I like my coffee with hazelnut creamer and a dash of almond milk.
I like my coffee cold and neglected on the countertop because I’m busy soothing my new baby boy, the one who has made me a mother. In my long robe and slippers, I pace the kitchen floor and hold my swaddled son close to my heart. When his fussing grows quiet, I can hear the ticking of the big clock in the den. The dawn slowly reveals itself, brightening the kitchen in increments. It’s hard to imagine keeping my eyes open until he’s ready to nap again. Time is molasses.
I like my coffee in a Yeti. I take it on the road in our new SUV that can hold my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old with room to spare as we drive to my doctor’s appointment to hear yet another heartbeat swooshing its glorious rhythm into a little white room. At least, I hope we’ll hear that heartbeat. Entering the building, I hold the hands of my two little boys, wondering if perhaps they’ll one day have a sweet baby sister. The elevator rises as if in slow motion. My hands are clammy, my palms moist with sweat and nerves.
I like my coffee with Jesus.
At the church down the street with my new group, “A Mother’s Heart.” On their welcome table, they’ve got mini muffins, pink napkins, and two large silver urns of coffee—regular if you want caffeine and decaf if you’re crazy. In the Sunday School room, they draw the shades and dim the lights, and an older lady—a “mentor mother”—begins playing the piano in the corner. We sing a song called Give Me Jesus in a symphony of vulnerable voices.
In the soft darkness of that room, I want to cry hot tears and fall asleep in my chair all at once. Having a third baby has been beautiful but exhausting. I shiver inside my new sweatshirt, the one that says BOY MAMA on the front. Yep, I never got that baby girl—only Ben, Wes, and Baby Tomato, as we call him because of the way his face looks when he screams. Give me Jesus, indeed.
I like my coffee at the preschool parent-teacher conference, in a Styrofoam cup that they also use for arts and crafts. My younger sons rummage through the teacher’s toy kitchen, building blocks, and wooden puzzles. They even have a go at the plush baby dolls and the costume hats. It’s freezing in the room, and steam rises up from the Styrofoam while I watch my oldest on the playground through the window and admit things to the teacher she might judge me for.
The way I’ve rigged his bedroom door to lock on the outside because I can’t take him coming to my room all hours of the night anymore—not when I’m still up so early with the baby. I joke that it’s pretty scary, too, when he creeps silently up to my bedside and waits for me to feel his presence, making me scream and sometimes curse, waking my husband and the two dogs and our whole household. Maybe that’s why he’s been tired at school lately. “Pray on it,” she tells me, and I know I’ve scared her.
I like my coffee with friends.
Plain black, no time to sweeten it coffee at chilly, early morning sports games where the golden sun slowly rises over the fields of dewy grass. A staggered line of other moms and dads pepper the sidelines to my left and right, potential new friends to walk down the road of life with. (But if I’m feeling shy, I duck my head down for a sweet warm sip.)
I like my coffee alone in the house when it’s quiet and I can sit on the couch and watch the sway of the trees outside the den windows because the boys are all at big school—even my baby, now a kindergartener who chose the cool backpack that hangs below his bottom and hits behind his knees when he walks between his older brothers up to the big double doors and away from me for seven hours at a time. Sometimes I brew a second cup and drive past the school around mid-morning, just to catch a glimpse of his dark hair bobbing as he chases new friends on the playground like such a big boy.
It occurs to me that the time between today’s cup of coffee and tomorrow’s is moving awfully fast.
I’ll have to start sipping it slower.
I imagine that one day I’ll like my coffee across the breakfast table from my three grown children, who will be sipping their own cups of joe. The steam from our mugs will rise and mingle, mystical as memories, warm as the miracle of mother and child.