You’re tucked in and prayers are said. Last sips of water, last hugs, last kissing hands, and I have to pull away and close the door because I don’t want to leave. You say your room can be scary, you say you sleep better with mommy, but what I don’t whisper is, my room is really where the fear lives.

“Mommy pleeeease can we sleep in your bed?” You whine.

My head bows and shakes with a small smile on my lips. There is no conviction in my denial of your request.

Which one of you is speaking isn’t significant. The pleading is universal to both my lovely girls. The desire to be near me is one you share. A trait that proves nurture has outmuscled the nature that created you in my womb, five months after your sister was formed in her birth mothers.

“No baby.” I respond.

There is a pause, an opening you recognize, but I don’t allow you to continue. I know it’s a school night and you two need your rest. And I need to allow your daddy some part of me after I’ve willingly given everything I have to parenting over the last eight years.

But I don’t want to leave you.

The bed of mine you so love, the pillow that often holds your thick brown hair tousled over your closed eyes and still baby cheeks; at times, terrifies me.

Years ago I would stay up at night worrying you would never find me. The endless miscarriages and infertility and failed attempts to grow you left me sleepless. The shots your daddy gave me before bed were the last thing I thought about before laying down my head. It was impossible to turn off the high-pitched noise in my mind created by all the what-ifs and past loss.

The times when I was pregnant the last thing I would think before I went to my bed was, please Lord let me keep this child. Afraid as I lay there that my prayers weren’t heard. They always were of course, our God was with me in that bed holding me as I wept when I did loose baby after baby, unable to sleep for the cavernous ache that kept me awake.

Then you were growing in another woman and your sister was barely surviving in me and the fear seemed too much to bear. That bed, that pillow couldn’t compete with the constant catastrophizing that ran through my entire body.

And now you are both here, and healthy and mine. And your brother found and completed us. There are more blessings in our life than I could have dreamed. But dream isn’t the right word. It sounds blissful and enchanting, yet what happens when I try to close my eyes and drift, is sharp and haunting.

Face washed, teeth brushed, alarm set. Lights off and the panic begins to rise. It starts almost as a punch. First in my stomach than bleeds into my heart, into my arms, up to my cheeks and triggers my tears. How can I be so afraid, when the Lord has always come through? Yes, I lost. Yes there was pain, but there has been so much joy, more to celebrate than to grieve. Again my thoughts run wild, manically dancing from one crisis to the next, never pausing to catch a breath, making sleep itself, just a dream.

I rouse my buzzing body and walk quietly out of my seemingly busy room. Through the door down the hallway past the blue, boy’s room, jealously envisioning him in his safe and peaceful crib.

Oh to climb in and hold him.

Your door is slightly open, and as I walk through the light musty scent of you fills me immediately with calm. You both sleep. The comma shape your lithe form creates leaves your back exposed and only your arms and toes covered by the bright blue and white comforter you chose because of the dolphins that now dive around your feet. The soft fleece sheet is scrunched up at the bottom of the twin bed and I pull it up as I climb in next to you.

When you were small you would crawl up my body like a monkey, knees nearly touching your arms as you lay with your chest on my chest and fall asleep. Now the weight of you on me would be suffocating, but I long for that closeness so I nuzzle my shoulders to your back and wrap my arms around you protectively. I’ll never tire of holding you. I wonder when my own mother stopped cuddling with me. Or did I eventually push her away? Did she try again, would she now if I asked her? I would give anything for my mother to hold me right now.

The faint sound of your breathing, the smell of soil and water and brown sugar and the feel of your bones and hair and skin, calm my heart. The noise in my head stops. The chaos that was swirling blows away. Every fear I had in my room is replaced by the reality of you in yours.

“Hi Mommy.” You whisper.

“Hi baby, shhhhh now.” I reply, trying to prevent you from exiting that space between sleep and wake.

“I love you Mommy,” deep sigh, eyes still closed, nearly back to sleep. “Don’t leave Mommy,”

Oh baby, I never will.

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Kerstin Lindquist

Kerstin Lindquist is a mom of three and the author of Where’s My Crown for Acting Like Everything is Fine? A Guide to Royally Surviving Life’s Waiting Periods, as wells as 5 Months Apart, a Story of Infertility, Faith and Grace. She is an award-winning broadcast news journalist, motivational speaker and host at the leading national home shopping channel. Kerstin and her husband live with their three children, on a sunny hill in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She wears a tiara at home to stay sane. They spend their free time in warm climates – preferably with sand.