Happy Birthday

Today is your birthday, my sweet baby boy. You’re one year old today. ONE!

I’m writing this for you. I’m writing this because I couldn’t let this day pass without telling you a million times how much I love you. And kissing you a million times. And hugging you a million times. (Which, between you and me, is only a little bit more than every day). I love you so, so much. I can hardly believe you’ve been our boy for a whole year. How has a year gone by so quickly? And at the same time, how has it only been a year? My heart has known you my entire life.

Today is what they call a milestone. In other words, it’s a big deal. As you grow up, you’ll understand this thing called a birthday. For now, let me tell you about your birth day.

You were born on a perfect California day – nothing but blue skies and warm sunshine for you, baby. You were brought into this world by me, your “dada,” my doctor, and a labor nurse (there were a bunch of other people in the room too – I’ll tell you about that in a minute). In the waiting room were your grandma (my mom, your Mamani) and your Nonna and Grandpa. The people who would love you the most had flown across the country and waited days for your arrival. Days. You see, you and me, kid, we broke some records – we were in labor for almost sixty three hours and pushed for two and half of those. You entered this world late in that sense, but you were actually pretty early.

In the last trimester of my pregnancy, I started to get itchy. Really itchy. It came on the strongest in the night and so you and I spent a lot of sleepless nights soaking my hands and feet in ice water. We also spent spent that last trimester sleeping on the couch a lot because we couldn’t keep daddy up, and also it helped to watch TV for some distraction (we binged watched a show called Scandal, in case you were wondering).

I didn’t feel like what I was feeling was normal, so I started doing some internet research. My doctor hated that, but you know what, it saved our life because I found out that I had something called Cholestasis. It’s a fluke liver condition that came on with pregnancy that made me super itchy, and a whole lot worse, it was dangerous for you, my little one. As a result, we spent the last two weeks in utero at the doctor twice a week hooked up to a monitor doing non-stress tests to listen to your heartbeat and track your kicks. I didn’t like the reason it had to be done, but I loved those days of the week because your heartbeat was music to my ears and you felt so especially real to me.

The doctors had decided that you had to be born before thirty seven weeks, and I wanted us to get as close as possible, so we picked Wednesday, January 27th as the day you’d be born. (Your due date was February 22nd).

Your daddy and I arrived at the hospital a few minutes before midnight on Tuesday, January 26th, and settled in to our room. There was a bed for me, a bench by the window for your dad to sleep, and a bin next to the bed with a heat lamp, which was to be your bed for the couple of days we’d be at the hospital afterwards. There was a baby blanket with little footprints on it draped over the basket, and inside was a tiny knit cap with baby blue and pink stripes. It made me so excited to imagine you wrapped in that blanket with that little hat on your soft little head. Your grandparents all came the next morning and we all looked forward to meeting you later that day.

Even though I knew it had to be, I was a little sad that you had to be born before your time. But I guess you showed us all, because no matter what anyone did, you weren’t coming out until you’d decided you were good and ready. Two days in, the doctor broke my water which meant that we were on the clock. We had only one more day before, one way or another, you’d be out. We hadn’t made much labor progress up until then, and for many hours after then. About three hours before three o’clock in the afternoon, which was our deadline for getting you out, the doctor came in for one last check up and she had some good news. It was finally time to push.

I was so elated but also so exhausted. I easily could have fallen asleep at that very moment, but no sleep for the weary – after all of the months of baby baking and the last three days in the hospital – this was it! It was Friday, January 29th. Your birth day.

Three o’ clock was the time to beat. If by three o’ clock, you weren’t out, we’d have gone into the operating room. You were born at 2:57pm. It was as if you knew, and you saved me.

(Your father told me after you were born that he’d snuck away in those last few hours when I was sleeping to go to the hospital chapel to say a prayer for us… his prayer was heard.)

