Nine years ago I held him for the first time and my heart melted. Nine years ago I felt a love so ferocious and complete that my heart has never quite been the same because of it.
Nine years ago, on March 27, 1999, my water broke at about 12:30 AM, and we rushed to the hospital like two fools with grins plastered to our faces. After a sixteen-hour labor (where Alex spent a good share of it looking up instead of down), back labor, an epidural, and a very scary hour where his heart rapidly decelerated with every contraction, with two pushes from me (and three doctors literally laying across my stomach, helping to push him from the outside), my baby, my Alexandar Drake was born. I was so sure he was going to be a girl that when the doctor announced, “He’s got boy parts!”, I thought for sure I had misheard, or perhaps that he was mistaken. (We had chosen to be surprised by the baby’s gender, and wow, was I ever!)
Nine years ago they placed this cone-headed, goopy-eyed little bundle into my arms, and my life was instantly better. Perfect. Complete. My miracle baby. The years of infertility struggles were no longer important. The fact that he looked like the squid baby Will Smith delivers in Men in Black (Really. I’m not kidding. He was all eyes and cone!) meant that I’d love him even more fiercely. He was mine. I was his. That was all that mattered. The doctor counseled, “Love him well. He’ll be your only one.” It was unnecessary- I loved this little 7 lb.-5 oz. baby more than I’d ever loved anything else in my life, and he was only minutes old. (It turns out the doctor was wrong about the “only one” thing, too, but we’ll get to that on Saturday.)
And, unfortunately, nine years ago I didn’t own a digital camera, so I can’t show you some of my favorite baby pictures of Alex. *cry*
There is so much more I could say about that day, but instead I’m going to share some of my favorite memories of Alex. Nine of them, in honor of his new age.
1. When I was pregnant, I used to read him stories. Always, every night for five months, we read Dr. Seuss’ ABC. After a few months of that, he started kicking in time to the cadence of the words. He also loved music and would kick in time to the beat.
2. Alex is a snuggler. When he was a newborn, he was so happy to be snuggled, he’d fall asleep and forget to eat. Nursing him became an olympic sport. (Undress him, change diaper, latch on, rub leg, tickle foot, jiggle, rub back, pull off, sit up, burp, latch on again, tickle foot, jiggle, rub back, etc.) He would have starved himself to death and done it happily, as long as he was being cuddled. He still loves to come and sit by me, or squeeze my arm, or lay his head on my shoulder. He still runs to give me a hug when I volunteer in his class, and he kisses me every night before he goes to bed and every morning when I drop him off at school.
3. The day we brought Alex home from the hospital, my husband went to get some dinner from Arctic Circle. I specifically requested a super-thick milkshake, and I’d only taken one bite when Alex woke up and needed his diaper changed. The minute his diaper came off, he peed a stream that arced neatly from the couch to the coffee table, directly into the domed lid of my shake. The postpartum tears of outrage and disgust gave way to laughter, and eventual hysterics. It still makes me grin to think that my three-day-old baby had such good aim.
4. From the age of two, Alex’s favorite toys were an old pink pocket dictionary I used in junior high and a big-button calculator. He carried them around everywhere. My brothers, in a brilliant plot to circumvent the outlawed use of the word “stupid”, looked it up in the pocket dictionary and taught him to say “mentally slow” instead. They also taught him to use “ancient” to describe his grandma, and “feces” to describe a book about birds that had a lengthy chapter on eating and digestion. (In all fairness, I preferred “feces book” to its original title: “the go-poop book”. Remember, it was a book about Cockatiels. *sigh*) I got them back, though. I taught Alex to declare that Uncle Kevin and Uncle Konnon taught him all the naughty things. He also told everyone they teased him because they loved him. It was such sweet revenge.
5. Alex has a liver disease, and we spent lots and lots of time at Primary Children’s Hospital for testing and procedures. All of the doctors and nurses loved his good nature and chubby cheeks, and commented on how funny it was for a toddler to cry at the sight of needles, scream at the top of his lungs during the blood draws, and then take a deep breath and say “Thank you” when they were through.
6. Alex has always had a large vocabulary, but he couldn’t always say the words correctly. I used to break them up in syllables so he could repeat them a little at a time. (For example, “dictionary” would be dick*shun*air*ee, and then I’d say the full word.) One day while I was making lunch, he and Kendra were sitting in their high chairs and he was trying to teach her to say the word “ambulance”. He said, “Kendra, you say ‘am*bo*lunce’. ‘Ambolance‘. Now you say it.” He was three; she was two. I giggled, gently corrected both of them, and Alex cried, “Oh, I’m so embarrassed!”
7. He LOVES stuffed animals, and he has at least 50 of them. (Most are Beanie Baby-sized.) He remembers ALL of their “official” names, and when he was younger, he slept on an eight-inch strip of mattress so his animals had enough room next to him. After we started enforcing a three-animal-at-a-time rule, he created a meticulous mental inventory of each animal’s “turn” on his bed, and he still rotates them weekly, giving them all their fair and equal turns.
8. He is really, really, REALLY smart. Super smart. Way-beyond-his-age-and-grade-level smart. When he was in Kindergarten, I was working with each student in the hall, helping them to pass off their letter sounds. For some reason, he struggled with the “short i” sound, so I started giving him examples like lip or pig or hit. “Or like illustrate?” he asked. Yes, Alex. Exactly like illustrate.
9. As smart as he is, he’s still very innocent. The year I turned 30 (he was in Kindergarten then, too), just a few days before my birthday, he asked me how old I’d be. I told him I’d be turning thirty. “Thirty?” he exclaimed, a look of horror on his face. “I didn’t know people could turn that old!” I asked him how old he thought his grandma and grandpa were. “I don’t know… not thirty!”
10. He was fascinated by the moon from about nine months old. Every time we went somewhere and it was dark, he had to point it out to us. He used to wake up in the middle of the night and ask to see it, maybe to be sure it was still in the sky. We would bundle up in a blanket and step on the front porch to find it, then he’d giggle, clap his hands and snuggle into me. I miss looking for the moon. I miss my little guy, but I’m proud of the boy he is, and the young man he’s becoming. (And for anyone who’s counting, yes, I know that’s ten. How about “one to grow on”? *grin* )
So there you have it. There’s my sweet, lovable, special gift-from-God son. My heart hurts with love for him. I am so blessed to be his mother, and so humbled to have been entrusted to care for him in this life.
I love you, Doodlebug. You’re my little man. You always will be, even when you’re 80. Think Love You Forever. Just don’t make me read it, because you know it makes me cry.