It's the perfect moment: Oscar is sleeping soundly for his morning nap and Miles has just drifted off at the breast. I'm beginning to drift off myself.
Then, I hear it. A start, a quiet sob, from upstairs. I wait. Will he fall back to sleep or will I need to go sooth him?
The sobbing begins. Heart wrenching, full-bodied sobs. Soothing it is.
As I lay Miles down in the Pack'n'Play to sleep, his peaceful little face crumples. He begins wailing the wail of an infant disturbed; angry, sad, afraid. I let him see me and he calms down. He smiles, coos.
I leave him for Oscar, and I find him standing in his crib, sobbing, snot running freely, eyes still heavy with sleep. He is exhausted. When I pick him up, he clings to me while sucking his thumb and clenching his bunny. I sway with him in my arms and his lids get heavy.
And it comes. Miles, mewling softly for me. He gets louder and louder until he sounds frantic with anger and need. Oscar hears it, too. His eyes snap open. He looks at me, questioning me silently. Will I stay with him, help him to sleep, or will I leave him for Miles? What will I do? What will I do?
Miles who's cries have reached fever pitch! I can see him in my mind: his face red, his arms and legs raging against the empty space that I usually fill; real tears squeezing from his eyes.
Who needs me more? Do I stay with Oscar until he's over his fear and able to go back to sleep, or do I go to Miles who is desperate with need? Someone will be left crying and alone. I don't know how to make this decision.
I tell myself that neither of them will remember this moment. Oscar and Miles will not remember who was left to cry while his brother was cuddled in Mommy's arms and soothed by Mommy's voice.
I try to reassure myself of this truth, comforting one son while the other rages.