happy birthday, baby
There are a thousand other things I should be writing but I want to write this:
Yesterday, you waved your chubby little hand and yelled “hi!” to the old Somali woman sitting in front of the elementary school. For months now she has tried to get you to like her, she has grabbed your cheeks and kissed your hands and spoken rapid-fire Somali to you. You always get a crumpled face, turn to face me, fling your arms around my legs. We all laugh, all of the moms and grandma’s who gather every day to pick up their kids, but yesterday you did the opposite. Yesterday was your last day of being one, and from your perch in the stroller you spotted a friend, a grandma, an ayeeyo in a teal green hijab, and said hello.
Baby, you stomp your way through life. When you smile you squint your eyes, just like your dad. We thought you were an easy baby, whatever that means, but you are just as complicated as all of us. You have intense opinions. You like to be snuggled. We still rock you to bed, every night. You desperately wish you knew your numbers and your ABCs, but don’t worry—it will happen. You like to dance to music, especially the music your baba listens to. You like to make people laugh.
When you came into the world you were perfect. You didn't know how hard the world was, how sad your mama could get, how unfairly everything is divided. You still don't know, for the most part, you still think everything is glorious right up until the minute it isn't. You teach me, with your goofy grins and obsession with balloons and fierce love of calling yourself "super baby", to try and savor the good as much as possible. To be surprised by delight, when I am tempted to remain entrenched in a low-scale despair. You won't let me, is the thing. You are a string keeping me tethered to God, you are the one leading me into the kingdom of heaven, just like Jesus always said would happen.
I have written so much about the birth of my second baby, but none of it is publishable. Perhaps because it is tied to so many thoughts that people don’t like to dwell on: mortality, heaven and hell, anxiety disorders. But due to the nature of my children’s births I can’t help but relive some of that time. The way I cried to Matt Kearney’s song on all the drives to the high-risk OB appointments. The way it was a constant struggle to balance my failing body with the growing one inside of me. The way it all went perfect, up until the moment it didn’t. The long months and years of unraveling and starting to reconstruct again. The body, the faith, the life that has been changed, irrevocably, both for bad and for good.
My life is surrounded by resilience and trauma. I know I sound like a broken record, because life is like a broken record. I have grooves in my brain which have taught me to always be on the lookout for sorrow and sadness and injustice. Facebook tells me that three years ago this post was published, and it remains just as true today as it was then. The sparrows are still everywhere, losing their housing, forging a life, falling to the ground unseen by so many.
Today my mom brought a bunny to one of my neighbors. Her ethnic group, the Rohingya muslims of Burma, is counted as one of the most persecuted groups in the world. What would it be like to be her? I will never know, is the thing. This woman had casually mentioned she wanted a rabbit, and my mom was happy to supply one. I didn’t really believe it, as I had never known any of my friends and neighbors to keep a pet. But when my mom delivered the bunny today, my friend and neighbor was beside herself in excitement. She clutched the little cage to herself and I swear her eyes got teary. This is my last baby, she joked to me and my mom. I was totally unprepared for the delight that a small brown rabbit could evoke in someone like my friend. But I tried to savor it, as best as I could. I am trying, as hard as I can, to get better at nothing the good parts of the world too. I am trying very hard to create some new grooves in my heart, rhythms and routines of hope and joy.
I made a list of things that have changed me the other day, and this is what I wrote:
My community, mortality, motherhood, and time. Each one of these both wounds and heals, depending on the way you squint. Days of remembrance, days of celebration, cause me to stop and reflect on the positive elements, to see it all as a gift. I’m not the same person I was two years ago, and I’m so glad for that.
In a few days we will have a party for my baby. I invited some refugee friends and they told me it was the first time they had ever been invited to an American’s home. We will have rainbow cupcakes. It will be awkward. There is a good possibility nobody will show up, or dozens and dozens will. We don’t know the future, and there is little use to be gained in worrying about it. Both of my babies and Jesus himself taught me this. Might as well buy some extra Doritos and hope for a good turn-out.
My life looks so different to me, but what was I expecting? I spend hours in meetings with powerful people, I spend hours sitting on the floor listening to women who live very far from their mothers and feel so sad about it. My children fill up the hours of my day with their smiles and screams and sponge-like minds. I read articles on my phone about the terrible things people in government do. I walk by murals for people murdered, I buy a piñata for my baby and carry it through the crowded parking lot for everyone to see. Everywhere I go I am on the verge of tears. My angst, it follows me like a guardian angel, never letting me feeling entirely happy, entirely sad. Welcome to the in-between world. Welcome to what being cracked wide open for the long-haul looks like.
Welcome to being two years old, my little guide. The world will never be the same, all because of you.
*for those interested in hearing me talk a bit more about my birth stories, you can listen to the recent episode of the lovely motherbirth podcast. I'm thankful for the opportunity to both share and process.