Tuesday, November 4, 2014

on the eve of your first birthday

Caleb Gordon Steven Kiger, less than a day old.

My Sweet Pumpkin Baby,

Where did the time go? Tomorrow you will be one. One whole year grown. Meanwhile I've grown another decade in that same slice of time.

Your first months here feel like a dream I can't quite remember. The days and weeks and moments blur together, and you as a tiny, stationary baby has become so... intangible. Even harder to recall is the person I was, or thought I was. 

Your birth was the meeting of a miracle. Everything went so blessedly according to plan. Perhaps it was easier for this to happen when the plan was simply: Have a baby. Without drugs, preferably in the water. Be open to changes as the situation warrants. 

That was it, and that's what happened. How lucky we were that no changes were necessary, and to have such capable people around us. This, I now know, is rare. 

I was on top of the world after you were born, Caleb. I felt like I could've climbed Everest. (Not right at that moment, of course, as in reality I could hardly walk; but more as a general concept: It just seemed so incredibly possible.)

Someday I'll write for you the story of the day you were born. I read so many of these kinds of stories before my labor and delivery, and it helped to reinforce what I already knew: That women's bodies were made for this, and that babies are born all sorts of places in all sorts of ways. I knew it would be OK. The Biggest Deal of All--your birth--was, in fact, no big deal.

I wasn't afraid, Caleb. I kept waiting to be scared, but it never happened. I actually looked forward to giving birth. Finally going to the hospital, after a month of false starts, was my "on the airplane" moment. Someday you'll travel on a plane, and you may come to know, as I have, the relief that sets in when you're finally nestled in your seat about to take off. No more planning or packing to be done, no more worrying about whether you'll make your flight on time, or how long the security lines are going to be. It's just you and an hour or two or ten to enjoy the journey. 

I knew labor would probably feel like that for me, too. Nowhere to go, nothing to do but breathe, be, and hopefully enjoy the experience.

And I enjoyed it so, so much, dear one. The pain was excruciating towards the end, but I kept hearing my yoga teacher's voice in my head: "Feel the pain, say OK, then push anyway." The pushing was the hardest part, a burning sprint to the finish at the end of an all day marathon. I thought it would go faster than it did, but in the end it didn't matter. Suddenly you were on my chest, every glorious ounce of you. With a blink and a wail, your daddy and I turned the page of our life story to begin a chapter of profound change. We were parents. Just like that.

Cabey Baby, you can't understand this now, but your dad and I are returning to our Catholic faith after years (and for him, a lifetime) away. We want to be able to give this foundation to you. And oh, sweet boy--how you love church. You love the people and the statues and the singing. You always try to talk to the crucifix, and you love conversing with the painting of the Holy Family that hangs on the north wall of the transept. One day, though, you'll learn what has caused so many to abandon ship: The Church isn't perfect, and sometimes it can hurt people. 

I hope you stay anyway. 

Because nothing run by humans will ever be perfect. This doesn't make it worthless. 

To be human is to make mistakes, and to be alive is to experience suffering. Sometimes the pain is so great that we think we'll die from the weight of it. But miraculously, we keep going, one foot in front of the other, one breath at a time; and eventually we notice moments of grace and joy and peace and beauty in our midst. People hurt one another, and yet even those that hurt you remain worthy of love. Those that cause the most pain are usually hurting even more deeply themselves.

This, Cabey--this is what the life of Jesus Christ represents. The grace in the suffering, the freedom in the sacrifice. I hate that you are going to live through pain and darkness and hardship. But know this: You will always, always, always be worthy of the light on the other side, and I will love you no matter what. There is nothing you can say or do or be that will ever diminish my love for you. You are my son, but more importantly you are a child of God. Any fear or pain this world conjures up has already been conquered, and in that there is such hope.

You are still so much "closer to the source" than the adults that love you, and I pray you're able to stay that way. To stay vulnerable in the face of heartbreak, and brave in the face of defeat. You are so much more than the sum of your earthly parts. You are perfectly imperfect, made in and of Love--and baby? I'm just so glad you're here. You and Jesus, Caleb--both pieces I never knew were missing, until you helped bring me to one another. Your birth was a kind of birthday for me, too, in more ways than one.

So happy, happy, happy first birthday, my darling boy. And because I can't say it enough: I love you.


Your mama