On your first birthday

Dear Gabriel,

This morning, I stumble into your bedroom, my eyes swollen and crusty with sleepiness. I push open the creaking door and there you stand, smiling ear-to-ear, looking happier to see me than anyone ever has. It sends a shot of oxytocin straight through me, a high I get each morning. Your arms raise up as I lift you and bring you into bed with me and your dad. You scream and laugh and grunt and point and poke and bite and suckle and stand up and fall down and hide and peek-a-boo and drool and burp and smile until we are all awake enough to start the day. Those first 10 minutes of wakefulness, in the warm of our bed where the sheets smell like our family, they are what I cherish most about each day.

The first morning I met you, my eyes were also swollen, this time from crying. The surgeon pulled you out of my bisected uterus and I heard you wailing before I saw you. I looked at your father, his face a mirror showing me what I couldn’t see of you. A team of strangers swept you aside where they gave you oxygen and suctioned you clean. There was a gravity to your father’s face that I had never seen before, that I didn’t know possible.

“How is he? Is he OK?” I kept asking. The doctor who was tugging and stitching me back together kept reciting the facts, “He’s crying. They’re cleaning him up. They’ll bring him over in a minute,” and all I wanted was your dad to say you were OK. Then, relief swept over your dad’s face and in the next moment a nurse handed you to him and your crying immediately stopped. Your dad leaned down, brought you next to my face, and I pet you with a finger, the only part of my body I had free. This is how we first met face to face.

It has been a year since that hospital room and this morning as I unload the dishes, you bang a butter knife and fork on the open dishwasher while dancing to the music playing from Pandora on my phone. To distill how my life has changed in the past year is futile. How does the landscape around a volcano change after it erupts? It’s still there, of course, but almost unrecognizable under the lava. Slowly it grows into something new. It has been a year of a lot of crying. Of a lot of laughing. Of sleepless nights. Of dancing in the kitchen. Of sacrifice. Of gratitude. Of epic poop. Of amazement at how quickly you learn. Of seeing the world through a mother’s eyes. It has been a year of enjoying mornings more than I ever knew possible.  It has been a year of great love.



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