My dear son,
Of all our four children, your birth was one of the most memorable because you were such a long time coming. Or, I should say, your mom had more of a typical labor with you—far longer than the fast and furious labors of your three siblings. Heavens. I thought I was going to have to catch a couple of them myself.
I remember your birth because your mom and I walked, and we walked, and we walked some more, up and down the halls of that hospital all afternoon and evening, with that flimsy IV pump on wheels meandering behind us like a dizzy giraffe. I thought you would never come. The doctor finally broke your mom’s water around 11:30 pm, and you were born about an hour later.
I remember your birth because your mom didn’t take any drugs, and ended up really wishing she had. To repeat the doctor’s first words, you were “a big baby”—from your head, to your shoulders, to your torso, to your hips and thighs.
I stood over your mom while she dug in, and gritted her teeth. I felt so helpless, squeezing her hand and pressing my knuckles into her back while she pushed, and pushed, and pushed, with beads of sweat on her forehead. I just wanted to take it for her. But there’s not much a daddy can do in that moment but be close by a mommy’s side and pray silently for her.
But finally, inch by inch, you arrived, with your left fist pressed firmly into your left cheek (your fist and cheek were bruised because of it). We hadn’t found out if you were a boy or girl yet. So after the doctor said, “It’s a boy!”, I’m not sure who in the room was crying more—you, me, or your mom.
I remember your birth because you were our first baby with a body that all worked properly. You never missed a beat learning how to nurse, and doing all the things typical babies do. You passed every milestone that your sissy had missed—though we loved her so, so much. I think we were more thankful than tired most of the time, because you were so strong and full of life.
Some of my best memories as a dad were those first few weeks after you were born. Your mom had become very sleepy from nursing you in the night. So I asked her if I could be your night nurse on Friday and Saturday nights. Mom would save up enough extra milk during the week for me to feed you on those nights, or I would use formula.
Our teeny tiny ranch house had a family room where the garage used to be, on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom. I would sleep there on the couch, with you next to me in the pack-‘n-play, where mom couldn’t hear you crying in the night. It allowed her to sleep long and soundly, which made a big difference in how she felt all week.
Most of those nights, I wouldn’t put you back in the pack-‘n-play after I fed you in the middle of the night. I would just lay on my back on the couch, and situate you on your tummy right in the middle of my chest. We would both fall back asleep that way.
I would listen to your heart beat in perfect rhythm as I drifted off to sleep. Every squawk, every coo, every pee and every poo was a reminder of the gift you were to us.
Today is your last day in the single digits. You’ll be 10 tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more proud of you. You are such a smart, articulate, thoughtful and caring young man.
I love working and playing and laughing and thinking with you. I love how affectionate you are, that we still hug and kiss each other on the cheek every single night—even when the stubble on my cheek is prickly on your face and you say, "Ouch, dad!" You are such a delight.
Sometimes, when we’re having long talks about deep things, I have to hold back tears because it seems like yesterday that we welcomed you into the world. But here I am, in a real and beautiful and close relationship with you—my very own son.
I’m still listening to your heart. But now, you’re listening to mine, too. It's a privilege and a pleasure that's more wonderful than I could have ever asked or imagined.
I will always love you, son.