I meant to write this letter. When you turned one.
And again when you turned two. three. four.
This weekend you’ll be turning five. And although I’ve done a lot of writing over the past five years, and much of it involves you…. I still never wrote TO you (except birthday cards, and little notes).
Five years. It’s really unbelievable to me and seems so HUGE, this milestone. But I don’t want to talk about that yet. I was mourning the fact that I never did get around to writing you yearly birthday letters. Then I thought – why not now?
I know it won’t be the same. I’ll never be able to capture quite exactly what I felt the day you turned one. But I’m going to try to capture what that first year meant for me and you, dear son.
(To my readers: you could read this as a warning to not let the days and years slip by without doing the things you wished you’d done. And that would be a fine message. But also, read it as this: it’s never too late to get started.).
I thought you’d never get here. Two days overdue, you were suddenly ready, and I clung to the backseat of the car (I couldn’t get into the front) as we wove through midnight to the downtown hospital. The lights were too bright, the car too loud and I was thankful for the quiet delivery room, dim and soft and with a comforting nurse. I thought I couldn’t do it – bring you into this world… and the whole while the nurse said, “You ARE doing it.”
I estimated… it took 2 hours and about 200 pushes before you actually arrived (I contracted about every 3 minutes and gritted out about 4-5 pushes per contraction!).
I was surprised by the weight of you. The very heat of your body on mine. The sudden emptiness and stillness in my womb, but the sudden “here-ness” of You. We didn’t even know whether you’d be a boy or girl, so we were really QUITE new, quite strangers, to each other in that it’s-a-boy moment.
That first month – life was quiet. I was afraid to venture out. I stayed home for weeks and hardly saw anybody. It was lonely and isolating, and you didn’t talk much. I kinda thought you didn’t like me. Like maybe you were wishing you had a mom who actually knew what she was doing? Some days I felt like maybe this was some babysitting gig and your real parents would show up and say, “Thanks so much for watching him…” and that would be that.
And it sounds like maybe that was a sad time – but it wasn’t quite like that. More like transition. Trying on a new skin. It’s hard to feel like a mom at first. Motherhood grows in layers on a person. I was trying to figure out you, and trying to figure out me – what did you want from me? Need from me? Admittedly, it’s much easier now that you can talk!
This was the phase of not sleeping (you or me!) and crying through breastfeeding, and tongue-tie and looking up a million things that could be wrong with you. And to pass the time, we started a blog – you and I. Yes, we did. All about you, our family, and me figuring out what worked best for us as new parents.
I remember we felt so proud of ourselves the first time we took you out to a restaurant. Then to the beach. A concert in the park. It was summer and you were waking up to yourself, and recognizing us, and laughing, smiling, babbling.
And I felt for the first time that I was a mom, and that I was YOUR mom. (Even if Daddy could put you to sleep better than me!).
I would gaze into your eyes with mother-puppy-love and you would stare back with all the wisdom of the ages in those blue pools, and I would think you were a wise old man in a little body and I’d wonder what you were thinking. I would hope you wouldn’t see how scared I was, how uncertain, and how much I felt the weight of your life in my hands.
Summer and you grew and grew, and we were using the jogging stroller, and taking vacations, and everywhere people exclaimed about the startling blue of your eyes (they’ve paled a little but are still gorgeous).
We took you camping, wrapped in mosquito netting and sunscreen. We delighted in every new cloth diaper print and I became a cloth diaper junkie!
Then fall came, and school buses, and I held you close and gasped at mothers who let their children run up those big steps into school because how did they? How did they let their darling babies grow up and how was it possible you would one day grow up and be off and want to run down hallways and with your friends, and tell me you didn’t need to hold my hand to cross the street. And because I knew it would be true and I didn’t want it to be so. And so I would read Love You Forever and make myself cry and tell myself that yes, yes, one day you would hold me when I am old. I would raise you to be that son.
And you rolled over. And you sat up. And you loved your binky. And you hated naps. Then teeth came, right on cue at six months, just begging for some solid food. And you laughed, and giggled, and smiled, and said your first word at just about 8 months old: “car.”
And all of that happened and you weren’t even one year old! And mostly… I marveled that you just knew what to do…you, my fearfully, wonderfully made boy… you knew how to grow and reach and laugh and love. You were a miracle from the beginning … it’s hard to see the daily miracles unfolding in the moment… but you were a daily miracle…
We dedicated you to the Lord. Because He gave you to us. And we prayed, oh, we prayed and yet still I wish we prayed more because really you can’t have too much prayer over a life. (to date, all prayers answered!).
And because it’s in my blood, I had to sew for you – even though sewing for boys was harder than I thought, but I sewed bibs, and crayon rolls, and pants, and you wore them all blissfully unaware of their flaws. And I prayed that all my flaws as a mom would be covered by such Grace.
You crawled… and we learned more about you – that you liked to be sung to, read to, and liked to read while you eat. So does Mommy. And how you don’t like sudden, loud noises (you’re pretty much over that by now).
And at ten months… I decided… yes, motherhood was awesome enough to go through that whole pregnancy and delivery thing again. Oh yes.
You had your First Christmas (awkward! you didn’t care about any of it!), First Snowfall (loved it!), First Birthday Cake (scary! why is my food on fire?!).
And then it was done. That First Year. They said it would go fast. Actually, I felt like it was the slowest year of these five. I struggled that year. I learned. I grew. And so did you.
And what nobody warned me about was… the next four years would be even faster.
I’ll admit it. I’m having a very. hard. time. saying goodbye to the baby, toddler, preschooler years with you. I feel I missed so much along the way – I didn’t write all the letters, take the pictures, read all the books, or get in all the snuggles maybe I could have.
In a way, I’m glad I am writing this NOW instead of then. I’m sure that letter would’ve been different – but would it have been a better letter? Because now, I can see through the lens of years. Like most moms (I think), after year one, I was exhausted, feeling like a failure, trying to keep up without getting swept overboard, overwhelmed by motherhood and underwhelmed by my own mothering skills.
But I see you now. Nearly five. And I remember you then. How your smile is the same, your voice, your cautious personality juxtaposed with your rambunctious playful spirit… it was there all along. You were there all along. It gives me hope that although I mourn the passing of babyhood… the You of you isn’t going anywhere. You just get better every day, dear son.
I love you. To the moon and back… and yes, to the sun and Pluto and all the places you can name… I love you good (as you used to say).
(PS: Daddy’s not into mushy, but I know he feels the same way… just… you know in more of a karate-kicking, science-experiment exploding kind of way).