The instant I felt his butterfly-fluttering kicks in my womb, I was besotted with my first child.
Ethan arrived with golden hair and a sweet disposition. I documented his first smile, first tooth, first word (mama, of course) with the absorption of a Ph.D. candidate completing her dissertation.
Eighteen months after his birth, I was delighted to learn another baby was on the way. But as my delivery date drew closer I worried: How could I love this new son as much as I did my first?
On a sunny April afternoon, they placed the heft of Alex in my arms. Weighing in at 10 pounds, 6 ounces with a head of dark hair that already needed a trim, he peered at me through the bluest of eyes. Instantly smitten I began to hum, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine …”
And I didn’t worry a bit when my third and fourth sons arrived. I’d discovered that a mother’s heart expands with each child – its capacity for love encompassing every new arrival.
I thought about that during our recent visit to see Alex and his family in Ohio.
Six years ago, when Alex fell in love with Brooke, he got a twofer – she had a beautiful 2½-year-old daughter.
After they moved from Texas to Ohio, I flew out to meet my son’s new loves and just like that my heart expanded again. How could I not adore the woman who made my son so happy? Her beautiful daughter, Farrah, was the icing on the cake.
When they told us they were expecting their first son, Ian Lucas, my joy knew no bounds.
My grief when Ian was stillborn at full term was equally limitless – an ever-present ache.
The birth of their identical twin sons, Adam and Nicholas, in November 2019, offered our broken hearts a way to begin to heal.
Two weeks ago, we took Derek’s mother, Juanita, with us to Ohio. She hadn’t seen the twins since they were eight months old and was eager to reconnect with Farrah.
She celebrated her 79th birthday with us during our trip. Alex took the day off of work to take her and Farrah on a shopping spree to the landmark Columbus book store, The Book Loft, and then out to lunch.
While Derek and I entertained the twins, Brooke decorated their house for GG’s (great-grandma’s) birthday. GG spent the afternoon at their beautiful backyard pool and taught Farrah how to dive off the diving board.
I’d simmered pulled pork in the slow cooker all day for dinner, and GG chose a bakery carrot cake for her birthday treat. We all sang while Alex brought the cake to her, and Adam helpfully blew out the candles.
As I watched four generations of Hvals swim together that evening, I marveled at the ways families shrink with sorrowful losses, but grow with the joy of new additions.
The next morning, Nick needed some Nana cuddles and crawled up in my lap with his blanket. Adam wasn’t about to be left out. He ran and got his blanket and scooched onto my lap.
I wrapped my arms around them both and swayed and sang, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray …”
It was a tight fit for two gangly toddlers, but oh, there’s always space on Nana’s lap and plenty of room in her heart. That’s just the way love works.
Cindy Hval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available on Amazon and bookstores nationwide.