Today you turn three. I can hardly believe it.
I know, that sounds trite. But as I write this on the eve of your birthday – with you asleep next door in your big boy bed (the one you insist on showing every single person who comes into the house, and the same one you never want to sleep in alone at night) – I feel a little bit stunned. Three years!
This is the first photo taken of you when you were born:
Looking back, it tells me so much of what I now know about you. You’re not a huge fan of being taken away from your mama. You know exactly what you think and aren’t afraid to express it. You’re sensitive to your environment, but if you want to be the loud one, nothing can stop you.
As well, the expression on your face is one I’ve seen many a time since:
Something has happened in the last few months. I don’t know when, exactly, but you stopped being a baby. I know you’re not a baby and haven’t been for a while, but until recently I had moments every day where I caught a glimpse of baby in you. Each time I held on tightly, knowing it was a fleeting gift.
I’ve only just realized it, but it doesn’t happen every day anymore. Hardly at all, actually. Even last week when you were sick you didn’t stay stuck to me in the same way you did when you were sick only a couple of months ago. You’re growing up.
And I’m growing up with you. Since I’ve been off work the last couple of months, I’ve been working on getting better and for a long time Daddy was taking care of you. He was doing all the hard stuff that I couldn’t do at the time, like getting up with you in the mornings and trying to get you to eat breakfast, putting you down for naps, doing baths and bedtimes. For a short and very scary time I wondered if I would ever be able to do those things. It seems so silly, but I couldn’t do them. I was too sick and I needed to take care of myself before I could take care of you.
Over the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve started being mom again and doing some of those hard things that used to set me off when you didn’t cooperate. At first I had to talk Daddy into letting me do those things, to let him know it was okay and to assure him that I’d ask for help if I needed it. And we always had back-up. So many people have helped us over the last few weeks – I only wish I could repay them with something other than endless thanks and undying love. We owe Grandma especially for being here at times when I needed someone to do what I couldn’t do with my own child. Sometimes you just need your mom and I’m so grateful for mine. I hope I can always be there for you, for whatever you need, the way she is there for me.
We’re doing well, though, you and I. Which is not to say everything is easy, just that I can handle the hard stuff better now. And my darling boy, sometimes you are a holy terror. I can’t tell you how many times someone in public has commented on what a handful you are. If only they knew. I could do without the screaming fits and the meltdowns over seemingly insignificant things, but I know that’s part of who you are – a passionate, expressive person. (And you get that from me but don’t tell Daddy I acknowledged that.)
The past three years have changed my life in ways I never could have imagined, and for a long time things were so hard I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. I know what happened to me was hard for others as well. Your dad is really annoyed that I didn’t get the help I needed soon enough. In one way I’m sorry too, because it meant he had to deal with a lot of things I wish he hadn’t had to. I can’t change that now, but I do know how much he loves me and I know how much I love him because we’ve been through this together.
Mostly, though, I really don’t resent what I’ve experienced. It was awful – don’t get me wrong – and it’s not over yet. But I’ve learned so much from it – about you, about our family, about myself and about life. I now know just how much love and support we have, and that’s a powerful thing.
My experience with postpartum depression has also taught me that every one of us has something to give. We all have ways of helping someone. Of changing someone’s life, even. A few people have helped change mine, and I hope I can do that for someone else.
I have found new passions and new sources of inspiration that I never would have found if it weren’t for this, and no one can ever take that away from me. This insight is one of the biggest gifts I hope to offer you – to live your life fully, to do what you feel you’re meant to do, and to love and be loved in the process.
I will love you always and forever,