‘Muh-mee. Can you wipe my bum?’
Run upstairs, wipe the bum, run downstairs, check one year old isn’t dead. He’s not dead. Go into the kitchen, look at the mess. Leave the kitchen. Check on the one year old. He’s standing on the windowsill. Lift him down, deposit him on floor. Lift him up again immediately as he starts to wail. Deposit him on different part of floor, next to the Millennium Falcon. Go into the kitchen, start to lift all the crap off the floor. Squashed raspberries. Shrunken Cheerios. Skid slightly on spilled yogurt. Leave kitchen.
‘Ma-ma. Need my bum wiped. It’s a poo.’
Run upstairs again, wipe a different, smaller bum. Look at the poo in the toilet, curious. Is it the right colour? The right consistency? Wash hands, talking about how I’m washing my hands. Run downstairs, check on one year old. Untangle his ankle from a computer charging wire. Go into the kitchen with new determination. Unload dishwasher at warp speed, before one year old toddles in to start breaking the plates as fast as I unload them.
‘Muh-mee. He’s done another poo.’
Go into the living room. Wipe a different, even smaller bum. Change nappy. Observe poo again. Is it too runny? Why is it too runny?
I look around at my three sons. The eldest, owl-face, is telling himself a story, something about tiny ninja men. The golden-haired middle one scrawls colours in swirls on the chalkboard, absorbed. The baby’s trousers are off, his scrawny little legs carrying him over to the bookshelf where he pulls down a pile of books then looks over his shoulder at me, proud smile on his tiny perfect face.
Sometimes, I see them in snapshots. Distilled moments that hit me in slow motion, their intensity piercing me with laser-like shards of love. It helps me breathe.