8 and half weeks, that’s how long I have been a mom to three girls. Three beautiful daughters, each with her own magic and each possessing a key, the point of which slips through me, a perfect fit. The teeth grip me with insistence, turning my soul over and inside out.
The inexorable waves of guilt wash over me, each thicker and heavier than the last. I stroke Fin’s brow and rather than feeling the bliss of flawless skin and rosebud lips, my insides quiver, the echoes of what I am not doing run wild. Briar sits alone, her slender arms wrapped around her knees, toenails ragged.
She chews her nails, toes and fingers. I have no idea where this quirk comes from and it shreds my insides to know that at not-yet-four she already has these nervous habits. She apologizes too. That’s me. I’m sorry, always I’m sorry. I don’t want that for her, I want her to rock every day of her life with an unapologetic spirit, seizing what is hers, what she has earned and what she deserves. The baby wiggling and fussing in my arms calls me back, breaking my reverie and leaving Bri alone, wrapped in her own arms.
Looking back into this third set of blue eyes, barely two months old and already keenly aware of when I am mailing it in. Attempts to type are met with writhing, stolen peeks at books and magazine are responded to with equal consternation.
I want to tell her how much I want to hold her, how I want nothing more than to scoop her in my arms and run beneath a willow tree. We could lie for hours just watching the delicate leaves flickering along the slick limbs. We’d gasp and giggle at passing clouds. Long, slow nursing sessions, her little hands upon my breast, tracing circles on my side. My eyes would close, no need to watch, instead just feeling. Kissing her head as my body settles, limp and relaxed against the gentle slope of grass.
Avery is quiet, too quiet. I carry Fin to find her. Disheveled bangs feather against the olive fabric of the couch, eyes unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, so blue and big, almost too big for her tiny face, stare vacantly at the screen.
She turns slowly, her eyes lifting to see me and the sudden light and smile that race across her face hit me with an emotional force that makes me tremble.
“You here? You sit? You come and sit with me? Right here?” She pats the spot beside me, a look of hope on her face. I smile and move toward her, excited to sit. She’ll press her little body against mine, her hands trace the constellation of freckles on my arms as she murmurs, “One freckle, one ‘nother one freckle.”
“Mom? Mom? Mom!” Briar calls from the other room.
I am annoyed, heartbroken and panicked all at once. FIn begins to squirm in my arms and Avery simply turns away, prepared to not be picked as Briar screams my name again. I want to run, but I can’t decide which way to go. I want to soothe, but the math doesn’t work. I have three girls and two arms. They each pull from a different direction and the only constant is my broken heart, my fear that I have failed.
I remind myself that my expectations are my own, but the guilt of wanting the best for them leaves me feeling ashamed. I am trying not to say sorry, trying to know that this is the only love they know. Some days I do better at this than others.
Today was hard.