It had to have been the seventh time I’d gone in, she’d been howling on and off all night, so bothered by the arrival of yet another set of molars. I tenderly lifted her from the crib and held her in my arms, her dark hair clung to her head in damp ringlets and her shirt was bunched around her torso. We moved to the chair and I eased myself down, the budding bump just beneath Avery’s form has already begun to alter my movements, more ginger and tentative, particularly at night.

I leaned my head back as we began the familiar choreography of nursing by moonlight, her face finding its way to my breast even before my shirt is lifted. These past few weeks, whether from pregnancy or molars, the dance has been different, detached somehow. I fear she senses my fatigue and resents it. I know that I struggle with my inability to soothe, returning throughout the night only to find that the once enduring solace of our closeness is forgotten before I make it back to my own bed, and her whimpering grows stronger. It makes each trip back to her harder, and my resistance to run to her stabs at me.

This time she rubbed her palm against against my skin, faster and faster until she was almost slapping my throat as if demanding that I fix it, ease her distress. I stroked her brow and kissed the top of her head, humming the medley she requests each night – Row Row Row Your Boat, Tigger and Pooh, Einsteins and Twinkle Twinkle. Her eyelids fluttered and she sighed, a deep, leg straightening, back arching sigh, and then she relaxed, her belly pressing softly against mine. I let my own eyes close and we sat together, our breathing falling into a steady, shared rhythm.

A while later I opened my eyes and smiled at her sleeping form, it seemed as if this time it had worked, she was at peace. I stood and moved toward her crib, she lifted her head and I paused. My heart thumped against my chest as she lifted her head, I braced for the moan and cry for milk. I hated the feeling of desperation, I needed her not to cry, to turn to her crib and let me rub her back until she slipped off to sleep again, at least for a little while. And then she did it. Her head turned to me and I closed my eyes, ready to fall back into the chair.

There was no sound, just the impossibly perfect sensation of her pressing her face to mine, her lips searching out my mouth and kissing me. Thank you, mama. Thank you. And then she turned back to the crib and I lay her down, knowing that she never stopped finding comfort in my arms and at my breast. Thank you, baby. Thank you.