All day today I was thinking about where we were a year ago this day. In the hospital. Hooked up to monitors. Surrounded by nurses and midwives. I kept hearing women groaning and screaming in other rooms, followed by a baby crying. And it felt like you were taking so long to come out. When would I get to meet you? I looked out the window, it was dark. I looked again, there was a blizzard. Then the sun was pouring into the room and I pushed you out and you were quiet and blue for too long, but then pink and squirmy and in my arms.
Had I known better in the months I was pregnant, I would have thought more about having you in my life and worried less about the event of the birth. Sure, labour was a crazy couple of days, but then there you were in the world. And here you are, still, a year later, and everything has changed.
People go on about it so much, it is cliche, but when you have a child, you reinvent love. It is incomparable to anything I have felt before. Steadier and firmer than romantic love. More forgiving than self-love. One day when you become a teenager and we are driving each other mental and you yell at me: "Why did you even have me, anyway?" I will say: "To better know the hugeness of love and to be able to share it."
When we brought you home, you, your father and I spent two weeks in bed, just staring at you, at each other, and at you again. We could not stop squeezing you and smelling you and checking on you a thousand and one times to make sure you were still breathing.
I have always had a hard time maintaining eye contact with anyone, but I look into yours for hours a day. People say that in order for you to learn how to speak, we should be talking to you all the time, and I know they are right, but I can't help it: I love our silence together. You talk to me by putting your hands on my cheeks; passing me toys and nodding once, hard, like a Japanese businessman; feeding me cheerios; and looking up at me with delight when you figure something out. I squeeze your cheeks back, give you another piece of food, and nuzzle your sweet-smelling head. The other day, in the bath, you looked at me for ages, with an expression of such unfiltered love and trust, I started to cry.
How are you at one? You observe the whole world with a serious demeanour, but then you break the deadpan to do your silly dance, or let us in on your latest joke. You are very particular about music and when your favourite songs come on, you stare at the speaker and wag your head and bum back and forth. You have had a long stretch where the only people allowed to hold you were me and your dad, but that phase is ending. There have been moments where I felt that rather than giving birth to you, you had simply started to sprout from my hip, and we had become some mythological centaur-like creature.
You love anything with buttons and blinking lights. You scale and climb everything with agility, even though you have yet to walk. You love certain other babies, and dole out kisses or take their hands with incredible care. You have an awesome overhand throw - your favourite game is tossing or rolling balls back and forth. I knew I wanted to have a kid with your dad because one day at the beach he spent more than 2 hours in waist-deep water, throwing a frisbee back and forth, back and forth, with a huge, good-natured grin on his face.
You hold objects up to your ear to reveal their origin, like a seashell. You are not interested in being weaned - as soon as I come home you start pulling at my shirt and shouting. You love watching your baby sign language video, and you have recently started signing "diaper", "socks" and "monkey".
Life is harder in some ways this year: We worry more about the future . We almost never go out. I have not slept-in for a year. We rarely see our friends who have kids because, like us, they are at home every night, watching over their kids as they sleep. But I do not for a moment regret this. I have spent my whole life only seeing things for myself, and now there is so much more. Everything I thought I knew, I now know better:
Once day this past fall, we walked through the park with you in the stroller. The trees had new colours, my steps were crunchy and loud, a strong wind blew, and yellow leaves rained on us. And I noticed something. Instead of watching the leaves and socking away this feeling for myself, I turned to watch you watch the leaves. And while I am still me and you are still you, I will keep watching you watch the world. To know it better.
It's not quite midnight, but why wait any longer? Happy First Birthday, Gabriel.