You always remember the day they’re born.

I sat at the hospital all day, hooked up to an IV pumping drugs and saline into my body, all in an effort to coax my baby out. The baby who had no name. As I sat in waiting, Scott and I rolled through an alphabetical list of names. We started with A. Aaron. We tucked it away on the Maybe List.

In the end, it’s what stuck.

His entry into the world was fast and painful.  His two-hour labor was meager compared to his older sister’s—an all-day affair that involved over three hours of ineffective yet exhausting pushing. Birth without pain-blocking medication and methods requires every ounce of brain power. There is nothing left over for embarrassment that you’re lying on a hospital bed mostly naked, or that you’ve shit yourself, or that you have no idea if you’re having a girl or a boy. You save that detail for the last day. You think, this will be an extra incentive to get through labor. The reality is that you’re out of your mind in pain and in that moment, you could not care less.

You just want it to be over.

And the end comes. And it’s a boy. And after the doctors and nurses have checked the baby, weighed him, bathed him, cleaned you up and roll out the mobile birthing unit, all is quiet. It’s as if they were never there. The only evidence is this little red human, wrapped up on a striped cotton blanket. And suddenly, all the pain and trauma starts to fade, as if it didn’t happen all.

You hold that baby, the product of a ten month-long growing project. That in itself is significant, but more than an artist finishing a painting or a composer an opus, you are never the same. You sit in that hospital bed, sleep-deprived and jacked up on adrenaline. You think, I will do anything for you, son. I will wake up every two hours to feed you. I will watch for the rise and fall of your chest as you sleep and worry way too much whether you’re breathing or not. I will cut your grapes into tiny bite-sized pieces. I will forget to write down the last time I gave you that dose of ibuprofen (and then I’ll probably do it again). I will clean you up after you’ve vomited all over your bed (when I didn’t believe you had a stomach ache) and let you sleep in my bed, even though I know there’s a good chance there’s more where that came from.

And one day you’ll ask for a birthday cake of your favorite cartoon character. And I’ll stay up late and sit in the kitchen with a pile of cake scraps and buttercream frosting that won’t spread and and do my best to give you that cake, even if it’s lopsided, imperfect, unrecognizable. Because this is what I do, even if I couldn’t imagine it that day you were born.

Supposed to look like this.
Let’s forget that it’s supposed to resemble this.

Happy birthday, Aaron. I love you more than this cake could ever say.

Aaron in train hat