my boy hugged me this morning.

it wasn’t the first time…somewhere during the past week he’s begun throwing his arms around my neck whenever i scoop him up. but, as that has usually been just a front for some energetic hair-pulling on his part, i haven’t taken it too much to heart. until today.

O woke from his nap early, howling. i listened outside his room in hopeful denial, imagining he might magically soothe himself back to sleep. wishful thinking.

i opened his door, and the cries stopped, for a second. the little body wrenched itself around in the crib, trying to see who’d come to rescue him from himself. he hiccuped, gazing up at me with gravest of expressions…scrutinizing my face. once he appeared sure that it was, indeed, me who had materialized from the mysterious vacuum outside his napping space, he beamed. he lifted his arms. i picked him up, and those fat little arms lurched around my neck and stayed. glomming on to me like a suckerfish, he said, contentedly, “guuugh.” i told him, “i love you too, Oscar.” not a hair on my head was even tugged on…at least for ten seconds or so.

i felt like i’d just been crowned Mommy of the Year.

now, truth be told, the hug may not have been personal. had the milkman happened to enter Oscar’s room during that post-nap panic, maybe he too would have been offered that gift of sweet affection. maybe. but i secretly think not. i think my boy is learning to distinguish…and to love.

he gives a fine hug, i do say so myself.

but, me being me, it’s not enough just to get all a-twitter at this development. Oscar’s hug hit me hard, in a weird way, and from everywhere at once. as O and i danced in our little embrace around his bedroom, tears filled my eyes.

for him, because now he can be hurt, wounded by the vulnerability that affection creates.

for me, because the responsibility of raising him to be able to deal with whatever life throws at him will probably break my heart – and his – a hundred times over.

and for Finn. the tears that came to my eyes as Oscar hugged me were definitely partly for his brother. because that first hug will never happen. because there will be no lifetime of joy and heartbreak for Finn…it’s done, all packed into eleven hours.

i feel uncomfortable thinking about Finn, in these moments of celebrating Oscar. i have a beautiful, healthy child in O. i am blessed, and happy, and most of the time i’m fully immersed in the wonder and tedium of having a seven-month-old. but i also had another boy, who would be nineteen months old now, nineteen months tomorrow. i remember. and with every milestone O meets, i realize “i will never see Finn do that.” and his absence breaks my heart fresh open every time.

i have a split mother consciousness…i feel guilty for feeling sad about Finn, and guilty for feeling happy about Oscar. i worry about not honouring Finn as i experience all these “firsts” with my second child. i worry about Oscar having to share his mother with a brother he can never know. over time, the Oscar part of the consciousness grows larger and larger, takes up more space. but i worry about that, too. i don’t want it to entirely take over. i don’t want to forget Finn. i don’t want Oscar and any other siblings he may someday have to somehow learn that my love for them, as their mother, is confined to their lifetime. scoff. how limited.

i don’t have a lot of models for this path i have to walk. but in my struggle to find that path, Finn’s little shadow is with me, every day. and even though his company brings sadness, it also brings the comfort that comes from loving…and having your loved one close, in whatever way you can.

loving is hard. it’s one of the greatest gifts given to us as human beings…but it’s also the most bittersweet. i hope it treats Oscar kindly, as he grows.

i hope he keeps on hugging.