Coming home from Chicago, about forty miles to go, I began to cry. I knew I was so so close to holding my babies again. It may seem silly to some, I was only gone for four days. But for me it was forever. A lifetime. I needed to see them. Hold them. Kiss their faces and tell them over and over again how deeply I loved them. So when the signs said Cleveland, I began to picture it. And the tears began falling hot on my cheeks.
When I returned from three days away in June, I had locked eyes with Plum on my way in the door. She began to cry. Overcome with emotion, she sobbed in my arms. For days she wouldn't let me out of her sight. I was more than happy to oblige. I had no greater job than to reassure her that Mama wasn't going to leave her again for awhile. It took a week for her to ease up her grip on me.
So there I was on Sunday, forty miles out. Trucks on either side of me. Eighty miles per hour. Crying. Afraid that her little heart was hurting. Afraid that missing her mama was more intense for her than for her brother. I pulled up. She was drawing with chalk on the cement garage floor. We locked eyes and she smiled. I jumped from the car. Relieved. So so relieved. "Hi Mama!!! I miss you!" , she yelled, as she ran to me and squeezed my neck so very tight. I was happy to carry her and her brother as they both required the ride into the house. Daddy would get the bags, right?
I thought I was in the clear. She smiled. She was excited. She hugged me tight but she was happy. She told me that they had gone bowling. He told me that they had all slept in the big bed together. They were giggling and silly and hugging me with all of their power. I exhaled. This was good. Perfect, actually. Then she took my hand and led me back to her bedroom. Her voice very quiet, "C'mom. Let's go nay-nay, mama. I nee welks, pweese"
I lay with her on the bed and she began to nurse. And that's when she broke my heart. Her eyes turned red. Her breathing syncopated. They came instantly. Tears quietly falling against my breast and her chipmunk cheeks. I could feel her heart beating a little too fast. All at once, emotion enveloped her. She was elated to be nursing again, saddened that her mama had been gone from sight and overcome with relief that I was home with her. Connected once again. My tears flowed with hers.
I held her in my arms and whispered to her. "Mama stays now, baby. Mama stays." Her breathing eventually calmed. Her tears mercifully slowed. Her soft hands cupping my neck and cheek and patting softly with the rhythm of her heart. She closed her eyes and fell asleep. Relief.
My eyes stayed open to study her. She grew in four days. A little taller. A little leaner. But still my baby. A part of me had hoped that this trip might encourage her to wean. But in that moment she showed me that she isn't ready for that. And maybe, just maybe, Mama isn't either.