Sean had set his iphone up as an alarm clock for me, but when I heard the soft rolling of digital bells as day broke I was confused. I waited a moment before stirring, the sounds of crickets through the window punctuated by the rat-tat-tat siren of a woodpecker. Finley was to the right of me, nursing with one hand woven through her tousled hair and the other on my neck, Briar was behind me, curled in a ball parallel to the foot of the bed with her legs touching mine. Sean was gone.

This musical sleeping station thing happens around here, with one parent being traded for a child and another child being added to the mix. After flanking Fin with pillows and covering Briar’s bare shoulders, I slipped out of bed and I tiptoed down the hallway to find Sean. The guest room bed was empty, as I passed our room I smiled at Briar and Finley’s forms, so tiny and yet, together they seemed so big, so undeniably significant, less babies than people.

I saw him tucked awkwardly, but soundly, in the bottom bunk of the girls’ room. The intensity of yesterday still clinging to me, I drank in the sight of him, hands resting on either side of his pillow, elbows poking out, Briar’s pink fleece covering him and proclaiming him a father-of-all-girls even while he sleeps. Ave was overhead, a dark tangle of curls and plump lips were all I could see until she turned, then her face flashed at me and she gave a kind of contented sigh as she buried it once again.

There is potent healing in the embrace of a sleeping family, in knowing that the primal hum is running beneath the beating of your own heart, sustaining it when you are weak. Yesterday and so many days before had been spent figuratively huddled in a corner with my arms wrapped around myself.

I was weak and so very scared. Today I am healthy and filled with gratitude. Thanks be to crickets and daybreak, to family and to friends.