Auden, my darling son.
You are a year old today, a length of time that is as meaningful as it is arbitrary.
We like it when things come full circle; we like to point at a map and say, I was here.
And so I was. We were. A year ago I was entreating you to come out, so exhausted of sleeping on my side, and of heartburn, and of the hugeness of you inside me. I promised you lots of kicking room, I ate spicy food, I cried. And then, when you were ready, you came, and you became our son.
I had a dream a long time ago about you, except in that dream your name was Bella and you were also my lover. The telling seems perverse, but I must have known somehow that my love for you would be that fierce, so intimate and raw and consuming.
We are creatures: in the most primal acts we discover our capacity for the divine. In those early days after you were born, I smelled like blood and you smelled like blood and we were irrevocably linked, my body still your home and your body finding equilibrium among the light and the dry air.
Over these months the seed of you has sprouted -- your personality is unmistakable -- and as much as I try to teach you about words and sleeping and what not to touch, it is you teaching me how to unfold, be patient, stay open to new growth.
Sometimes I worry that I am not enjoying you enough, the way you are at this very moment, because every moment is changing. My heart aches and I can't bear to think of you as a toddler, as a teenager, as a grown man with a baby of your own. I told you all of this when you were seven months old, back when that seemed like eons since those huge bleary incomparable days of your newborn-ness.
And so I want to preserve it all, like every parent does, in words and pictures and force of will, the feeling of you being my son. The things I love:
The very boy-shape of your head, the way you point and ask "ah? ah?" and I know what you mean, the way you are thrilled with yourself for learning to blow your whistle, the way you love books now and wait for the tiger pages so you can growl, the way you are too busy to eat in your chair and so take your food on the run like a pint-sized marathoner, the pursed-lip face of concentration you get when you're screwing the cap on and off, on and off, on and off the water bottle, the way you insist on still biting my chin with affection (even though now you have teeth).
Last week you even slept through the night, three nights in a row, all on your own. I really love that.
In this past year I haven't been able to finish a book, or a painting, or most of my sentences half the time. I have felt panicked, delirious, wise, giddy, angry, and damn strong -- often in the same day. I have felt debilitated by the exhaustion, and the weight of being your non-stop everything. I have felt resentful of the marionette strings of domesticity, I have felt constricted by your nap schedule (or lack thereof), I have felt unfairly wrenched out of my former life as a book-finishing, painting-finishing, out-to-dinner going, lazy-Sunday-morning-breakfast-eating, witty-conversation-having, quiet-observing non-parent.
You changed everything.
I traded all those things for the unalloyed pleasure of silky baby skin, staggering-drunk-zombie baby walk, exquisite staccato baby laugh, the inquisitive impatient wiggling goofy gorgeous go-go-go of YOU.
So I celebrate your first year, and my having survived it. Happy Birthday, sweetness.