4:18 a.m.

Every night when I go to bed, I’m terrified that our son is going to leave us while I’m sleeping. I sleep with half my brain wide awake, waiting for his next movements.

We are getting so close to the end, and everything has been going perfectly with him. It still is. But the same was true with her. My brain cannot reconcile those two things.

I’m having nightmares a lot—not about his death, and not about Eleanora’s. Usually, they’re entirely ludicrous and don’t make any sense. But I wake up in a panic regardless, and my first thought is always about the baby—when did he last move? Was I asleep too long? Did he slip away while I was dreaming? Am I too late?

I sit here and wait for him. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness and try to calm my breathing and tell myself that we are safe. But the stillness—of his sleep, of our room, of the middle of the night, of the world outside—is horrifying. Everything that’s quiet scares me. I wait for the punch to the gut that tells me, “I’m okay, Mama. I’m right here.” The waiting is agonizing—the kind of agony that will cause your hair to fall out and the skin on your forehead to settle into permanent worry. I know what it feels like for that punch to never come, and in its place, the punch from a doctor who says, “I’m so sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat.”

The moment I wake up from one of these nightmares, my mind starts to spiral. It’s as if, while I’m sleeping, my sanity teeters on the edge of a cliff. As soon as I’m awake, it jumps off the cliff and into the water of all the things that scare me most—all the things I’m terrified to say out loud during the day. At 4:18 a.m., or 3:44 a.m., or 1:23, these things look like flashing neon signs instead of the small monsters I try to keep behind closed doors during daylight hours.

What if we have to do it all over again? He’s alive tonight, but what about tomorrow or the next night or the next or the next? What if we reach the end again only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us—again?

I remember that scene from the animated cartoon Prince of Egypt, where all the firstborn children are swept away in the middle of the night by God’s wrath, personified by a breeze. They take one final breath, and then they are gone. The parents wake up screaming.

That scene, especially the breeze, always terrified me as a kid, and as an adult, I now know why.

It really is that easy.

What if the breeze blows through our house again?

What if I wash and sort and fold and put away his clothes and then have to mourn them just like I do hers?

What if we read him every story in the closet but he never gets to come home to see the pictures?

What if we choose the perfect name for him, just as we did for her, and instead of getting to say it out loud at the dinner table or on his birthday, we have to carve it in stone, just as we did for her?

What if instead of getting to spend my weekend afternoons snuggled up with him, I spend them on the ground at his gravesite, just as we do with her?

What if his birth is silent too? What if I have to go back to another hospital room where all the cars below are honking and everyone is going about their day and I stand there, staring out the window, while mine is frozen in time? What if they get to go to work and eat the salads they really don’t like but pretend to, and that’s the worst part of their day, but I have to sign funeral home paperwork instead of a birth certificate—again?

How am I supposed to trust anyone or anything that tells me that this time, it will be okay? I don’t.

You can’t control the wind.

I end up spending a lot of nights wide awake this way, and I’m exhausted. There is pregnancy tired, and hopefully soon I’ll experience life-with-a-newborn tired, but nothing is worse than I’m-terrified-my-son-is-going-to-die-like-my-daughter-did-and-oh-my-god-I-miss-her-so-much-it-hurts-and-oh-my-god-it-always-will tired.

I know I need rest. I can feel my body and my mind begging for it. But what if the breeze blows again when I close my eyes? The darkest parts of my brain believe that maybe, just maybe, if I stay on high alert, I can protect him from it, and we will get to keep him.

All I want—all I ever wanted, all I ever asked for, all I ever prayed for—is to bring my babies home, healthy and happy and alive.

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