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A Letter To My Son For His First Birthday: It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This

Dearest Keanu,

When the sun rises tomorrow morning, you’ll be one year old. The past 365 days went faster than any other year of my life. Between you and your wild sister, each day has blurred into the next, filled with milestones, missteps, and memories. Our family has felt so complete with you in it. I am truly grateful for the precious gift of your life every day. Your smile has had a magical way of pulling me out of the darkest places over the past year, as I struggled to find my footing as a working mother of two. Thank you so much for trusting me to be your mom.

When we wake up tomorrow morning, I don’t have a present for you to unwrap or a bundle of balloons to march into the bedroom with. We won’t be having a bunch of friends and family over or a photoshoot of you devouring your first smash cake. I know you won’t know the difference because you’re still so little, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Your first birthday is my birthday too, you know? It's our celebration because you and I worked together to bring you earthside. The night before I went into labor I told you, "I'm ready now," and you listened. You were ready to meet me too…and your daddy and your sister.

I had been planning your first birthday party since the beginning of this year. I was so excited that your actual birth date was on a Saturday because that meant that all of the most important people in your life would more likely be able to make it. I wanted to go all out for your first birthday because it’s also my last. Of course, you’ll have a hundred more birthdays and parties in your lifetime, but this year is the last “first” for me. You’re my last child, your birth was my final delivery, and this one-year milestone is sentimental to me for those reasons.

So, you’re probably wondering why all the people we love aren’t coming over and why I sound so sad. Well, this is also a first…You’ve been kept at home for the past three weeks. Except for a couple of trips to the dance studio and the store, where you’ve been securely kept in your car seat, you’ve been at home. We’ve been in quarantine. What does that mean exactly, and why?

Well, there’s this big virus lurking around near where we live. In fact, it’s all over the world right now, but a lot where we live. And people are getting really sick, so sick that they’re dying. So, we’ve stayed home and done everything we can to stay healthy. We’re protecting you and your sister, we’re protecting ourselves, and we’re protecting others around us in our community who maybe aren’t as strong or as healthy as we are – friends, neighbors, even grandma and grandpa. So, we can’t have the party I had planned. No one can come over. Grandma and grandpa have stopped by, but we’ve only been able to say “hi” to them through our glass window because we might have germs we can’t see that could get them sick. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Your sister and I made you cupcakes today. They're vanilla coconut and sweetened with maple syrup, and they don't have any gluten or dairy, so hopefully, they won't give you an eczema flareup. We hope you like them. Your sister wants to make blue frosting in the morning to top them with, but I'll probably only let you have a tiny lick of it. I want to go buy you a balloon, but we’ve been avoiding public places like grocery stores…everyone has. It’s the new normal.

Our plan is to drive out to the mountains where your auntie and uncle have property. There’s nothing there, but that’s exactly the point. We'll light a candle and sing to you. Your sister will help you blow it out, and I'll probably cry. You're almost walking, but it'll be too rocky up there for you to practice. You're really good at High-5's but those are off-limits right now too. Daddy and I will give you as many as you want since nobody else can. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

I know you’re confused about why grandma can’t come hold you, and we’re all worried about if you’ll even recognize who grandpa is anymore. When we FaceTimed with them the other day, you had a perplexed look on your face when you saw him through the screen. Grandma and grandpa used to come over every Tuesday to watch you and your sister while daddy and I went to work, but it has now been over a month since they were here last. It's amazing, the time we take for granted when having it is no longer a privilege.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, which makes me angry and sad. I haven’t been able to sleep lately, but you and I sleep together. I never got around to sleep training you like we did with your sister, and now I’m so thankful. Having you close next to me every night gives me a false sense of hope that somehow, I can protect you a little longer from this big, scary world. But my biggest hope for you is that the world you grow up in isn’t scary at all! I hope it’s exciting, full of opportunity and wonderment. I hope you feel connected and surrounded by love. I hope that viruses like this are a thing of the history books and not a new normal for your generation. And I hope that every birthday you have after this is a big gathering, with High-5’s, hugs, and happiness.

I want you to know that it’s not all darkness right now. The first day of spring was this week, and it has been beautiful. We’ve been enjoying the sunny days with family walks and playtime outside. We’ve played a lot this week, and for the first time in forever your sister even said, “I love my brother so, so much!” You’ll come to learn that that’s a big deal. We’ve been cooped up together, and there’s one thing that stands out – we really like each other and we really love you. You're sweet and strong, and funny; you're determined, and smart, and make your voice heard loudly (and we can get pretty loud in our house). You’ve had a few tantrums recently, which so blatantly reminds me that you’re on your way to toddlerhood, and I still can’t believe how fast it has all gone.

I remember what it felt like the first time I saw you, and when I lay down next to you to go to sleep tonight, I’m going to kiss your sweet head and breathe in every single smell because tonight’s your last night as a baby. I’ll probably soak my pillow with tears mourning the loss of time gone by, but maybe, just maybe, it was all supposed to be this way.

I love you, my son. Happy Birthday.

Forever and Always,


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