(looking handsome for church this past Sunday-- first day in Nursery)
For 40 weeks and 5 days while I carried you in my womb people told me to be prepared because along with a healthy dose of dirty diapers you would also bring with you a love that I had never felt before.
But guess what, little boy? Those people were wrong. The degree that I love you to is perhaps higher than I have ever felt before, but the feeling of love itself? It was familiar to me. I had felt motherly love before and when it came to me again at our first real-life meeting I was expecting it.
First came my little sisters. When my first little sister was born I was only 9 years old, and the feeling of love that grew in me for her was the biggest thing I'd ever felt. I remember wondering if it was normal to love someone as much as I loved her, and my little 4th grade self got up in the night to care for her and bring her to bed with me (we shared a room). With the next two little sisters the feelings were multiplied and I recognized that I loved those little girls with the same kind of love that a mother has for her children.
Then there were the orphans. You will come to know that before you were my child I claimed dozens of motherless babes as my own. At the time I recognized that my love would be the closest thing they would get to a mother's love and I wondered if I loved them enough. My heart was filled with love to bursting at times, but I questioned the authenticity of it—did I really love them like they were my own? I didn't know the answer until I had you. I know now that I truly loved those little forgotten ones as a mother loves her own flesh and blood. The feelings I felt for them are the same kind of feelings I feel for you.
So the point of all that was just to say that the love that has grown in my heart for you, my first baby, has not been surprising to me. I was expecting the ache that comes from loving someone so much that you would give up your whole world to see them happy. I knew that feeling. I had felt it before.
But there have been dozens of other feelings that I have met with over the past year and a half since your arrival that have completely taken me by surprise. Feelings that I wasn't expecting or ready for. Feelings that have caused me to feel both joy and pain, feelings that have brought me to my knees in both gratitude and pleading.
This past week you turned 18 months old, and in our LDS culture that age brings with it a certain rite of passage known as Nursery. You walked into Nursery class with slight trepidation, but then went straight for the "twos" and didn't even flinch when your Daddy and I left. You stayed the entire two hours without any hesitation. Before becoming your mother I would have never guessed that you going to Nursery would be cause for a minor breakdown, not in you, but in me. I kept myself together, but I cannot believe the overwhelming feeling that comes with letting your first baby go off on his own (so to speak). I wondered if you were sharing the toys, I wondered if you would need your diaper changed, I wondered if the other kids would be nice to you. These feelings were all new to me and I couldn't help the thought that you are growing far too quickly. I don't think I will ever be ready for kindergarten.
(your first Nursery artwork-- the big dark circle is a mirror)
Then there is the peace that has come into our home with your presence. I never before knew the feeling of wholeness that has settled in my little life since you joined your Daddy and me. Instead of a couple, your life made us a family and the tranquility that I feel in our home when it is the three of us is such joy to me.
There is a routine we go through at nighttime when we are putting you to bed. In the beginning your Daddy is with us, but by the end it is usually just me putting you in your crib. We say a prayer with Daddy before he leaves, but I have also gotten into the habit of saying an additional prayer after I lay you down. Baby boy, I hope you can feel the power that settles into your room as I pray over your crib every night. It is, again, a feeling that I hadn't experienced before you came. I don't even know the right words for it, and all I can guess is that there must be an intensity that comes when a mama prays over her babies, a depth of pleading that can only exist in that relationship.
There are so many other new feelings, Little One. There is the effusive pride when you demonstrate a new skill, the irrational gratitude when I can tell you have had enough sleep or when I know you have a full tummy, the worry for your well-being that never ever goes away. Maybe most of all, there is the constant and earnest supplication that you will grow up to be a good boy and that I can be a good enough mother and teacher to you. I have never wanted anything more than that, and the force with which I want it is almost overwhelming. I promise to you, Baby G, that as I try to make sense of all these new feelings and emotions, as I continue to get used to the fact that there will always be something else for me to learn about being a mother, I will do so knowing that, like your picture from Nursery taught you, you are a child of God first and He will always help me know how I should best care for you. That is the only way that I can trust myself to be your mother. I love love you.