My Birthday Boy

kellyIt was a sunny, sticky afternoon in late August 1998 – the 28th, to be exact. I was nine-plus months pregnant, and growing increasingly uncomfortable, weary and sluggish with every passing day.

However, for some reason, on that day, I’d felt an unexpected burst of energy. So I headed over to my cousin’s house for a visit. First, we went grocery shopping, then returned for a delicious meal and some light chatter.

As I polished off a healthy plate of grilled chicken and vegetables, I leaned back in my chair, satiated. A few seconds later, I felt a warm rush of fluid between my legs, leaking onto, and seemingly flooding, the floor.

Initially terrified, I quickly came to realize: this was happening. I was 18 years old, a high school student, a single woman, and I was about to give birth to my first child.

Many hours, much pain, an epidural and an emergency C-section later, my handsome son was born. When I think back to that day, Aug. 29, and the thrill of being introduced to my little boy as I lay on the operating table – with my incredibly supportive and caring high school teacher, who had been my birth coach throughout my pregnancy, looking on warmly – I feel the same goosebumps, the same excitement and wonder that I did all those years ago, 17 long years ago now.

If I close my eyes and focus, I can still remember what he looked like as a baby. The silvery sheen of his fair hair, the way everyone remarked that he looked like “a little old man,” his soft baby scent and how wonderful, how phenomenal it felt to hold him in my arms (OK, I admit it – I’m weeping as I type this).

For the next few months, I rarely put him down. I didn’t want to. I wanted to hold him as close as I could, for as long as I could. Somehow, I sensed how fleeting those moments would be.

And fleeting they were. That little baby grew overnight into an amazing young boy, with fiery red hair and a charming smile, quiet, thoughtful and sensitive. For much of his life, it was just the two of us, and we enjoyed it.

From the spelling bees, at which he always excelled until the time he didn’t — and ran across the gymnasium and into my arms, overcome with disappointment — to the Little League years, we have always enjoyed the special bond that comes with being a team of two.

Due to my teenage pregnancy, we also grew up together. But I don’t regret a thing. We were meant for each other. He was my first great love.

Now, my little boy is a young man, and becoming more man-like and independent with every passing day. I wonder and worry about the future. I feel the growing distance between us, and while I know to some degree that this is natural, it still pains me.

But I know our bond holds strong. Though it’s not as easy to be physically affectionate with a teenage boy, or to even understand or relate to one, my love for him remains deep as ever, as does my sense of wonder and pride as I look at him and marvel at what a decent young man he’s become, what a masterpiece he is. Did I really have something to do with that?

And the ride is only just beginning. I can’t wait to see what his future holds.

Happy Birthday, son.