home but now feels fractured under this new weight. I don't think about him going back to work
or me driving to preschool or how rude this one sometimes acts or the
fits that one throws or that she's too heavy for me to carry anymore and
my arms are too full to tread in such thick water.
Instead I just watch the sun stream through the windows and ingest the
scent of her new skin and sit and sit and sit and let that fill me all
the way up as she turns her head in her sleep and nests deeper into my