a thin line between stable and not

Nononono! ohshitshitshit a mother duck and her brood wobble in single-file across the highway like browsers at a flea market. In ten slow-motion seconds I slam on the brakes and cars around me swerve. The last duckling twitters out of my lane a mere feather from my tire. I look in the rearview as they scurry into the ditch.

I can see the newspapers now:

Kate gave her life and the lives of multiple drivers and passengers in near-proximity to save six ducklings from imminent squashing. When informed of the near-miss and of the woman’s valiant sacrifice, the elder Ms. Duck, capable of speech despite a brain the size of a pea, was overheard quacking, "Ducklings? What ducklings?"

I could hardly breathe for the rest of the drive, heart pounding from the narrowly- avoided daylong sobbing session that would have transpired had I hit those ducks.

Would they have tumbled up over the windshield, balls of fluffy adorableness scattered like dandelion seeds by the bow wave of the van? Or would they have been mashed into primal goo in the grooves of my tires? Imagining the tragic end I *almost* caused those duck-babies had me tearing up all the way downtown.

Kitchen string and brittle elastics hold me together these days, just barely. It doesn’t take much for moderate composure to become near-hysterics.

+++

Ben, the little spitfire, opened his eyes in the past couple of days. Black saucers, all-eyeball. We're no more than light and shadow but as I move into his line of sight he turns his head as if to address me. Okay mama, here’s the way I want things to be.

When out of his greenhouse for cuddles he needs the tiniest jolt of oxygen to keep refreshed, and can’t stand the tube. He works his fingers underneath, pulls and grimaces. The nurse hears the monitor go off and resets the prongs into his nose. He wrinkles up his face and lets out a gruff OOWAAAAA! in protest, louder than I thought him capable of. Sweet music, wee feisty one.

I changed my first diaper yesterday, for Ben, through the portholes. Three inches across (imagine that), like changing a doll. But verifiable baby underneath: breastmilk is gravity-fed to him through a tube, and out the other end comes 100% authentic French’s Original Mustard. And then the contentedness of a clean bum.

Nothing is more magical to me than what appears ordinary to everyone else.

+++

As for Liam: "He's a tough little guy," says our doctor, tall and freshly starched, new to our rotation. "Amazing to think that just a couple of weeks ago, he was on death's door." He shrugs and smiles, then moves along with a troupe of residents in his wake.

For a flash I'm offended: death's door. But it’s fair to say. It was true. I'm just not used to the doctors using such local colour. They’re weaning him from the ventilator, teaching his lungs to breathe. The fact that they’re trying is a milestone in itself. The reward will be Liam’s never-seen face, unobstructed by tape and tubes, relaxed into the shape it's meant to be. They tell us his movements are encouraging. He behaves like an ordinary preemie, curling up on his belly and kicking on his back, craving enclosure.

His grip on my finger says Don’t worry mama, I am here. It is intentional. This is one of those mama-gut knowings. While Ben is all comedy and cantankerousness, Liam is calm, patient, steadfast. Not inactive-mellow but wise-mellow.

I want desperately to be right about that. More than anything else in my life.

+++

All three of us share each other, willing for them to sneak under the wire of cruel fates, to be granted precious uneventful time to get stronger. Two little bums cupped in my palms, a tangle of weightless limbs curled up against my heart like baby frogs.

Evan met his brothers the other day. We brought him in and scrubbed him up and he peered into their greenhouses and smiled. I see baby happy, baby sleeping. Mama boobie milk for Ben an’ Liam.

I am raw with wanting this so much. Love, love like vertigo.