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Thoughts on Sam

By Rachael Levy

We learn to love our children uniquely, not equally. It took me months to discover there were different kinds of mother-love.

I’ve been storing up things to write about Sam, an invisible baby book about my little boy who is at times himself invisible. Sam is quiet and has dreamy eyes, ocean blue and rimmed with sand. He is my solemn child, for from birth he stared out at the world, and absorbed the sounds and smells.

His twin brother Max is a fistful of energy. At first he exuded only anger. When he got mad or frustrated his chubby face scrunched up like a wrinkled, wet washcloth. He would turn red and let out a piercing wail. It surprised me, such a noise from just 22 inches of human. Max’s smiles are made of melted butter and his eyes are changing from blue to brown.

Here are some things I don’t want to forget about the two of them: When Max was born he had the silkiest layer of fur covering his shoulders, running down his back and ending at his bottom. At two months he even had fur on the rims of his ears. Here is another thing I don’t want to forget: When Sam looks at me with his blue lizard eyes, hooded by sleepy lids, I look into the soul of someone old and wise. And Sam is pink and Max is yellow. I have Easter egg babies.

For it was in spring that I went from being the mother of one to the mother of three: Two tiny boys and a 2-1/2-year-old girl— all nursing. Despite months of mental preparation, despite cutting back nursing times with my daughter, Chaja, I was overwhelmed. Frantically, I tried spreading my love equally amongst them. Who do I look at? Who do I hold? Nursing sessions were recipes for tears and heartache. I’d finally get Sam and Max latched on and then Chaja would want to crawl into my lap. She’d scramble over the top of her brothers to reach me. Sometimes she’d come to me hurt, crying and needing to nurse, but I was already nursing two. Should I make my babies let go and trigger howls of displeasure? So desperate to get close, she’d settle for just placing her small palm on my breast.

Slowly it dawned on me that my children wanted different things from me and needed different kinds of love. There were moments to love them all and times to love them alone. To love Max as we slurped a mango, sunset-orange juice dribbling down our arms. To love Chaja as she pirouetted through the living room and paused for my bravos. To love Sam as he tenderly rubbed his cheek against mine and I felt the peachy fuzz of his skin.

But why am I haunted by Sam? Why do I worry about my love for him? He fills my journals. It’s as if part of him is invisible, fuzzy around the edges. I must explain this. He is a glass of water, silent and clear and not quite here. When we are out in public, people are as drawn to Max as Max is to them. “He’s so cute. What a charmer,” they say over and over and over. And Sam watches. And someday, Sam will hear this. Will he shrink further into the shadow of Max’s incandescence?

I worry about my own love for him and how different it is. I love this little boy, who is happy to be comforted by his father. And I am jealous of it. I want his heart, his whole heart, and part of it belongs to Marcel. I can leave and Sam will be happy with his daddy. Max only cries for me. This is Sam: A beautiful boy with fine straw hair that rakes up in front and reminds me of Tintin.

If love were colors, my love for Max would be red. He is a hot wire, springing out of my arms. And Chaja’s love is pink, sometimes the pale blush of a rose blossom as she snuggles into my breast and sighs and becomes my baby girl again, and other times she is fuchsia with a dozen bangles in her hair and toenails painted red and black and green and purple.

My love for Sam is blue. I love him for his soft, squishy body that settles into my chest. When he was little, his whole body could nestle between my breasts. I love him for his blue-brown eyes the color of ocean tide pools, quiet, holding living secrets. I love him because he looks up at me and waits for me to look back and when I look down and smile, he smiles and sighs.

How different each child is: my tall drink of water, my crackling flame and my pink posy. Having more than one child hasn’t watered my love down. My well is deep, just like those holes I dig at the beach with my children. Each handful of wet sand we take out is replaced by more water and sand. So it is with my love. Scoop and fill. Scoop and fill. Always, there is more of me to pour out.

mmo: july 2004

Rachael Levy is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter. She lives with her husband and three children in Sparks, Nevada.

Also of interest:

Getting to the heart of the matter
MMO review of Daphne de Marneffe's Maternal Desire.

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