It’s just before dawn a couple days before Christmas. It’s not quite raining outside – it’s more like a consistent, cold mist. A soft, yellow glow pulsates through the room from the faux-flickering candles my mother-in-law has placed in all the windows as part of her Christmas decorations.
It’s just before dawn and I’ve already been awake for some time. Little Foot woke up around 3 in the morning and instead of returning him to his crib when he fell back to sleep, I snuggled him tightly to my chest. I have one hand gently on his upper back feeling the ebb and flow of his sleepy breath while my other hand is resting on top of King Ranch’s who is deeply asleep next to me.
It’s just before dawn and I am crying. I’m not sobbing or heaving, but a constant stream of tears have been leaving cold, wet trails down my face. I’ve adjusted my head so that the tears drop off of my chin instead of dampening Little Foot’s curls. I’m crying because at this moment exactly one year ago today, we were within the hour of meeting Little Foot for the first time.
It’s just before dawn and I’m remembering King Ranch’s strength on that night and morning a year ago today. I’m remembering that despite the fact he hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and I was a hot mess of emotions, pain, and fear, King Ranch smiled every single time he looked at me that night. It wasn’t a pity or forced smile. Not even once. It was an ‘I’m with you’ smile. A ‘you’re beautiful’ smile. A ‘you got this and I got you’ smile. I sink my fingers between King Ranch’s – he doesn’t flinch.
It’s just before dawn and I smile because I’m thinking of my mom. The night Little Foot was born, my mom told me that she paced the hallways around my room over and over and stopped every nurse she could find to get an update. I smile because I can see my mom – her little sweat pants and tennis shoes pacing around and around. She gets this face when she’s excited but nervous: it’s not quite a smile and not quite a frown. It’s tension. Her tongue is probably crammed against the roof of her mouth and her teeth are probably clenched shut. But her brow isn’t furrowed when this face happens. Instead, her eyes twinkle behind perma-tears. I giggle a bit and think about sending her a text.
It’s just before dawn and I’m trying to come up with a word to describe the feeling that washed over me the moment I laid eyes on Little Foot for the first time. I can’t find the right word. I just remember seeing his eyes and crumbling. I remember that I couldn’t talk, but managed instead to make some sound that was between an ‘ooh’ and an ‘ahh’ as I reached out for him. I remember that at that moment, the world would never be the same – not just for King Ranch and me – but the whole world. The whole world shifted a tiny bit that night. I remember being torn because I wanted the world to know him, but I also wanted him to be only mine for a little while longer. The nurse placed him on my bare chest right after he was born. I swear that in that moment that our skin touched for the very first time, our two souls reached out of our two bodies and embraced one another in an electric explosion of trust, connectedness, and immeasurable love. I can’t come up with the right word. The right word, I believe, lies somewhere in between bliss, joy, magic, infinity, alabaster, neon, and squee.
It’s just before dawn and indeed, it is darkest before dawn. It’s as if the night is giving us just one more moment to rest and prepare for what is always, always, an unpredictable day. This night one year ago, the world had no idea the light that would be entering it just after sunrise. Every single day for the past year has been better than the previous. Every single sunrise has brought surprise.
It’s just before dawn and I think I found the word: gratitude. I am filled with gratitude for this past year. I am grateful for my loving husband. I am grateful for my beautiful baby boy. I am grateful for our families and the unending support they’ve extended to us. I am grateful for the opportunity to love this deeply. I am grateful for the breath that is moving in and out of all of our lungs. I am grateful. I am so grateful.
Happy first birthday, my beautiful baby boy. This world is so much better with you in it. And your mom and dad are so grateful.