I’ve often described your birthday as a national holiday in the country of motherhood, because it feels huge and spectacular.
The story of your birth is like a legend to me. I tell it often, and although it may bore others after the 47th time, it is always magical to me. I remember how it felt to walk the neighborhood with amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, surprised at how it didn’t stop flowing. It was the first of many surprises motherhood would bring my way.
Tonight, on the eve of your birthday, I told you about how when a mama is pregnant, the baby floats in a sack of waters, and how sometimes when the waters break, it means baby is on the way.
“That’s so weird sounding,” you said. “Water breaking.” You walked off to play legos, unimpressed.
I labored for 22 hours with you. Most of it was very peaceful. Since my contractions didn’t start on their own after my water broke (an expression which forever after will sound weird to me), I had to be induced. The artificial chemicals caused me a lot of pain. I was tired and I could tell people started to worry that I would end up with a C-Section (that’s another lesson for another day). I begged for an epidural, and within an hour of getting it, was fully dilated and ready to push you out.
I pushed for a little over two hours. It was two of the most focused, intense hours of my life. It seemed like just minutes. It seemed like I was deep inside of my own body, with you, helping you to find your way out of me.
You came out squished, with your head elongated and cone-shaped from being in my birth canal for so long, but as I grabbed you, snatched you to my chest, I sobbed, “He’s so beautiful,” over and over and over.
I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything other than mystical love and adoration of you.
I couldn’t imagine that I would be so tired and so hopelessly depressed with post partum hormones that I would want to leave you on the steps of the church across the street, or sell you on the internet. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to leave you at daycare when I went back to work, how I cried until my face looked deformed, how I felt like an incomplete person to be apart from you.
I couldn’t imagine how you would test every nerve in my psyche with your strong will and fierce independence. I couldn’t imagine how you would make me swell with laughter and pride when you made your first smile, took your first steps, or made your first jokes.
Nothing could have prepared me for your otherworldly wisdom, your past life regressions, and your fiery temper. No one could have warned me how scary it would be and how much I would worry about your heart and soul.
I had no clue you would become so tall so quickly. That you would be a brown belt in karate. That you would be fascinated by science. That you would be such a picky eater. That you would be so incredibly sensitive.
I had no clue how much you would be like me, and how much that would challenge and frighten me every day.
I had not an inkling how hard it would be to be a mom, to be YOUR mom, to juggle everything we would both need and want.
You came to the bare skin of my chest that August night wired with your own personality, your unique intensity, your distinct weight and volume in the universe. I’ve tried to shape and help you, and I always will. But I have also learned to respect that you are your own. For as much as I will always love you, you do not belong to me. And maybe that is the scariest part of being a mom.
Before bed tonight, I hugged you close, felt the solidity of you in my arms. I didn’t tell you that a part of me wanted to cry, wanted to go out and shake all the bats from the trees in the summer night with my wailing. I just held you and patted you and felt how different and new you feel in my arms as you grow.
And I think that’s the thing.
I think that’s the part that makes me want to cry– every time I embrace you, you are a new person and it is like the first time I ever clutched you to my breast, weeping for your beauty. It’s a mixture of joy and sorrow that is every bit as strange and individual as you are, my son.
So here’s to your ninth birthday. The last year you will spend in single digits. Here’s to hugs and legos, starbursts and peanut butter sandwiches. Here’s to Doritos and learning to canoe, swimming with friends and Harry Potter.
Here’s to you. Here’s to you and me, even on days when it is kind of hard and when we both feel frustrated and scared.
Happy birthday, Sunny Boy.
I love you,