When I had my first baby, I was obsessed. I focused in on tiny toes; I sung lullabyes as she fell asleep. It was full-throttle, punch-the-sky-in-jubilee romance.
With one baby, after a while you learn to waltz across the floor of life, arm-in-arm, with a kind of practiced, elegant air. After a while, bond solidified, you feel like you can conquer the world. Just the two of you.
With that first one, infant hands curled against breast each morning when you cradled her. You felt you might be fused at the heart: the rope connecting you to your baby was taut and strong. You spent hours and hours falling into each other’s eyes like a mother-child version of Lady and the Tramp. You took hundreds of photos. In each of these, you were cheek-to-cheek, eyes laughing, mouths agape.
Their face and yours. Their nose and your nose. Their sweet lips and yours.
There is something almost surreal and magical about life with one.
Zoe was my first baby. Her birth brought me over the great abyss; I was transported to the other side, to grassy plains of a parallel universe, a new calling. The secret of motherhood, the quiet, time-defying nature of baby-love, was mine and hers alone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted that to change.
This week, a pregnant friend asked me, “Will I love the second as much as the first?” My heart paused. I remembered the gift of one. The intimacy of one. I thought about it. I had asked the same question in the weeks before my second’s birth.
How can I love anybody as much as I love you? I would think as Zoe twirled in her pink tights, her rosebud lips pursed in a kiss.
How can love ever reach this deep again?
I paused on the phone. I felt that flutter; the feeling that always arrives when I talk about two.
There was a moment in the hospital where it all came together. A wide, full, sparkling-like-ginger-ale moment. It was after Kaiden was in my arms. I kissed his blue-ish cheeks. I touched his tiny nose and my heart beat a hundred times a minute.
I wondered at his perfectness, at his uniqueness. At him being a him.
It was the second when I realized that love was exponential.
I had thought love could be contained. I had thought I could hold it. Instead, it was an explosive force that caught me completely off guard. Love was a truckload of butterflies released over the vistas of motherhood, curling over the plains in dashes of color.
You can’t contain all of this love, I realized. A mother’s heart is made to expand over and over and over.
A mother’s heart downpours this kind of love with every family addition.
Sometimes I find the two of them curled in Kaiden’s pack-and-play, her toddler arms around his little shoulders. In these moments, love is multiplied.
Sometimes he crosses the street and grasps for my hand and Zoe’s hand at the same time and it is the three of us, all in a line, love multiplied.
He shuffles after her, copying her every move.
She offers a bottle to him and tells him, “Time for a Ba Ba, Kaaaaiiden!” in her sing-song director voice.
Love is exponential and inexhaustible, reams of butterflies circling across the atmosphere in iridescent colors, spread against the blue sky of my heart as thick as peanut butter.
Now, my mother-heart aches to see double little persons; double curled legs and slack jaws and wet lips. Two bodies fill the ventrioles of heart and womb, stop-gapping them with love.
A mother’s womb expands like a stretched balloon and takes over other areas where different organs used to own land and space. And it feels lovely—it feels like gathering cocker spaniel puppies, and kissing each one as they tumble over you, snuffling. It feels like hope. It feels like family.
My heart is full, my bed is full, my life is full.
In the kitchen, I watch my children catch cloth butterflies with nets. The butterflies dip and tumble like confetti thrown up in the air. The plates are piled up, the laundry undone; I think: This is what I signed up for. This wild dance of two. I signed up for this dance.