She holds her five month old in her lap on a rusty, tattered outdoor swing. This is his favorite place and here she has comforted him many times. She considered moving the swing inside the house because sometimes the South Carolina heat is too much for this tired mom. But, she suspects he would protest and the heat does not deter him. It is not the swing. He loves the outdoors. She tries to follow his gaze and wonders what is making him smile so often, brightening his blue eyes and revealing those kissable dimples.
They swing in silence admiring the many beauties around them. The bees are hovering around the Rose of Sharons; their color a perfect contrast for the pale, purple flowers. They welcome the hummingbirds, but she hopes the Blue Jay will not influence her son too much. Though he is beautiful and quite fun to watch, he bullies his neighbors. She tells her son that this bird’s strength is admirable, but he needs to learn to live peaceably amongst the other birds. He doesn’t need to claim every branch on the west side of the white oak and there is plenty of food in the feeder to go around.
She fights to stay awake as the swaying, the heat, and southeast breeze caressing her cheeks relax her. In the past five months, she can count on one hand how many times she has slept more than three hours straight. Earlier this morning, more precisely at 3 a.m., she was up nursing and her entire body ached from exhaustion. She felt like crying and felt like she could no longer nurse her son. This is the only one of her four children that had not developed a decent nighttime routine by this age and for the first time she felt the desire to put him on formula. But, then she looked at him. He was so smooth, soft, and beautiful. He was at perfect peace, perfectly comforted and nourished by her. She knew this was a gift from God, to both her and her son. She could not throw away something as beautiful and precious as this.
Drifting on the swing, her son leans his head back against her chest. She kisses his curls and his eyes struggle to remain open. She begins to run her fingers through his hair, down his cheek, and around to the back of his neck. Her tanned, scarred hands are a shocking contrast against his pale, smooth skin. Youth and perfection versus age and evidence of trials endured. She picks up his hand to adore its innocence. She prays. She prays his hands will never shed innocent blood. She rubs his legs and feet, while praying they will never be swift in running to mischief and she traces his lips with her forefinger, praying they will not become lying lips. She feels his heart beating and prays it will not devise wicked imaginations, but love the Lord someday. She thanks God for her son, for having him to hold, to cherish, and to nurse.
She understands that this is her last baby. Someday, she may hold others. She may swing grandbabies, but she will never have another opportunity to nurse a baby. He is her last and suddenly being tired feels so insignificant. She thinks of mothers who have lost their children. They lose sleep because they grieve, alone in the darkness. She is awake because her son needs held, needs fed, needs love and comfort in the middle of the night. No, she cannot throw this gift away. It is a vapor that will vanish too quickly on its own. For now, she intends to inhale every moment of it.