Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Three Years Old Today

Dear Alex,

Three years ago today, in the wee hours of the morning, when there was just the first hint of sunlight on the horizon, your daddy and I took a drive down 280 that would change our lives forever. To say that I was terrified doesn't do justice to what I was feeling...and for the duration of our trip to St. Vincent's, where you were born, I had a steady stream of tears running down my face, kind of like what's happening to me at this very moment as I write about it. You have a way of bringing out the very deepest emotions in your mama, and you started doing that before you even officially entered the world.

As he was driving, your daddy looked over at me, saw the tears, and said, "What's wrong? Aren't you excited? I'm so excited that I can't stand it!" And I had no idea how to answer him, because all I could think of was how things were going to change, how our life as we had known it was over, how I wasn't sure I was even capable of being a mama, yet there I was, in the car, headed to the hospital, trying to stay calm but thinking, "I don't know if I can handle this. I think it might be too much," while your daddy was practically doing somersaults in the drivers' seat. I was scared.

When we finally arrived the hospital, the nerves all but vanished - I became immeasurably calmer, which no doubt had everything to do with medication. Before I knew it, our sweet nurse was wheeling me back to the surgery suite (you should probably know that they only call it a "suite" so patients will get distracted by the luxurious terminology and forget about all the Sharp Cutting Instruments and Blood Sucking Machines that are in the room). You were a scheduled c-section, by the way, because I was fortunate enough to have a doctor who realized that delivering a 10 pound baby was more than this first-time mama could endure, so the first order of business when I got back to the "suite" was the epidural.

I would do commercials for epidurals, just for the record. And c-sections.

So here's the gist of it. About 30 minutes after they wheeled me in, they pulled you out, and you were essentially a three-month old. Ten pounds, seven ounces. Nearly 23 inches. Beautiful. Perfect. Surreal.

I wish I could tell you that they placed you on my chest and we looked in each other's eyes and had "an amazing connection," like all those mamas on TLC's "A Baby Story" who give birth in large round tubs filled with water without the aid of anesthesia while the whole family looks on. But we didn't. My back was killing me, and there was the somewhat essential business of putting your mama back together again, so once I knew you were healthy, I was perfectly fine with your daddy taking over for a few minutes while I got some relief (more medication!) and had all my organs put back in their proper places. I'm practical that way, as you will come to know.

About 15 minutes later, when you were all cleaned off and I was back in the recovery room, the nurse finally did place you on my chest. I was mesmerized. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had been carrying you for 38 weeks. It had everything to do with the realization that you were a wonder, a gift, and as trite as it may sound - a miracle. I was immediately in love with you. And humbled by the fact that how much I loved you was just a small, infinitesimal fraction of how much God loves us. It was an instant, powerful, life-altering shift in perspective. You did change everything. But in all the best ways.

The last three years have given us more memories than I will ever be able to chronicle. And at every single milestone - your first smile, your first laugh, your first step, your first word (which was "HEY," just for the record, followed by "Mama" and "Elmo"), your first sentence - I have thought that I would never, ever be able to love you more than I did at that particular moment. But it just goes deeper and deeper, with no end in sight, and I am so grateful.

At this point in your life you are full of curiosity, running from room to room, shouting out the letters you see, pulling out every newspaper and magazine that you can find so that you can thumb through and point out a P, or a G, or an S, and then clapping your hands and screaming, "OH, MAMA - I'm so EXCITED!" Even now, you are an encourager...if I'm folding laundry and manage to tackle the fitted king sheet, you'll come up to me, pat me, and say, "Mama, GOOD JOB." If your daddy asks you to go upstairs with him to play with trains, the world's sweetest smile comes over your face and you say, "OH, Daddy - GOOD IDEA!" Right now you're sitting beside me with a Teletubbies book, and as you flip to each new page, you say, "Mama, wanna count?" And when I say, "yes," you count the lines of sentences on each page with an enthusiasm that clearly indicates that the continued existence of the universe depends on your counting accuracy, and just then, when you finished with the whole book, you said, "GREAT JOB, ALEX!" It's all I can do not to eat you up.

A couple of weeks ago, right before bedtime, you got in trouble for yelling "NO" at your daddy. There was much crying and bellyaching and general blubbering as a result. We got you all settled down, then into the bed you went. You sniffled all the way through your prayers but tried to repeat what I was saying in the middle of the weepy hiccups - "thanks, God, HIC, for my friends, SNIFF, for, HICCUP, SNIFF, family..."- and you were back to normal by the time we got to your favorite part: "In Jesus' Name. Amen!" which you say almost like the end of a cheer (it's not quite to the point of "all for Jesus, stand up, and holler," but it's close).

Before I left your room to go back downstairs, I looked at you straight in the eyes and said, "Who's Mama's favorite?" You thought for a minute, then said, "God," and I thought that was either a) the sweetest thing I'd ever heard or b) a sign that Mama here may need to back off the God talk a little lest you start leading tent revivals by your fourth birthday.

But I say all of that to say this: the time before you go to sleep is the simplest and sweetest part of my life. We pray, we talk, we tickle, we laugh - and every single night, when I get ready to go back downstairs, you look at me, tilt your head, then point to the pillow that lays beside yours. You say, "Mama no go downstairs?" And I always explain that yes, Mama is going downstairs, because it's time for Mama to see Daddy and for you to go to sleep. That answer always works with you, for whatever reason, and you throw your arms around my neck, say, "Want kiss? Want sugar? I love you, Mama" - and even typing those words I am blown away by the unbelievable gift of your life, the incredible privilege that your daddy and I have to share in it.

We love you so much.

Happy Birthday, Boo.


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