“I love you Mummy” he says, pressing his flushed cheek to my enormous belly. “And I love baby brother, too”. My sweet son kisses my belly, his (almost) four-year-old frame wrapped around my leg. I bend slowly to lift him up, settle him on top of where his baby brother is kicking furiously at my ribs, and he puts his head on my shoulder. “SEE Mummy! You CAN lift me up!” he whispers, and my heart breaks open into a million tiny pieces.
They say that your love grows deeper. That your heart expands. That there will always be room in your arms for more children, room at your table for more plastic firetruck dinner plates. The mothers who have walked this road before me tell me that new babies find more curves of your body to snuggle into, everyone fitting perfectly, nestled together like a set of measuring spoons that were always meant to accompany each other.
So I suppose that it must be true. But what if it isn’t?
Our baby, the baby that we have longed for, the baby that I prayed for every month when the screen on the pregnancy test glared back at me with a blank stare….that baby is due to arrive in our arms in just five short weeks. I know that he is meant to be my son, this sweet boy who wiggles and kicks inside of me, letting us know that he is excited to join the world and our adventures. I reach for him every morning, willing him to make himself known as I lie half awake in bed, praying that he is still with us. I rest my hand on my belly every night, feeling him stretch and move, while I listen to his big brother take soft breaths over the baby monitor. One hand on our future, one ear listening to our present.
Baby Ben, we know that you will complete our family when you arrive. I dream of watching you toddle after your brother on the playground. I can already see how you will sit knee to knee in the bath tub together, both splashing water over the side and onto the floor while I pretend to be frustrated with you. Max is already putting his stuffed friends to bed in your crib. Groundhog, Doggie, and Bunny have been napping where you will rest your head. You have your very own sleeper suits and new blankies, and many pairs of cool shoes so that you can match your Daddy and your brother. Max has decided that you like the “Baby Bumblebee” song, and we sing it to you as you lie curled tightly in my belly. “Mommy, does baby have any toys to play with in there?” he asks. “Is it really dark? What does he eat?” I know that you hear our voices at storytime each night, quietly participating in the peaceful ritual of reading the train book and singing the night-night song, even though you haven’t arrived yet. You are creating a space for yourself, and we are slowly making room.
Perhaps my heart is practicing it’s stretching already. When I gently move Max off of my aching belly and nestle him in the crook of my arm instead, I am learning to love you both. When I tell Max that I will be able to play blocks with him just as soon as I’ve finished my lunch, I am learning to care for you both. When I dream of what it might feel like as you slip from my body, or drink from a breast that will hopefully fill with milk, or soothe the squeaky cries that are uniquely your own, I am learning to value the stories of both of my boys, different as they might be.