That morning, as the sun filtered in through the window of my mother’s 100 year old home in Indiana, all of us snuggled under the covers in the big bed and wished you a happy birth day. Your sisters’ hair, all mussed from a deep night’s sleep, and your brother’s incandescent smile beaming like a beacon. And me and your Daddy laughed because you giggled at the silliness of all of this; how you choose to join a family that often farts at the dinner table and sings “All About the Bass” to get you to stop crying in the car. And you’ve learned how to “fake” laugh in time with your siblings, as your eyes move around the room at each family member, gauging what the heck is really going on. Yep, the Laughing Buddha is pretty much you to a tee.
It was the first time I was ever not in one of my babies’ places of birth for the first birthday. I began grieving this even before your birthday came; knowing I wouldn’t be pacing the dark floors of our desert home on the eve of your birthday; knowing I wouldn’t sink into the deepest and warmest of baths like I did that night of your birth; knowing the light wouldn’t appear to be “just right”, just the same as it was that perfect night you were born. I wanted to remember, to recreate, to recount as this is my way of returning to the mystery of birth. This is the way I always honor.
I retrace my steps, my breaths, my heartbeat, my moans and mantras and songs of labor. I wanted to submerge again and recall what it felt like to feel your fuzzy head under my palms as I pushed you out into the water and how I slid my hands under your tiny shoulders as I pulled you to the surface. I wanted to turn off the lights, flick on the salt lamp, strike a match to the candles, and pour holy water from Lourdes into my bath just like I did on that night of welcoming.
But I didn’t. And instead the rain fell on the cold soil of the home my mama grew up in and the home I visited my grandparents in. The rain held our story that night and that morning. And we held you.
And so, I will strain the bits of your placenta from a tincture my beloved friend crafted the day after your birth and begin the ritual of taking placenta medicine. It has been soaking for a year; potent as my heart that is so full of you.
Julien, you hug people. Reach out and literally embrace them around their necks and shoulders. And often, you offer a little “pat, pat, pat” on their back and snuggle down into the spot on their chest that feels comfortable. Your affection is a thing of beauty to witness. Thank you for reminding me that the most powerful thing is free, even if it’s sometimes hard.
Today, as I held your crying brother on one knee, and you on the other, you reached out and hugged him. You patted his back and hugged him again for a long while, leaning your head into his chest as his soft tears fell. You drew your head back and looked into his face and reached your hand out to touch his tears. He was instantly comforted. Your Knowing is a gift.
You chatter all day long. You say “hot”, “Kaia”, “Dada”, “Mama”, and “Nigh Nigh” and utter little garbled words that we translate. Next to loving, eating is something you do best. You’ve met few foods you don’t love. However, you refuse to sit in your high-chair seat and so you often just stand and eat.
You still aren’t quite walking, though you occasionally decide to take a few steps. You have done a sort of Army crawl for many months now and it’s pretty awesome. You sleep well between me and Daddy, dream-waking a time or two to nurse, and then wake up as happy as a clam.
Your interests are bikes, wheels, anything that spins, Duplo blocks, plugging things in and out, opening and climbing on the dishwasher and playing with the dishes, messing with computers, riding in my Ergo baby carrier, and stirring/mixing pretend foods in pots and pans.
Julien, you are such simple joy. You exude warmth and kindness and the twinkling bliss of the stars. You are our Mr. Fudge, our chubbiest little hefty baby who never gives us a bit of trouble. You’ve logged five flights in your short year and do well with traveling. You are the sweetest companion in life and again and again I thank you for choosing us.
May you always remember the unfettered and eager love this family showers upon you. May you be steadfast in glee and open of heart. May life’s challenges give you pause and a deeper understanding of your ability to do hard things.
May your body memory always bring you back to that candlelit night you tumbled from the holy water into my arms, your siblings wide-eyed with wonder for this new little person named Julien Atlas. You have always been wanted and welcomed and worthy.
And you always will be, oh infinite guiding light.
I love you,