In honor of Man’s third birthday, I had really only planned on re-posting the blog I wrote for his first birthday. But when I went back and read it I was completely struck by how much of Man was already, well, Man from the moment he was born. In rereading what I had written about him at just one year and knowing him now, two years later, it was startling to look back and see how his early Manish characteristics were just foreshadowing the Man before me today. Of course, I understand that when we are born there is already a set of behaviors, allergies, maladies, strengths, and weaknesses, our DNA mapped from conception. But it’s fascinating to see how things that were little quirks then have become solid personality traits now. Additions to the original post are seen in bold italics.
My blogs are usually funny… or at least I think they are. However, on the day of my son’s first birthday I choose to take a more serious tone. As I reflect back on the year, I am overwhelmed by the complexity and multitude of what I have learned. It’s more what he has taught me about myself, about being a mother, about being completely responsible for the wellbeing of another human.
I still believe he has taught me more than I have taught him.
Labor is often filled with challenges and surprises, and mine was no exception. Man ended up crying his way into this world through an emergency Cesarean section. In birthing class, in order to try to avoid a C-section, we were taught to always ask the doctor if there “were any other options” or “can we have 5 minutes to see if things change?” My doctor is not an alarmist; he does not rush to cut. However, when his answer to that question was, “We don’t even have 30 seconds,” we understood the gravity of what was happening. Twelve minutes later, my husband and I—clutching each other’s hands out of fear, comfort, and pure joy—heard Man cry for the first time.
When you lay eyes on your baby for the first time it is a surreal experience. I burst into tears. (This is not surprising for me–I shed a tear even writing about it. I cried again when I read it today, on the eve of his third birthday.) I craned my head to see him as they cleaned and wrapped him. You spend 9 months imagining what the baby growing inside of you will be like, and then in an instant you see it. What I saw was completely different from what I expected. Though gorgeous now, my husband was an ugly baby; I had prepared myself for Man to be… well, ugly. He wasn’t — he was adorable (In an evaluation I just read, the psychologist called him “adorable” as well. Clearly he’s still got it!)! I expected him to have red hair, as we have plenty of red genes on both sides of the family. He didn’t. He was almost bald and the slight fuzz on top of his head indicated that he would not be a redhead like so much of his family. I expected his eyes to be closed. Don’t all babies keep their eyes closed for a while after birth?? Not Man. He was ready to look upon the world and gaze at his new surroundings from minute one. I expected him to latch on with gratitude and drink hungrily. He didn’t. He actually didn’t eat for about 30 hours after birth and his first meal came from a bottle.
He came into the world with his eyes wide open. For the first year and a half we talked about how amazingly alert he was all of the time, always looking and studying things. At four and a half months he learned to military crawl across the floor, not because he was physically gifted (in fact, recent evaluations show that his motor skills are below average), but because he desperately needed to see what was on the other side of the room. Now, I know it was because he was already seeking stimulation from his surroundings. He had an intensity from day one, and although it exhausts me, it is an exceptional quality.
He never did latch, and was always a grazer. Two ounces here, one ounce there all day long. When it came to solids and right up through meal times today, it’s pretty similar; he would be happy to eat a chip here and a pretzel there all day long. Meals are a daily challenge and his teeny tiny frame is evidence of that. Just the other day I put him in size 24 month skinny jeans, waist band in need of tightening, because they are the only ones that fit. His sister has the same exact pair in Lady version… enough said.
My first lesson was flexibility. I like lists and plans and I like to stick to those plans, but there was no plan that prepared me for motherhood. I had to get used to learning as I went and I had to be okay with making mistakes. I adjusted somewhat quickly, but it was still hard. I still have a difficult time “just going with the flow,” though I think I have gotten better at it.
In addition to flexibility, the hardest change to get used to was that I was now responsible for someone else’s well-being ALL of the time. There are no breaks from being a mom; when your newborn needs something you do it and you do it right away. If I wanted to relax in a tub, or sleep a little long—too bad! Man needed me and I went, whether it was 2:30 PM or AM. I will admit to being selfish some of the time; frankly, I think we all have a selfish streak within us. However, being a parent is the most unselfish thing one can do.
The lessons are plentiful and I am still learning. But the unconditional love of my child is the most valuable gift I have ever received. Happy First Birthday my sweet, crazy Man, I look forward to what the next year brings us!
I still work on flexibility, and now, with Lady in the mix, it’s even harder to carve out a minute for myself. But oh, what joy and happiness the years have brought us. We gave you a sister and you adore each other. You have grown into a sweet, loving, caring, delicious boy. I am enamored with you, and you continue to surprise and perplex me every day. I had no idea you could want to kiss and strangle someone simultaneously until you turned two. My life was incomplete without you, I know that more now then ever. Being your mom has been the most challenging and most rewarding job I could have asked for. Happy Third Birthday my little Man, my delight, my inspiration.