Ever since yesterday morning, the day before E’s birthday, I’ve been tracking the hours of labor. A long day at work was only 1/3 of the total labor time. I got home and had dinner and though, wow. I was just getting into the thick of it. Last night, E was kind of agitated, waking up more than usual. It felt like an echo of the night before he was born, reminding me of how much time 28 hours really is.
And then, this morning, the light. When daylight started creeping over the horizon that day, I finally had the urge to push, and the sun rose with my triumphant pushing that baby out with every ounce of strength I had. And I recognized that light, being in the same city at the same time, only two years later, I had a muscle memory for how that day felt, and I felt it again.
E woke up giggling. He definitely doesn’t understand birthdays but does know the song and sings it for anyone or anything he likes. One time a cashier gave him stickers and the whole way home he was singing, “Happy birthday, Target!”
I let him know it was his day and he understood in the way toddlers understand things, which is to say deeply but not logically. He got blueberry pancakes on a Thursday. He got to watch “Baby Shark Doo Doo Doo” while I took a shower. He said, “No school, Mommy. Playground.”
But, yes, we have to go to school! I made two gluten-free, nut-free zucchini breads and you need to celebrate with your friends.
Driving to school, I looked up at UCSF on Mount Zion, visible from all the neighborhoods around it. The light. The day. We were within an hour of his birth time. I glanced back at this long boy sitting in his forward-facing car seat and remembered that new, never exactly little but much littler, baby. And that incredible joyful high.
I dropped him at school and the director suggested I stay to sing happy birthday and do candles right then. E sat framed by lots of kids sitting obediently and watching the festivities. He wore a party hat and looked very serious. P lit the candles on the zucchini bread and we sang Feliz cumpleaños and I encouraged E to blow out the candles, which he didn’t (so I did). Then each kid gave him a hug. He was concentrating hard, trying to figure out what was happening, and probably mostly puzzled about why I was still there.
It was his birth time. I was crying. P hugged me twice and said she understood. I said- I just didn’t realize how much the moms feel it!
And all day today I felt it.
At the end of the day, the teachers gave me an art project that all the kids made for E today- their colorful handprints, each with a name next to it. In the middle, it says “Feliz cumpleaños, E” and the teachers signed “con amor.”
Then we went to the windy playground, since that was his wish. With burritos. Then we facetimed with family and ate ice cream on the kitchen floor.
As he fell asleep tonight, I thought about our first night together after his birth, in a little room looking out at a forest of beautiful trees. I had no idea that a little creature could keep you up so much of the night. I didn’t think there would be so much nursing before the milk came in. I thought the bassinet was there to hold the baby but he was having none of that. And the hospital bed didn’t feel safe for cosleeping. So I found myself laying awkwardly at the foot of the bed with him perched, sleeping, on my chest. The doctor came in at some point to check me, and I thought she would reprimand me. She gasped and said I looked like a birth goddess.
They kept asking me if I had any pain, and I kept saying, “No, I’m just so happy!” Like the kind of happy that makes you forget your pain.
And life flows on. What a gift. So many wishes for his life and gratitude for all that we have.
Happy birthday, cuckoo bird! More partying on Saturday with a bunch of two-year-olds! xoxoxoxo