I leaned over the side of the second hand glider and clicked on the sound machine as a rush of rain filled my daughter’s room. I pulled her onto my lap to continue our pre-nap wind-down.
I already helped her pee in the potty and changed her into her bedtime Pull-up. I brushed her crooked teeth and checked the progress on her incoming molars — three little icebergs protruding through a sea of swollen gums. We read three stories which turned into 5 because, as a fellow bookworm, I have trouble saying no. “Uh-one book?” (Another book) she asked.
As I drew her to my lap, I offered my breast. She opened her mouth wide, latched on and instantly relaxed. She dug her hand inside my other bra cup and started fiddling absentmindedly. Her eyes drifted closed as I began to sing “You are my sunshine.”
I looked across the room at her twelve month photos arranged in a grid on the opposite wall from newborn burrito to opinionated toddler. In the other corner of the room, two globes with butterflies swayed gently to the breeze of the fan, giving the appearance that the butterflies could flutter away.
My daughter is 21 months old. She is still nursing. Before nap, before bed, and when she wakes up in the morning. And, more often than I’d like to admit, when she’s throwing a fit because I won’t give her the cup without the lid (spoiler alert: she spills it every.dang.time) or sad because brother won’t share a toy (“Bubba mean”, she’ll say), or hurt from running too fast and tripping over a misplaced lego or little people or even nothing at all.
Nursing is still her biggest comfort.
She fiddled in my bra for a while, then even her fidgety hand went limp. Her sucking slowed and I could feel the heat of her skin pressed against mine, dampening my own chest and stomach. My singing turned to humming, then to silence as her breathing steadied. I could hear her brother chatting a made up game of fire rescue from his room. “Weeoow weeoow” his siren echoed.
I don’t always let her sleep in my arms, but lately I’ve been chasing slow. Trying to stop time. To savor these moments with the last baby I will nurse.
When I was certain she was fast asleep, I kissed her forehead and tasted the mac and cheese she had for lunch. But as I stood to transfer her to the Carolina blue hand-me-down crib from her brother, complete with hand-me-down bitemarks, she squinted her eyes and started sucking again; she reached around me in a big bear hug and did not let go.
She was not ready to give up my comforting arms. She was not ready to let go.
I peeled her fingers off my shirt and set her into the crib as she flailed.
“Hug hug,” she pleaded.
I am a sucker for her new words, and this was the first time she said the word “hug.” Not “more milk,” but “hug.”
I picked her up again wondering if I would be there all afternoon. I thought of the dishes piled on the counter and the crusty pot of macaroni left on the stovetop. She dropped her head on my shoulder and the crying stopped.
I swayed with her for a few minutes, humming again.
I leaned over the crib again and she tensed up, clamped her thighs around my waist, making it nearly impossible for me to peel her off of me and into the crib.
“Hug hug,” she said again.
“I can give you more hugs when you wake up. Now it’s time to sleep,” I ventured.
She slowly unclamped her legs and looked at me with her big, brown eyes. I was surprised it worked, but I wasn’t going to miss my window.
“Otay,” she said and let me place her in the bed next to her menagerie of stuffed cats and babies.
“There will be lots more hugs when you wake up,” I promised, as I dimmed the light and backed out of the room.
She just needed to know that there was love waiting for her on the other side of the unknown or uncomfortable. Maybe we all do.
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 “Snapshot”.