Oh mama bear, you’re almost done and ready to start loving this little squirmy. This little boy life in your belly is already so full and vivacious that it can hardly be contained by your joints and marrow much longer. He’s not broken any bones, though his kicks do leave bruises. Little brother must be released into the world so that your heart, much stronger than your bones and muscles, can carry the weight of his innocence until he grows up, meets the world, and has to rediscover innocent life for himself. And he will be released from your body very soon.

You won’t be surprised and throw up at all the unmentionables that are part of labor. Just focus on how breast milk diapers smell like nostalgia and the hormonal newborn bliss that bonds you to your boy after those long, disgustingly messy hours of labor. I’m so proud that you’ve not argued with anyone this time that you’ll be the first mama to carry her son to college in her belly. You know from experience that someday this boy whose legs bruise your ribs on the inside will someday use them to run. You’ll stop carrying him in your arms somedays, just like you’ll stop carrying him in your belly very soon. But you already know that you’ll carry the weight of his whole being around your neck for the rest of your life.

This has been a long nine months. You found out you were moving from New York to Houston the same weekend you found out you were pregnant. You’ve been throwing up this whole time–in front of too many moving men and baristas and into too many different toilets and trashcans and sidewalks. You’ve been carefully examining the streaks and splotches of blood that come out with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner to make sure they remain streaks and not clots. Your migraines, though, have stopped. And you’ve gained some weight thanks to Panda Express’s drive thru. Your exhaustion and insomnia remain the strong, evil duo they’ve always been. But that’s just normal life for you, and you’ll be back on your medication soon enough.

The feeling that your body has been open for the world to examine will also end soon. Your physically vulnerability will decrease as your body heals and recovers. You will kick-box again, Ted promised. As much as every stranger comments on the details of all your curves as they swell uncontrollably is as much as they’ll all focus on the little life your love made and ignore your body’s new lumps, sags, and stretched out skin. The world will always comment on whether you’ve dressed your baby appropriately, and will always scold you when he eats a Cheeto off the floor of the museum. Your physical privacy will slowly return–at the very least, all the belly touching and weekly vaginal exams will end.

Even when your little boys are no longer in your skin with you, they will want to be as near to your skin as possible for a long time yet. They will pet your face and smear your makeup and exclaim over its softness. Your hair will be roughly pulled away from your faces and brushed ruthlessly away so they can find that soft cheek to snuggle. They will explore every freckle on your arm, and wonder about “the stamps” on your arm and leg that don’t wash off in the pool. They’ll press their sharp fingernails deep into your belly button while singing that hippo belly-button song that Sandra Boyton book taught them. Your butt will sometimes be bitten just to see what how you’ll respond. And this isn’t bringing up the wrestling match that is nursing.

But, mama? Hey Mama? You’re doing great. Just stock up on nipple cream and splurge on those boob-specific ice packs. Keep napping and nourishing your soul so that you can nourish the two you’ve grown and that man-soul who made you a wife. Nap. Nest. Hide candy under your pillow. Drink chocolate milk and eat peanut butter from a spoon beneath your blankets in the long watches of night. Pee every two minutes and cherish the unique, awful feeling of being both hungry and too full at the same time. Continue to drink more water than you can hold and walk away from the wine (at least after a few small sips). This boy will arrive soon! Probably not as soon as you expect, but you’re almost done being pregnant. Hopefully forever! But we’re not going to tempt fate.

Right now, mama, you do need to check the monitor to see if you’re older boy is sleeping in his bed or under it. And you do need to roll off your back because it hinders your blood’s flow to your younger son. But someday too soon, you’ll sleep through the night and you won’t have a view of that sleepy head rolling over or the feel of that elbow unhappily scrunched inside your hip. You won’t be in charge of their sleep, but you’ll always wake up and wonder about it.

When you get up to make water and drink milk in the moon’s light, savor the stillness but still bemoan the fact that you’re up again. Learn to live in the tension and paradox of the excruciating joy motherhood creates. The aches and pains and inconveniences that make and bear and birth these boys are a passing gift that will mark you forever. Even if you don’t understand the way of it all and don’t have time to pause long in the wonder–because what is he sticking up his nose? — This is all going to change real soon.

Well done, baby mama. You’re almost through this stage and onto the next. Sleep and wake and live while you can.