“Do you remember it being this difficult the last time we did this?” Wally asked, watching Norah attempt to calm their daughter. Sarah Meadows was two weeks old, and already showing more signs of taking after her mother than her brother had at the same age. Her tufts of black hair had at first caused Wally to be slightly disappointed at the lack of representation of his wife, but he was mollified when her baby-blue eyes softened to grey a week and a half after she was born.
“No,” sighed his wife, “but the last time we did this, we weren’t looking after an older child at the same time.” She switched Sarah to the other arm, to give her left arm a rest, and leaned back on the sofa. The harried expression on her face worried Wally; he was grateful that Jim and Tommy had decided to babysit Davie for the day. Their excuse had been that as they were embarking on the journey of parenthood themselves in due course, they required practice in caring for a small child.
Wally leaned forward in the chair he had pulled up in front of the sofa, and held out his arms for his daughter. “Let me take her, Nor. You’re fairly knocked-up.” It took only a few moments of unspoken pleading for her to relinquish Sarah, and her relief was audible. “You should sleep, asthore. I don’t believe you’ve slept for more than an hour or two a night in the past fortnight.”
“Well, neither have you,” she argued, “and you’re working more during the day than I am. I wish you would sleep when I’m taking care of Sarah at night—you don’t need to knock yourself out over it when you’re up early anyway.”
He looked up from the baby, his brown eyes watching Norah carefully. “It’s not sense, to let you go it alone,” he answered. “Any man with sense would help his wife; after everything you’ve done and been through you need help.” His raised eyebrows forestalled any further rebuttals, and they lapsed into silence. It was a comfortable silence, only broken now and then by Sarah’s small gurgles as she fell asleep. After some time, careful not to jostle their daughter, he moved over to sit on the sofa beside Norah, and she settled against him, her head on his shoulder.
Presently Wally fell asleep himself, tired out by the late nights he had experienced over the past fortnight. Having done it once with Davie, five years ago, did not mean he was prepared for just how hard it was to handle a newborn baby—and doing it with Davie around also was a new and trying experience for him and Norah.
He awoke after an hour had passed, feeling that his arms were significantly lighter than before, and he sprang to his feet, panicking for a moment before he saw Norah pacing the room with Sarah, singing to her under her breath. As he took a few moments to bring his heart rate under control, he recognised the song as Norah, Asthore, and he smiled. “Are you teaching her the good songs of the days of yore?” he asked lightly.
When she glanced up to smile at him, he thought that he had not seen a sight more beautiful, despite the weariness which lined her face. “I think this one is too good to pass up,” she replied, “seeing as her mother shares a name with the title.” She returned her attention to the baby, crooning in a low, comforting tone, “bright will the skies seem beside you, mavourneen—Norah, allanna, my Norah, asthore.”
This was the second time he and Norah had gone through the first stages of parenthood, but he felt incredibly thankful for the small family they had built. “I wish you could have met Norah, Mother,” he muttered under his breath, and his wife looked up.
“Nothing,” he said, grinning easily. “I feel that soon you will be singing to a dozen babies and dandling them on your knee, what with Jim and Tommy due to become parents soon.”
“Not a dandle,” returned Norah firmly. “I can barely handle your son and daughter, without adding more to the mixture. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I will crack if I have to handle my brother’s child. I grew up with Jim, and I know what he’s like.”
“I went to school with him for five years,” returned the other, “and shared a dorm with him. Then I went to Flanders with him. I think I am properly qualified to discuss Jim’s shortcomings.”