People use this phrase all the time. Everything changed on September 11th. Everything changes once you're old enough to drink. Everything changes once you drive a Hemi. Everything changes once you listen to the Doors.
On May 31, 2005, everything changed for us.
I remember so much of that day, and the days leading up to it. I remember exactly where I sat and where R lay when she had the misoprostol treatments. I remember the restaurant on Capitol Hill where we ate our last formal meal pre-baby. The antiseptic smells of scrubs and clean towels. The bathtub where she tried using hot water to stem the pain of her contractions, to postpone the epidural just that much longer. The salmon from the cafe, the location of everything in the room - the tv, the bassinet, the sink, the bare padded area where I slept while my wife worked to bring our baby out of her body and into the world.
I remember seeing the crown of his head emerge, as magical as anything I have ever seen. I realized then the weight of creating another human being. We weren't just creating ultrasound pictures or something to put in the crib. We created a person, and here was his head, and here were his shoulders, and the umbilical cord caressed his throat gently, like the last kiss of a lover, and then the doctor's scissors snipped it away and he sprang out into the cold light of day. It was 5:32 am. It was a Tuesday. Today is Wednesday. We have gone fifty two weeks and one day since that magical moment, and today is the anniversary of his birth. It's his birthday.
I want to say that we were playing his lullaby CD, the one that's playing now as he slumbers in the next room. I could be wrong. We could have been playing James Taylor or Cat Stevens or Enya. But my heart wants it to have been that lullaby CD that welcomed him into the world.
The frightening first day I spent alone with him.
I remember so many trivial and hugely significant moments that splash against each other in my mind like ripples in a turbulent sea. I remember his tragically feline cries from those early early days, and I remember how much he slept as his body struggled to draw as much nourishment as he could. The desperation of those early days, until the lactation consultant came and taught R about latches and the satisfying clunk! of his swallows, and he began to feed in earnest. Then it all comes in cascading waves. Meconium diapers. Blankets. His play gym, and the way he would lay on his back and bat a fist at his little hanging frog.
Baths. Strolls in the Bjorn and in the various strollers. I remember the first time we went to the store in the Bjorn - he spit up on the padding and I didn't even notice until we entered the store and I saw the white patches against blue fabric. (I had nothing to clean him up with. I had to learn.) The first time I went to parenting class, feeling awkward and slightly desperate and wildly emotional in a room full of mothers who were equally emotional if not more.
More memories. Solid food. Smiles. Laughter. Tears and crying jags that evolved from catlike cries into real babylike sounds. (No less tragic.) Naps that were blissfully still and long, and naps that descended into chaos and tears on both sides. All of it.
I remember it all, and the things I don't remember sneak up on me unexpectedly. I remembered suddenly this morning how tiny his first diapers were, and how small his body was, like a doll.
I used to be so tired that I would fall asleep on the couch carrying him, and we would sleep together, sprawled together in a pile of fatigue. I fell asleep holding him that first day, sitting upright, and I startled myself awake with nightmare visions of how I could have dropped him, how I could have somehow slipped and had him tumble out of my hands. I don't believe that now. Even that first day, I was his father, and there was no force, not even my own exhaustion, that would have caused him to slip from my grasp.
Our boy is now a year old. 365 days ago, everything changed for us. My career changed. The way I looked at everything - television, food, baseball, alcohol, plastic, honey, electric fans, newspapers, everything - changed. My new world is exactly one year old, and I'm only starting to get used to it. He is the joy of my life, and the greatest thing I have ever been associated with.
Happy birthday, Oliver.