My baby is 3 years old. Three.
I'm not going to have any more babies, and the one I have, he's turning 3 today.
To my sparkling, darling Brody,
Today is the day we celebrate your arrival. Here are a few things you need to know. Or a few things I need to say.
You make me laugh every single day. Not just smile, not just laugh even, but belly laugh. Every single day. And the moment when I see in your twinkling eyes that I am not alone in my delight is my favorite part of the day.
I waited for you for what seemed like forever. And you are worth every second, every tear, every anxious sleepless night, every moment of despair when I wondered if we would ever meet.
When you were born, we were terrified for you. Everyone else was terrified for us. But you were completely unaffected by the turmoil. When the g-tube broke through your stomach causing emergency surgery, the doctors prepared us for the ensuing infection. You never got that infection. I came home from the hospital in a daze of heartache and worry, and I saw that your dad had written your moniker on the board we usually used for meal planning and phone messages. It said only two words: "Super Brody."
Those weeks in the NICU I remember wondering what your face would look like without the tubes crisscrossing your features. I was besotted when I could finally hold you. I think I stared at you for hours in those weeks, learning all I could from every movement you made.
I spent months imagining what you would look like when you smile. And then you smiled at me. And I felt my world shift.
I remember wondering how it would feel when you started to reach up your hands for me, to hear your voice say "mommy," to walk into my arms, to run into my hugs, to hear you say "I love you." And now I know. I know all of that and so much more. On Sunday I counted; you said, without any prompting, "I love you" to me five times.
You even say "Bless you, mommy," if you sneeze and I don't say "Bless you" to you fast enough.
To think I worried before I knew you that I would only be able to relate to a girl.
I know you get scared when you get hiccups because usually that means food is stuck in your little esophagus and you have to throw it up. If it's one of those times, we get a bowl and we wait and I rub your back. If it's just the regular hiccups, I tell you you're not going to throw up, and you believe me, without question, instantly. I know if I say "No owie" in the presence of a doctor, you know you will not be hurt by whatever the doctor wants to do to you and you relax. You trust me more than anyone on this earth.
I know you are scared of car washes and the big bad wolf. Although you insist you like car washes and the big bad wolf, when I ask you if you want to get the car washed, or read the book about the big bad wolf, you instantly say no.
I know your father and I are not good enough for you. But we try and we will continue to try to deserve you.
I know at one point we pondered steering you into loving soccer, because that would, we thought, be easier for you considering your arms, only to have you teach us that you could, in fact, play tennis.
And something you don't know is that when you played tennis with your cousin's racquet, on a Sunday afternoon, on a court at Conifer High School a few weeks ago, I started crying while I watched you, with your cousin tossing balls to you and you hitting them, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 times in a row. And that is the moment when I realized finally that you have no limits.
And I know you are going to get a brand new shiny tennis racquet of your very own tonight when you open your presents.
When people told me before I was a mother that having a child is a different kind of love, I rolled my eyes and thought they were mistaken and just maybe prone to exaggeration. Turns out, they were exactly right.
Your second birthday - when you turned 1 year old - was difficult for me in a strange way. Because I could not reconcile my love for you with the absolute terror of the day you were born, and the days and weeks that followed. Your third birthday - when you turned 2 years old - I was so proud you had learned to walk, and I didn't believe I could love you anymore.
Until the next day. And the next. When I did, unerringly, love you more.
And so, on your fourth birthday - when you turn three - I am in awe. You look more like a boy than a baby and, while growing up is the best and only thing a parent can hope for, it is also bittersweet because now that we are finally at the point of not knowing when or where or what the next surgery will be, I've noticed something.
I've noticed that while all of your 14 surgeries were happening, I've already had 3 whole years with you. Three years gone in the blink of an eye.
And according to our team of cognitive, speech and occupational therapists, you will be ready to start kindergarten in two years. How can that be when I only just met you?
It's still strange and new to me, being a mother; some days I look in the mirror and think, "You? You're a mother?" But as strange as being a mother is, being your mommy is more natural to me than breathing.
Was there a time I didn't know you? Were there things I had done in my life besides be yours? I know there were. I remember them.
And I've done some pretty spectacular things, Brody. I learned to drive a stick shift, I survived the death of my father and brother, I've fallen in love, I've won tennis tournaments, I watched the sun rise over the sea of Japan from the top of a mountain in Korea that I climbed in the dark, I've seen Boris Becker serve over 100 mph just feet from where I stood, I've sat on the back of a horse and jumped over fences taller than you, I passed the bar exam, I can use chopsticks the proper way, I've submitted a brief to the United States Supreme Court, I sat on Bill Clinton's campaign plane, I won a vacation to anywhere in the world, and I can order beer in five languages (French, German, Spanish, English and Hangul (Korean)).
But, compared to you, these things are all black and white. You, my love, you are yellow and green and blue and pink and red and purple and striped, bursting technicolor.
I remember when you were growing inside me. And I wasn't sure you were a boy, and so I called you BrodyZoe, just in case you were a girl. But how could I have not known you even then? It's amazing to me that I lived for 35 years without knowing your smiles, your voice, how sweetly you sing, how ticklish you are, how much you like to run in circles, how you like to jump up and down when you are happy, how loud you are, how much you drool, how dearly you adore a train named Thomas and a guy named Spiderman, how courageous you are, how your arms feel around my neck, how much you like to cuddle and hug and kiss, how selfless you are when you offer to share your food and your blankie with me, how your breath feels on my face when you wake me up in the mornings and how your lips feel on my skin.
How did I not know these things my whole life?
It seems like when you meet someone, you learn all about them and when you've learned a sufficient amount, then you fall in love. But with you, my son, I loved you before I ever saw you, and that multiplied a thousand-fold when I first glimpsed your wrinkly red face, and watched you pee on the nurses. At that exact moment, I was still trying to understand why your arms were bent inward and crooked. Yet that rounded arc of urine made me think you would be alright.
I love learning about you as you reveal more of yourself. I'm even starting to like the color "lellow" as much as you do. I listen to the tales you weave while you play and I marvel at your imagination and intelligence. Your joy at the mere mention of rice krispie treats, seeing a rainbow or finding the moon in the sky reminds me to seize life, just like you, and not to take a single moment for granted.
I'm sorry, too, Brody. I'm sorry for the 14 times I've had to leave you in the operating room. I'm sorry for those times you begged me for food and I had to deny you, I'm sorry for those times you were still awake when they took you out of my arms, I'm sorry for all the times we didn't get you pain meds fast enough. I pray that those meds worked and make you forget those moments. And yet, even after 14 surgeries, you have never, not once, asked us why you had to wear casts, why you had 8 pins in your arms, why you had to have so many surgeries.
When I think of everything you had to endure to get here, and all you've had to endure to stay here, and how clever and loving and sparkly you are, I am. . . speechless. Your mother, who writes, talks and argues for a living... I do not know words to explain how extraordinary you are and how deeply we love you.
Thank you for choosing me and daddy.
You made my life come true.