This week marks Henry’s third birthday. Three years ago, I was massively and painfully pregnant. Everything hurt and nothing helped. I had no idea what to expect and I had no idea the crazy adventure I was in for. I just wished for a healthy baby and to not be pregnant anymore.
I’m not exactly sure Henry was interested in being born. He was apparently very cozy where he was, upside down and backwards with his foot stuck behind his ear. At 10 pounds, 4 ounces with a 15 centimeter head as well, there was no way my stubborn child was coming into this world without an intense amount of medical intervention.
The day Henry was born, I wished for a gentle c-section, where the baby is immediately placed on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin, much like in a vaginal birth. Before the surgery started, the doctor asked me if I wanted him “while he’s still slimy” and I enthusiastically agreed.
Henry was born at 8:01 AM on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.
I think somewhere around 7:53, I realized something was wrong. My doctor sounded very calm when she instructed the nurses to retrieve the medical vacuum and that he would be going “over there” (the newborn-size cot across the operating room where the NICU clinicians were standing by) when he came out.
He did not cry once before he was taken to the NICU, but the clinicians were able to get him stable enough for me to see him for just a minute.
This is the first photo of me and my sweet Henry, and it remains my favorite. I could already tell in that moment that his soul was ancient and we were in for an incredible adventure.
At three weeks postpartum, I brought my sweet boy to our spiritual home for the first time. I realized later that his first experience at Westside came on the 5th anniversary of my official affiliation with the church. I realized even later that nothing ever happens by chance or coincidence.
I sat down with the minister that day and picked a date for Henry’s dedication ceremony at Westside, because I wished for him to grow up in the most loving and nurturing spiritual environment I knew.
Henry was dedicated on May 1, 2016. His dedication ceremony was the first Unitarian Universalist ceremony and service that I organized, with the help of Google and the minister from our church.
My sweet baby turned 1 in 2017, six months after I decided to go back to school for nursing. I did not want to be a nurse, but I also did not want to wait tables for the rest of my life. I wished the best possible future for Henry, and that included me completing my education.
I was about six months sober for Henry’s second birthday. I went way overboard for his party, renting the church and inviting all of our friends and family and the entire congregation. I wished for Henry to see, even if he probably could not yet understand, just how many people love him.
We celebrated Henry’s third birthday this past weekend. It was so much fun and relatively less stress than it has been the last couple years. He’s starting to understand things like birthdays and holidays and he was so excited for so many of our friends to join us in celebration.
I forgot to tell him to make a wish when he blew out the candles, but we’ll try again on his actual birthday this weekend. I didn’t make a wish either, because all of the wishes I can concretely identify right now either have come true or are in the process of coming true.
I don’t have to wish for a support system, because I have best friends who have been by my side since I was 19 and have helped me find hope over and over and over again.
I don’t have to wish for love, because love is the most abundant thing in my life.
I don’t have to wish for a community or a sense of purpose, because I have those, too. The day after Henry’s birthday party, I got to help with a service at our home church, trying my hand at my future career in a small, but significant way.
I don’t have to wish for wellness or clarity or peace of mind because I have it all. I have it all because somewhere along the way, between going back to school for Henry, getting sober for Henry, and committing over and over again to doing everything I can to serve his best interest, something amazing happened: I came to love myself and operate in my own best interest, too.
I honestly mean it when I say all of the positive changes I’ve made in my life would have been worth it if I had just done them for him. He is worth every challenge, every white-knuckle moment I pray for cravings to pass, every tear, and every hard-earned triumph.
I don’t think I can ever do justice to the gratitude I feel for my beautiful son. I don’t think there are words eloquent enough to convey the absolute marvel of the universe that he is.
Without a doubt, Henry saved me from a path of self-destruction. He softened my heart, opened my eyes, and lit the path to pieces of my soul I thought had died. He brought me back to life just by existing – all before he even learned to speak.
It is spectacular and astounding to me that I now get to experience all of the love, joy, and peace that I have always wished for him, and knowing my headstrong, stubborn, compassionate, and wise child, it’s all been just a part of his plan.