It’s a strange feeling to look at a clock and remember exactly what you were doing at this time one year ago. And tonight, I can’t help but reflect on the work I was enduring last year on the eve of your birthday. It’s hard to believe you turn one tomorrow. I can’t begin to recap the past 12 months for you, but alas there is really no reason to. I know you’ll one day tire of the millions of photos your dad and I took and the million tiny moments I chronicled on this journal.
I wonder, often, what it will be like. Growing up in this new age when there are so many ways to communicate with the world and your own self. You can’t hide from anything anymore. Those 16 hours of unmedicated labor? Those are documented. That time you threatened my intact vagina with 3.5 hours of pushing? That’s documented. That time we survived a 5 hour plan ride with you? That’s documented. That time you forced me to go a year without a night’s sleep? Yep, that’s here, too. That time you bit me while I was nursing you, and I received an open wound in the worst possible place? Did I never tell you about that? Go throw up, and I’ll wait here. I guess that one is now documented, too. If you are reading this years down the road and feeling guilty, realize that it’s all part of a mother’s job – the guilt. And send me a bill for your therapy.
There are already things that I hope you can forgive me for one day. …. Feeling hurt about the manner of your arrival.Retelling that war story too many times. Explaining the difference between gerunds and participles. Begging you to please stop crying so I could just get some sleep already. Giving you a name that will surely usher sing-alongs from annoying, drunken college girls one day. Subjecting you to Joni Mitchell. Already teaching you how to fetch Mama some coffee. Lecturing you on the surprising thematic similarities between Dr. Seuss and William Blake.
And sadly, this is only the beginning. I will screw up many times, Jude. But you’ll need to bear with me. This parenting thing is new, and I do the best I can. If you are reading this now, as your adult self, you are probably thinking of all those times I messed up. You can stop tallying them up now and just know Mama is sorry.
You’ve grown so much in these months. Your newfound mobility, your occasionally overzealous excitement, your capacity to love so openly and enthusiastically, your curiosity, your laughter, your obvious super-genius abilities….. This is all to say I am already proud of who you are, little man, and of how far you’ve come.
You are so different from the day we brought you home. I’m a little different, too, I suppose. I don’t cry about nothing. I don’t walk around shirtless and curse loudly or throw things at your father. I shower. I don’t wonder if I am meant to be a mother. Now I know I am. I’m meant to be yours.
But back to you. Last October you were a tiny creature full of froggy little arms and legs and awkward yawns. I was enamoured, and people warned me I’d spoil you, but I didn’t care. Day and night, you slept in the crook of my arm for 14 weeks. We had a rough start, little one, but those weeks were a new beginning for us. It’s because of that time that I can see my hard work to get you here as beautiful in its own way.
I feel pretty proud that I’ve taught you quite a few things in the past 12 months. How to dance to music on the stereo. How to eat like a well-mannered gentleman, cramming fists full of food in your mouth and throwing it all over the floor. How to hug like you mean it. How to laugh with your mouth wide open. How to read books, or I guess you are looking at the illustrations but whatever. How to say “Baaath!” enthusiastically when you see that water running in the tub and we get ready for the nightly ritual.
But here’s the good part. No matter what I’ve taught you, you’ve managed to instruct me in so much more.
I’ve learned that the most amazing moments in life happen when you are not paying attention. Then you look down at the tiny person sitting in your lap and realize he’s real, he’s loved, and he loves you.
I’ve learned that your father is incredible, and we are so lucky to have him in our little family.
I’ve learned that rocking a baby as the sun comes up is the best possible feeling in the whole world, regardless of how little sleep you’ve had. There is no better metaphor, no better way, to say welcome to the new day and let’s make it count.
I’ve realized I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.
I’ve realized being a mama is hard. Real hard.
I’ve learned to love like I didn’t know I could before. And this is coming from someone who has always loved generously, was always lovin’ on something – my books, my family, my food, my dogs, my travels, my students, my wine…. but here we are with a whole new kind of love, my boy. One that supersedes all the rest. One that somehow puts the whole world in clearer focus for me. I breathe life in a little deeper, and there is so much contentment filling those new spaces.
So I pray, Jude, that in the decades ahead, I can somehow communicate to you the lessons you’ve taught me. One day when I’m long gone and the world is undoubtedly different than it is now, I hope you’ll look back at my time with you and know life and love like you’ve given me.
Happy Birthday, Baby!