In the weeks leading up to Charlie’s arrival, I physically craved seeing him. I felt his bops and kicks, and even saw him move around in there sometimes, but I so desperately wanted to see his face. We only had one sonogram during my pregnancy, and those ten minutes of barely blinking as I started at the sonographer’s screen weren’t nearly enough. I cried to Dave during those last few weeks, a mess of hormones and nesting and overwhelm and summer heat. I wanted my baby out of my belly and in my arms.
And then, after 18 hours of labor, there he was—a silhouette against the midwife’s bright light. I don’t remember if he made a sound or what anyone in the room said—I just remember hearing myself say “oh my gosh” and then feeling his tiny body on my chest. He was so little and soft and fragile, and I loved him, and I loved the way his daddy looked at me and at him.
But, he also felt a little bit like a stranger. How could someone who was literally part of my body for nine months, and whose every movement I had felt, be a stranger?
I hadn’t been around a newborn since my youngest sister was born, over twenty years before, and I’m sorry to say that I have no memories of her (or my two other siblings) when they were babies. I wish I did. While I was pregnant, I took a breastfeeding class and looked up how to change a diaper on YouTube, and I had What to Expect: The First Year sitting on my nightstand for reference. While Charlie certainly didn’t have an expert to tend to him, Dave and I slowly figured out how to feed him and change him and give him baths over the sink. The nurses must have felt we were doing okay, because on his due date, two days after his actual birthday, we buckled Charlie into his car seat (though we did have to re-watch the instructional video on my phone in the hospital parking lot) and drove through college football game day traffic back to our house. And just like that, we had totally new lives.
Slowly, as days and feedings and smiles and diaper changes and tentative outings and long walks and the intoxicatingly sweet new baby smell that is just as good as I had heard it was went by, we got to know Charles Kolbe, the precious boy God has chosen for us and us for him. We learned that he liked being held facing outward, his hippo pacifier, going outside, his bouncy seat. He did not like napping and it kind of turned my world upside down.
As he grew, we learned he loves books and had a knack for identifying letters early on. We learned he has a handful of allergies and tried not to let it dash all of the dreams we had of moments made special by dairy products. We learned he is sensitive like me and charming like Dave. That he loves animals, sports, transportation of any kind, and Jesus. We learned he is sweet and whip-smart, playful and funny, clingy and affectionate, determined and focused. We learned he is, most of all, his own person, his own soul, his own everything…and that while he feels so intensely mine, I’ll never know everything about him. That is humbling.
This is the year our baby became a toddler, and when I think back on the tiny, dark-haired infant we brought home from the hospital two years ago, it’s hard to believe that the little boy who requests books by name, runs down the hall yelling “Fast Charlie!”, throws a ball with better accuracy than I do, gives the best sloppy kisses, and knows a semi-choreographed dance to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is the same person. This is the year we’ve found our rhythm, he and I. His personality could’ve been anything, but I think Dave and I agree once a week that despite his flaws, the parts of him that are harder to love than others, he’s a dream come true, exactly as he is.
Some days still feel endlessly long. But some days disappear before I’ve had the chance to look into his deep blue eyes and just rest there…grasping at the intimacy and eternity of knowing that he is his own person, and yet, forever and ever the deepest part of me. Here’s to another year of getting to know the person God created for me to love, to protect, to teach, and to grow in holiness because of. What. A. Gift.
Your second birthday is on Saturday and I can’t wait to celebrate this beautiful year of you, sweet Charlie. Happy birthday!