My daughter is sick.

Sleep is fleeting. I'm listening, now, to her sister talk to her in their room down the hall. I am listening, but also in the interim moments between their bedtime and my own I am listening to myself. 

I am a cliche. 

This past weekend my ex-husband questioned if I wanted to see my children at all. It is a long story to tell, this one, and it ends with my searching through months of text messages to find evidence of a pattern of behavior - not his, my own - and finding no such pattern should have ended in relief or triumph, but there are no simple feelings. Instead, I wandered my house thinking, doubting; maybe I hadn't done enough to prove that I wanted them or loved them, or enjoyed them.

I don't know how to dig that out.

Someone mentioned off-handedly that my daughter was sick because of a late bedtime one night, and I laughed, took that as well as I could, but it settles and it gnaws until my chest feels tight -  I don't know how to take care of these children, I hear myself say, I don't know how to love them or protect them. 

When my first daughter was born, I was overwhelmed with the idea that if I walked away she would have a chance for something great. My then husband could find someone more deserving, more prepared to care for her, he could find her real mother. It echoed; this was a mistake, I was a mistake, and to make things right for her I needed to go.

All these things settle down into my bones until everything is darkness.


Even if she falls asleep in her own bed, she will wander into mine tonight. She will wake me up, and I will not be able to return to sleep.

It won't matter.

I will lay nose to nose with her until the sun rises.