Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happy 12 Months: A Letter to Arlo

(I kept putting off finishing this letter because nothing I could write could ever capture the true amazingness of Arlo, but I made myself slap a few paragraphs on the end and call it a day.)

April 1, 2014

Dear Arlo,

You turned a year old today! From sun up to sun down, the day was about you. Your daddy and I greeted you with balloons first thing in the morning. You opened presents and ate—played with, rather—your smash cake. We visited the zoo, had family photos taken, and went to what your daddy and I think is your favorite restaurant, Texas Roadhouse (they have rolls and loud music!), for dinner.

As amazing as the day was, I kept finding myself slipping back to April 1st of last year. It’s remarkable how clear my memories are from that day. Their vividness is what makes the day seem like it was just yesterday. (The fact that I can barely remember what life was like before you—haven’t you always been with me?—is what makes the day seem like it was a hundred years ago.)

I remember those final moments of labor—those last few minutes of wondering and imagining who'd been living in my belly for 39 weeks and 6 days—and being more excited to meet you than I’d ever been about anything else in my life. I remember Dr. Ekman saying, "If you give this last push everything you have, you'll be a mommy." Your daddy was obviously able to see you before I was, and I remember the expression on his face as he studied you for the first time. It was an expression that spoke a thousand words—words that certainly aren’t in my vocabulary and may not even exist. It was an expression that conveyed love, pride, relief, triumph, and bliss—an expression that made me fall even more in love with your daddy.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that if I close my eyes and imagine the nurse placing you on my chest for the first time, I can still feel those perfect 7 pounds, 14 ounces of you there. I remember knowing immediately that you were objectively beautiful, and I don’t believe I’ve ever documented this sentiment before, but I remember saying to your daddy, "He looks like an Eskimo!" I can feel newborn-you in my arms now, as I write this, and I'm confident I'll be able to conjure up this feeling for the rest of my days.

I know I’ve said this more than once, but it really is astounding how drastically you’ve changed since that day we met you—and how much we’ve learned about your personality. You couldn’t do much more than look adorable then (which you were a pro at), but now, your skills are infinite—and we’ve learned so much about who you are. You run, clap, kiss, mimic, wave bye-bye and dance. You say "mama," "ba-ba," and "baby." You're breathtakingly handsome and garner stares wherever we go. You’re bright, independent, curious, strong, determined and—my favorite, so happy. You’re always smiling—a smile that lights up your whole face, and consequently, the whole room.

You love blueberries, your pets, music, pillows, and swings. When somebody walks through the door, you greet them with giant smiles and squeals of delight—as if I needed another reason to rush home to you. You're such a joy, and watching you learn and transform from infant to toddler has been an honor—and because of you, your daddy and I have grown and learned, too.

We know how beautiful it is to love somebody more than we love ourselves, what a blessing it is to watch somebody experience something for the first time, and what it's like to spend a year crying more tears of joy than tears of sadness—despite encountering major pitfalls and heartaches. We’re living healthier lives, so we can be with you for years and years and years. We’re kinder, more patient, more thoughtful. We're more optimistic and look forward to the future—and to making a million more memories with you. We love our friends more. We appreciate sunny days. We can only repay you for these gifts by continuing to love you with everything we have.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that things have a way of falling into place most of the time, and that it’s possible for really beautiful things to happen as a result of really terrible things. If I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to get you, wouldn’t have had to force myself to carry on when I didn’t know if my heart could take one more blow, I absolutely, beyond a doubt wouldn’t appreciate you the way I do. You're worth every test, every failure, every breakdown and shed tear it took to get you, and as much as it hurt, I’d do it all again a thousand times over. You're that amazing.

I try to avoid speaking in superlatives when I’m talking to you about you because I don’t want to give you a superiority complex, but this one’s the truth: once upon a time, I didn’t know if I’d ever get to have a baby, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t get the best. I can’t imagine a more incredible child, Arlo, and being your mother truly is the greatest privilege I’ve ever known. I am so, so proud of you. You're the sweetest gift the universe has ever given me—and the sweetest gift I'll ever give the universe. I love you beyond comprehension. I love you beyond words. I love you beyond measure.

Happy first birthday, precious boy.


Child, you are gorgeous.