Was that him? No. I’m imagining it, surely. It’s only been 15 minutes since he drifted off. Then I hear, “Mama”. That’s definitive. Shoot. I hop off the couch, iPhone in one hand, tea in the other and I go to my sleepy toddler.
In his dreamy state he gives me a “big hug” and climbs on top of me, seeking comfort as he awaits the return of sleep. He tries to nurse, taking a break every few seconds to catch his breath through unrelenting sniffles. He needs his nap today.
It’s day three of our struggle with the common cold. I feel like the walking wounded, mired in battle against snotty noses and feverish bodies. We're both still in our pyjamas, a matching pair of weathered souls. I haven't showered since Monday…what's today? I've lost track.
As I lay in the fading afternoon light my son nuzzles into me with a familiarity I feel broken open by, nourished by his love as his little body quietly surrenders to sleep.
He’s reminding me he's still my baby. That he still needs me in spite of his growing toddler independence.
It's an incredible feeling, being needed as a mother. It helps me appreciate my own mother. Even though I'm an adult now, her maternal instincts haven’t waned, driving her to tend to my needs as much as my independence allows. My intense self-reliance often means I resist – but I understand now. She's grasping onto that fleeting precious feeling. Maybe next time I won't be so quick to dismiss her concern. I wish she were here to care for me now, instead of on the other side of the world.
Here alone in our bedroom-come-sickbay I’m mesmerized by my son’s innocence. Gifted by this rare period of stillness I lay here and study his every detail. His heartbreakingly long eyelashes. His adorable button nose. I gently trace my fingers around his baby-smooth cheeks. With his forehead resting on my belly button I’m here for the long haul.
I settle in and reflect on how such a short time ago we were one, physically connected in the very spot he’s lying. And although the umbilical cord may have been cut I’m in awe of the emotional bond we’ve created, far stronger than any physical tie. He’s my best friend. My tiny soul mate. My teacher. He gifts me with the greatest lessons of my life as I witness the conviction of his intuition and awareness. He pushes me to be a better parent. A better person.
In this moment I only want to be there for him. To serve as his pillow and stroke away the damp hair that falls on his face. It floods my heart with joy to watch him take comfort from my presence. He coughs and fleetingly rouses, then nestles back down curling into my shoulder, soft and submissive in this atmosphere of safety. I feel the forward march of pins and needles prickle their way up my arm, but I dare not stir.
For now, I'll take the discomfort in exchange for the chance to be his sole source of comfort. I know my chances are numbered.
Outside the rain continues to hammer down. I feel like we're hibernating bears waiting for the storm to pass. This illness is testing and strengthening us physically, but in turn it has deepened our emotional bond.
It's a long nap. Three hours. I can’t help but think of all the things I could have done in that time. Time seems so scarce these days and I find myself scrambling for every spare second. So, I relish this enforced relaxation. My cold may have disabled me, but it was my son who physically pinned me down and forced me to STOP. To slow down. His love is the best medicine. His boundless joy restores my depleted energy. His smile and laugh. Every detail a lesson in healing. And his only demand: a “big hug”, which comforts and nourishes us both.