My dear Elliott,
Today you are one and my heart is stunned. Social Media will not let me forget. Each photo is a reminder of how you grew in our home and in our hearts. But still I am baffled, once again, that how can one feel two things at once? How can I feel like it was only yesterday that I opened my eyes and the horror of the last part of my 20 hour labor was over and finally meeting you, yet at the same time it is as if I have always known you? Always known that smile, that mischievous giggle, that tight squeeze around my neck, that scream to communicate. I cannot even make sense of how strong this love for you is.
Mothering the first time was a gradual burning. A spark that flickered and caught each branch and kindling day by day as I caught my footing and my confidence as a mother. The fire did not catch and roar and heat up until I knew what they heck I was doing, what this little person needed, who I now was and who she was. How long it took, I could not truly say because the little flame was always present, that love for a baby that is undeniable and true. But you know that perfect campfire that is roaring and sparking and keeping itself alive no matter how you push the logs around? That fire, that crazy love? Well that takes time and effort and attention. And in my case, I believe it took nearly an entire year before I could say that fire was blazing the way I expected a mother’s love should. Yet once it’s going, it’s strong. You can stay warm by that fire, by that love, for eternity.
So the second time, when you, my Elliott, came into my life, my second baby, another chance for a spark, that amazing mothering love was already a flame. I didn’t need to work quite as hard at tending that fire. I knew what it meant to love your child so fiercely and trust that love. I opened my eyes at 8:13, just an hour after the world in the form of surgeons and nurses welcomed you. They washed you, wrapped you, introduced you to your father and then they brought you to me. But in those minutes between opening my eyes and setting my eyes on my baby, when I was alone, with nurses of course, but still alone, I could already feel that flaming love. I will never forget that grin on my face, that joy I felt that, yes, I was no longer in pain but also that my baby, my heart, my flame, was alive and well and in my living world. I could hold you and care for you and knew how to do that. I loved you so fiercely, and I had not yet even met you. That is the amazing beauty and power of a mother’s love. Once it is taught, once it grows and burns, it is yours forever.
Now let’s just say we fast forward through the ugly weeks, shall we? They are what they are, I’ll say maybe weeks 2-6 don’t really need much detail and attention in this moment anymore. (Which is great progress considering the first time around I might say the first 6 months don’t have a glowing review in my head and heart.) But after that, oh after all the ugly, there was so much joy. My dad called you Mr. Smiley and that you were, and still are. Content to look at me, and nuzzle into me, and lay on the smiles that just keep that glowing fire sparking even more. You slept when you were supposed to sleep. You ate when you were supposed to eat, you welcomed anyone who paid you attention with an easy smile and you reminded me each day that caring for two was possible and even enjoyable.
All that smiling and cooperative nature was part of your plan, and God’s too. Make them love you, truly, madly, deeply love you. And then trick them with your deviant plan to wake up multiple times a night until your first birthday. Convince them of your sweet and carefree nature only to add to the element of surprise when your scream is your favorite mode of communication. Pretend you are happy to sit in your bouncy seat and just watch the world, all while planning how once you can finally move you will then seek and find ALL OF THE THINGS babies should not go near. This will throw them, confuse them, drive them to scream themselves.
But it will not put out the fire. The flame, the love, it will always burn strong. Because, you little Elliott, have a place in our world. Your smiles and your screams, your curiosity and your joy, your determination and your loyalty, that is what you bring to our family. You fit in, from the moment you greeted us. You had a place all your own. You add to our crazy burning fire and we love you fiercely and forever.
My birthday wish to you, dear Elliott, is that you always find something to smile about. That you know who to go to when you don’t. And that you may always know you are exactly the light this family didn’t even know they needed.
Happy First Birthday Elliott!