Monday, December 24, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

Reason #45 why it sucks to have a birthday in December: Your birthday party can always get cancelled by a blizzard.

After suffering for years under the tyranny of a December birthday, I swore I would never, EVER have a baby in that month. And then there was Emerson....

This year we celebrated his big 1st birthday and we attempted to have a party for our Michigan clan on December 16. When we woke up that morning, however, we were greeted with 10-12 inches of blowing snow, a lot of unhappy phone calls to make, and a lot of extra food to eat before going out of town in only three days. I was disappointed after the work and money we put into pulling the party together, but at least Emerson didn't know the difference. We ended up spending the day visiting with friends who lived close by, eating cake, and then watching all the video we had made of Emerson throughout the past year - from the birth (it still makes me wince) to his first bites of solid food.

The video was bittersweet in many ways. It was fun to see him grow and change and do his adorable baby things, but it also brought back memories of how painful and frightening those first few months were. Although we still have struggles - the occassional rude stranger staring at us or our frustration as we try to get him caught up on milestones - but the worst of it is definitely over. In fact, we hardly even think about his vision any more! He is making eye contact, inspecting everything in sight, and generally acting like a normal (albeit extremely goofy) baby. I know his vision will become an issue again when he starts walking, but for now things are pretty darn good.

The most important thing is that Emerson gave me the only birthday present I asked for....he learned to crawl on all fours!!!! He started practicing on the 16th in front of our friends, but then took definitive steps forward the next day. When I saw him do it across the room, I danced around the room with him singing a triumphant "Hail to the Chief!" Now we can start working on walking. he he he

Anyway, we are in Utah now visiting family for the holidays. Emerson got a chance to have his own birthday party at last (it was technically a joint party for me, my sister and Emerson, but we all knew who the real star of the show was). Grandma went all out on the food and decorations as always, including getting a nice big cake for Emerson. He was a little scared of it and unfortunately refused to dig in, but he was more than happy to eat it off my fingers.

This time of year is always filled with birthdays and holidays for our family, but it also tends to be the time of year when emotional events happen. I won't regale you with the whole list, but suffice it to say that the past three have been particularly emotional.

Right before my birthday two years ago, we found out that our first pregnancy was ending in miscarriage. On Christmas Eve a week later, I had just undergone surgery due to the miscarriage and we were in Utah for our annual visit. My parents always work on Christmas Eve, so Robbie and I drove to our old church downtown for the midnight service. Before we even got there, the pain killers had worn off and I was doubled up in agony. We were meeting some friends there, so I told Robbie to go ahead while I tried to pull myself together in the bathroom. I ended up spending most of the time in the cold, tiled room listening to the service over the speakers. I did my best to imagine the beautiful, candle-filled sanctuary as the congregation sang carols and the velvet-voiced minister gave his holiday homily. Then he talked about how Christmas can bring up painful memories as well as happy ones. He ended by asking people to come up and light a candle for all those loved ones they had lost this year, so I imagined Robbie lighting a candle for our baby.

When we got into the car to go home afterward, I asked Robbie if he lit a candle and he said yes. I cried all the way home.

A year later during my birthday, I was in the midst of labor and wondering if I would ever meet this baby. When he was born early the next morning, the significance of the timing wasn't lost on me. We were all so, so grateful to finally have our baby. A few days later, we attended the Christmas Eve service in our home church. The minister stopped his homily to hold up the newborn Emerson for the whole congregation to see, but he slept peacefully and was completely oblivious to the "oohhs" and "aahhhs." When we sang "Silent Night," I looked down at him and cried.

This year during my birthday, I watched a much bigger Emerson try out his new crawling skills and jibber jabber away. A year ago it didn't seem real that I had a son, but even after all this time it still hasn't sunk in! Now it's Christmas Eve again and a thick blanket of snow has prevented us from going to midnight service. Instead, my baby is fast asleep in the next room and I am here getting all sentimental.

It's exciting and a little scary to think where we'll be this time next year and all the changes in store for us. But for now, I'm just grateful for how far we've come.

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