I’d mentioned there were a lot of people in the room. After everything over the past few days, I’d ended up with a slight fever, and when you were born, you had the same slight fever. So right after you were born, special doctors and nurses had to check you out to make sure you were ok. Spoiler: you were better than ok – you were perfect. But per hospital protocol, you had to go to the NICU. What I remember of those first few minutes when you were born:

Your voice. Your little cries that made me keep asking “Is he ok?” and that made my heart feel something deeper than I’d ever felt before. I felt like I wanted to protect you in a way that I’d never wanted to protect even myself.

Your self. You were every inch a miracle and you were beautiful from the start. You had a mess of dark hair and the most delicate fingers and toes. People said you looked just like me, but I saw a lot of your dad in you too.

Your touch. You were laid on my chest for too brief a few minutes. You’d been crying and squirming and as soon as your skin touched mine, you melted into me and became so incredibly peaceful. In that moment, we were one again, and in that moment I felt myself become a mother. When they lifted you off me, you went right back to crying and squirming, searching for me. My heart searched for you too.

You lived in what your dad and I called a spaceship for the next two days. It was like the plastic bin in the hospital room except with a cover that sealed it shut. The first day, we touched you through hand openings and stared at you for hours through the cover. They let us visit around the clock except for a brief window in the late morning. We hated that window. Your daddy practically never left your side, and I did only for my exams and to try to bottle some milk for you. They let me breastfeed you a couple of times over those couple of days and it was comical how neither of us really knew what we were doing. You were just so little (less than six pounds) and it didn’t come naturally to me quite yet. (I’m happy to report that a year later, we are both champs at it and going strong!)

I was set to be discharged in two days and it wasn’t clear if you would be coming home with us. They’d determined a few hours after your birth that you did not have an infection (the reason babies with a hard labor and fever get whisked to the NICU), but they’d started a preventative antibiotic treatment that had to run its course. It was very annoying and I’m not going to lie, I had homicidal thoughts toward a particular nurse who poked and prodded you (your dad all but banned me from watching the blood draws after that). Similar to your birth itself, we were on eggshells until the last minute, hoping and praying they’d let us take you home with us. Your father and I had decided that we were not going to leave the hospital without you, so thank god it worked out because I feel like we’d have resorted to criminal behavior if not. We have photos of all of us in the NICU and even though it was an ordeal we wish we didn’t have to go through, we were still smiling and just beaming over you. You proved yourself from the very beginning (and even before birth) to be a very strong and brave boy.

One of the most joyous moments for us was the day we took you home with us. It was that Monday, and your father drove while I sat in the backseat and watched over you. Back then, I used to give your dad a hard time for being a most impatient LA driver – he always accelerated too fast, braked too hard, and changed lanes too much. On the night he drove you home, he drove so cautiously like I’d never seen before, protecting our precious passenger.

And here we are a year later, with you our little miracle, then and now. Your father and I agree that the sound of your laughter is the greatest sound in the world. Your Mamani says that you smile with your entire body – your lips, your eyes, your arms, your legs – your joy is overwhelming and entirely contagious. Your Nonna says she loves you “the most,” and your Grandpa says you are really cool. You are our best friend.

This is the first year of many years ahead of you, and as you are taking your first steps (quite literally), my heart fills more and more each day with joy and pride. Before you (and your father before you) came into my life, I never really considered myself a lucky person. I thank the universe every day for you, and I consider myself the luckiest person on earth to get to be your mother. Nurturing you and watching you grow – seeing the world through your innocent eyes and your pure heart – is the greatest joy of my life. When I look at you, I think of your father and all of the love I have for him too, and I am so thankful for him and his hard work that allows me to be home with you and sharing in all of your life’s moments with you.

My son, my heart has grown bigger because of you. I pray more because of you. Each night as I nurse you to sleep, as your body melts into mine as it did that very first time I held you, I say a prayer over you for your health, safety, and happiness. Like I tell you every night before bed, when it’s just you and me alone for those last few minutes of the night, I love you with all my heart…and then some.

Happy Birthday, my love!

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