The time is now 9:52PM. At this very moment a year ago, I was squeezing your Daddy's hand, praying through clenched teeth and tears for your safe arrival. Two rainy days had passed since my labor had begun, and I irrationally feared you might never come. But the next day - your due date - the sky cleared, the sun peered through the curtains, and seeing sunshine after days of rain, I no longer worried whether you would arrive on time. Somehow I knew that dark clouds did not suit you and you wanted to be born to the light. Your arrival on a clear September day was the first evidence of your eternally sunny disposition.
Since your birth, I've witnessed my own rebirth. I find myself engaging with the world from an entirely different vantage point, all because you are in the world now. I no longer straighten my hair because you like to play with my wet curls. I watch what I say and do in the interest of being a better example for you. I've cut down on my carbon emissions, reduced my plastic consumption, and become an overnight activist in hopes of preserving the planet you will inherit after I'm gone. And I have done my best to embrace this new body, which despite (finally) weighing the same as it did before becoming pregnant, is softer in places designed for your comfort. You fit as perfectly in my arms today as you did when you arrived.
Each day we partake of our routines together - eating and playing and traveling to the rhythm you set for us upon your birth. When we wake, we wave 'Good Morning' to the baby in the mirror and turn off your nighttime music. We eat breakfast, get changed, and make our way to Grandma Diane's. On a day I'm not working, we'll indulge in a long nap together in the early afternoon. Diapers are changed. Books come before songs before nursing before bedtime. Patterns like these have defined our days for nearly 52 weeks.
However, the routines have done more than help us navigate this strange terrain together. They help expose the millions of ways you change every day, as though each nuance - motions, looks, features, words - adds a new step to our daily dance. And boy do you LOVE to dance.
Some other things you love:
- The wind moving through the trees
- The arrival and departure of the recycling and garbage trucks
- Mulch (you like to crumble it in your hands)
- Every bellybutton you come across, especially mine
- Virtually every ethnic food type
- Music in all forms
- Taking apart the shelves I painstakingly organize for you
- Dada's hair and Mama's toes
- Nursing, nursing, and also some more nursing
and most of all:
- Smiling and laughing
That last one trumps the rest, in my opinion. I've never seen a child more prone to smiling and laughing, even when there doesn't seem to be much to smile or laugh at. Every place you go and person you meet expands your circle of cheerfulness, and accompanying you through the first year of your life has often meant rediscovering reasons to be happy amidst life's more mundane moments. Each sour face you encounter - including mine - stands no chance against your sweetness. Heck, you've been sick with Roseola, spotty like a Dalmatian, and have managed to smile through the 104-degree fever it gave you. That is the kind of boy you are. How on earth I earned the job of caring for such a cheerful spirit, I will never know.
It's foolish of me to hope, of course, that I have the power to preserve today's happiness for the rest of your life. Many tears lie ahead, tokens of the lessons we all learn as we grow up, and they serve to deepen the well where dwells, not only happiness, but true fulfillment. It is not my job to shield you from pain and uncertainty, but to support you through it. To remind you that change is inevitable and something you should never fear. To learn from you as you learn from me.
The hardest task I have is giving you the space you need to experience the world independently. Already, the minutes you rest peacefully in my arms are dwindling, making way for active exploration. However, while I miss the squirmy little bundle that arrived a year ago tomorrow, I marvel daily at your growing grasp of communication (today, you said "umbrella", which sounded like "uh-lella"), your increasing command over your body (you'll be walking without help any day now), and the funny personality that (despite or because of your parents, we might never know) emerges a little more every day.
The time is now 11:16PM (your stuffy nose woke you up, which meant abandoning this letter for a bit). Tomorrow, you complete your first year in the world. We can't wait to celebrate with you this weekend, and we love you more than words can say. Thank you for making this year the most challenging, uplifting, and rewarding of our lives. Thank you most of all for choosing me as your mother.