“Hi, sweet baby,” I said gently to him as I pulled him up to my chest. He was tiny. Motionless. Silent. He was beautiful, dark red lips and all. He had Grant’s round chin and Dane’s thin little face. The tiniest curl of ears, a button nose, and the famous strawberry blonde hair. He had giant baby feet and was built trim, just under 5 pounds for 34 weeks. At term he could have easily been a seven pounder. He was most definitely a Carlson boy in our family.
Three years ago. Reece was born three years ago today. It seems so far away and just freshly yesterday in the same heartbeat. I think this is just what happens when you aren’t given the privilege to watch your baby grow. He is held somewhere between memories of a fresh newborn and the ghost of all the milestones he did not reach. Tonight if you find yourself awake at 11:36pm, please send up some love for my boy.
Part of the hard is the milestone of a three year old. I’ve done it twice before. I know the third year is the most challenging. I know a chubby–cheeked toddler becomes a thinner-faced preschooler. I know that the baby days melt behind them all of a sudden when they blow out their own candles.
Three year-olds are potty training. Their little personalities are established. They have genuine interests and they talk up a storm. This year, I‘m not missing my newborn baby—I missing my preschooler. The other part of the hard is knowing I will never know that three year old. Would he love the moon and rocket ships? Would he be into animals? Or trucks? Or sports? What ridiculous things would his brothers convince him to say?
I wish he was here to demand we eat Kraft Mac and cheese for his special birthday dinner. I wish he was here to shriek as his brothers swipe a finger into the frosting of his cake or try to blow out his candles.
I will never know why he isn’t here to grow with us. There is one thing I know.
Today was the anniversary of the hardest day of my life. We knew he would be born dead. We knew driving to the hospital for his birth, we didn’t need any baby clothes or the car seat. Ryan and I didn’t know how, but we believed we would get through the hardest challenge life has to offer. Every day, we are getting through the hard together.
On the anniversary of this hardest day, I wanted to celebrate the memory of my youngest son, my number three. And I wanted to celebrate and honor who he has caused me to become. Ryan and I spent an hour rock climbing today.
I’ve never been before. It was really hard. I was shaking and had gone into muscle fatigue halfway through my third climb. Some of the grips had me saying, “Oh, shit. I can’t. I can’t do this.” And then I heard my other voice saying, “You have done harder things. Keep pushing. This is nothing. Go, girl.”
It was so great to share that adventure with the man who has been my rock. Hearing him cheer me on when I wanted to give up was such a powerful thing.
I will not squander the strength I have earned just because the acquisition of that strength has been painful. And also, now I have earned my slice of birthday cake!