As surely as this baby grows inside of me, our girls are growing up outside of me. The walls echo with “Uh myself, uh myself” and “Not right now.” Each kick that tickles at my belly throws a bright light on the fading milk moustaches that kiss their upper lips.

Briar’s face lengthens by the minute, cheekbones emerging and revealing an architecture of beauty that already steals my breath, her strong legs lead up to hips and a waist that I can see traveling away from me, the arm of a suitor blocking her waist from my view. And Avery, oh how my Avery is sprinting. Sprinting to an autonomy of thought and movement that stuns me. She is without fear, which makes the moments she reaches for me all the more excruciating to bear.

The tangle of emotions, like bed sheets after a night of fitful sleeping, or perhaps lovemaking, seeming to come at once from passion and terror, tether me. One moment the ringlets that caress my face are all sweetness and comfort, the next they are cruel, taunting me with how quickly they’ll be gone, in their place will sprout thicker, darker hair, the better to mask the baby within. I try to soothe myself with the knowledge that in some way my babies will always exist, beyond the eyeliner and independence, but it gets harder.

I can see now that as their bodies grow and as I celebrate their achievements, from walking to pedaling, each one takes them a step closer to lifting off. One day they will take flight, the speed of their ascent faster than my feet can carry me and surely faster than my heart can bear. It will be a triumph, both theirs and mine, but this morning as they sit at my feet, their foreheads touching and swirls of shapes that can only be drawn by a child’s hand explode across the paper, I fear the velocity of our travel is more than I can endure.