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All the Babies, All the Time

Outside the wind is gusting at high speeds, pushing the branches of the trees eastward. The tallest trees in the windbreak are elms, and their bodies are all curved a little east anyway, from growing up with that wind I suppose. I am sitting in the sunlit alcove upstairs that serves as a writing room. My small wooden desk looks south, and I can see all the way down to the road that leads to our house, though it is hard to tell where the pasture ends and the road starts.

For weeks now, we’ve not gotten more than a light sprinkling of new snow, and yet, the man of the ranch is still regularly plowing out that road. The piles he’s made are as tall as some of the tallest trees, and the thaw plus the subsequent freeze have made the piles hard and slick. Not hard enough though, as the wind still pulls snow off the top and sides to create great, creeping mounds across the road. The man of the ranch and the Bean broke through them just a few minutes ago to drive to town, and already the pickup’s tracks are being covered by the thin fingers of new drifts.

On my chest there is a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Like her brother, she doesn’t sleep much during the night, and she doesn’t want to be laid down -- ever. When he was an infant, I wrote many of these columns one-handed as he napped snuggled on top of me. With Emmy Rose I’ve gotten smarter. I wear her wrapped close in layers of stretchy fabric so both hands are free. She snuffles in her sleep, and lets out sharp cries or soft burbles, messages from the landscape of her dreams. Mostly she dreams of nursing -- I can tell by her pursed lips and soft smile.

Outside the window, the wind rages harder, making those branches dance hard. The wind chimes I hung in the tree by the sliding glass door ring and ring. I sigh. The man of the ranch will have to plow again before dark. The baby beneath my chin wakes and looks up at me through sleepy eyes. Dappled sunlight tickles her cheeks, and she yawns and slips right back into slumber. I wish I could join her. I am so tired, if I took my fingers from this keyboard, and laid my head down on the desk, I would be instantly asleep.

There is an old saying from the time before refrigeration: the rich man has his ice in summer, the poor man gets his in winter. I think of the drought last year and how we wished for moisture. Well, here it is, ready to melt and fill the rivers and dams, to turn the whole prairie the brightest emerald with sweet life. Every drift is another week of water. And I think of my life before babies. How I longed to be a mother; how I feared it would never happen for me. Now the whole world is babies. There is always one who needs to be held, and sometimes there are two. Every surface is covered with blankets and baskets of wee sweaters and tiny socks, and I smell constantly of milk in various phases of fermentation. It seems I’ve only changed one into a new diaper and clean clothes when I find the other is wet through and ready for a change as well. By the time the second is changed and dry, some tragedy has befallen the first, and the whole process begins again.

And yet, and yet...this morning while I was changing Emmy Rose, the Bean called loudly to me from the kitchen. Fearing what I would find, I rushed in, and there he was, decked out in my winter boots and woolen mittens, solemnly pointing outside, a proud twinkle in his eyes. The meaning was clear -- he had gotten ready to go by himself, all he needed me to do was open the door.

Downstairs I hear the rustle of the boys’ re-arrival. (The Bean is rarely subtle with his entrances.) I switch off the computer and go to greet them, my time for writing and rumination over for now. Because now is the only time my babies will be babies, after all, and I don’t want to miss even a minute.

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