My dear James,
You turned one last Monday. I thought I would have this message all written and ready but sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned.
It’s been quite a week. Last Thursday, I spilled a glass of water on my laptop while working on this blog and another paid writing gig for a print magazine. I’m telling you this for a few reasons.
#1. I’ve always been a little clumsy and careless. I’ve tried so so hard to change that about myself. But as the old saying goes: nobody’s perfect. That goes for me – and you. It’s hard when the things we hate most about ourselves rear their ugly heads. But try not to beat yourself up too much Baby.
#2. The thing about the laptop is: It was new(ish). I bought last fall, after I unexpectedly landed a copywriting job and made some extra money. We used it to buy the laptop so that I could be a portable writer. I’ve used it to write here – and I’ve also now written four published (or to-be-published) pieces. I guess what I’m saying is that those good things and bad things in our personality are with us always – side by side. Sometimes we’re kicking butt and sometimes we’re failing miserably. And sometimes, we just have to surrender.
#3. I knew dad would be pretty mad about the computer. Once, I briefly lost my wedding ring. I’ve never seen your dad so distraught. He could barely talk to me at breakfast. (It’s a really special ring.) But the thing was: my aunt and a high school friend were both sick with terminal cancer. I couldn’t stop thinking about them when I thought about the ring. Of course I valued the ring – I loved it as much as I had ever loved anything. But I also could not be heartbroken about it. It was a ring. A piece of metal. My husband that I loved was sitting across the table eating breakfast with me.
Dad was mad. But he let it go. I know it was a mistake, he texted me, as I drove to the Apple store. I guess what I’m saying is – Perspective. Keep it. Choose your fights. What really matters? Right now, my fizzled laptop is here beside me. You, my living breathing one-year-old son, are sleeping in your crib.
But enough about the dumb laptop.
Your Auntie Fiona and Uncle Kevin are visiting from Ontario. We spent the weekend with them in Canmore. On Sunday night, you woke up with vomit all over you, your sleeping bag, the crib. It was the night before your birthday. You cried and cried. Uncle Kevin took a bath with you (he’s crazy about you). We rocked you. Cleaned you up. You threw up again and again.
Finally, we got you back to sleep. The next day, we drove home and Dad and I frantically prepared for your party. You weren’t throwing up but you weren’t yourself. We got balloons. I baked a cake (carrot). We wrapped presents. We dressed you in your cute gray vest. Then your cousins and your aunts and uncles were here and even though you weren’t feeling very well, I think the chaos swept you away for a while.
I mean: It’s pretty great to be loved so much. Especially when everything else feels like crap.
On Tuesday, the day after your birthday, we went to get your shots. They said it as ok even though you’re not feeling the best. You were crying before the needles even came out. I pressed you hard against me and held down your arms and watched as your face twisted red in terror and pain. I’ve never heard you cry so loud and hard. You screamed in the waiting room while we waited the 15 minutes they make you wait. I thought I’d never forgive myself. Maybe we can hurt someone we love when we’re trying to protect them.
Dad came home with flowers for me. (James, your dad is the best. Take notes.)
I was supposed to go back to work on Wednesday. But I knew I couldn’t leave you with someone else, not after the last two days. You woke up screaming at 5:30 that morning. Dad and I couldn’t console you. You were so sad and uncomfortable and there was nothing we could do but be here and hold you.
It made me think about all the things I couldn’t protect you from. I tried not to get too overwhelmed by it, as I held you in our rocking chair, your warm tears streaming onto my chest, your blankey draped across your chest.
So I stayed home with you.
But you know what? Not one- but two friends stopped by to drop me a note and a treat to wish me well. I kept getting emails and texts from friends and family asking how I was doing at my first day back.
Like I said, James: It’s pretty great to be loved when everything is else feels like crap.
A few people suggested that you knew what was up – that I wouldn’t be spending every day with you anymore. But how? I wondered. Around a campfire last night, our friend Roger suggested that before they have language, babies just know things – their intuition is heightened. I think he’s right. It’s also true that I kept bursting into tears last week. While pushing the stroller in the street. While reading “Owl is dirty. Owl is clean. Owl is blue. Owl is green.” with you on my lap on living room floor.
I feel like it’s unfair to feel so sad about going back to work when we had 53 whole weeks together. But I’m sad. I’m sad for every minute I’ll miss this year.
We have this way of being together, you and me. You’re my son and my buddy. We communicate with no words. Our world, governed by heart.
On Thursday, I had to go back to work so Daddy stayed home with you. He was changing you when you got home and when you saw me you cried Mamma Mamma and reached for me and climbed up onto me like a little monkey – naked – too quick to let Daddy get a diaper back on you. Your head fell onto my shoulder and you melted into me.
I had this total freak out that maybe you wouldn’t need me in the same way now that I’m not going to be around as much. I know it’s irrational. But FUCK – welcome to motherhood. I just barely remember the definition of rational.
That night I had another good cry on the couch.
Sometimes I ask you: Do you know how much I love you?
You’ll never know, I answer.
And in some ways, that’s true. You’ll never know. On the other hand, it’s the first and only thing you’ve ever known. And someday, if you decide to have a little bean of your own, you will look down at their impossibly perfect face and then you will truly finally know how much your dad and I love you.
I want so many things for you in this life, James. I want you to have adventures, discover wonder and beauty in the world, find the things that light you up. I hope that you find happiness. But maybe the whole point of this long letter is that happiness isn’t what you think it is – because real happiness is feeling all the things. It’s crying while reading a board book about owls with your son’s hair tickling your nose. It’s being there to hold him while he throws up all over you. It’s heartache, sorrow, pain, forgiveness, failure, success, bliss. It’s this year – for me. Because this year–learning to being your mom–has been all the things.
Mostly, I want you to find love – all different kinds of love! Love grounds us. Gets us through the thick of life. (I think.)
Ours will always always be here for you.
Happy birthday sweet baby boy. I love you.