My mom tells a story about my sister Blair once asking her, "Who's your favorite?" The question warmed my mother's heart because she realized that Blair wouldn't have asked unless she thought she was the favorite, and isn't it every mom's wish for each of her children to feel that special?
My favorite part of the story is my mom's answer to the question. She said, "You're my favorite because..." and listed all the reasons Blair was special to her. Then she said, "And Kelly is my favorite because...." and "Neal is my favorite because..." and "Ashley is my favorite because..." And it was an honest answer. She had four favorites, all for different reasons, which was just exactly the right answer and is just exactly how I feel about my own kids.
My very first favorite is turning 6 today, which puts a small lump in my throat. I can still look at him and feel the brand new momma love that filled me to overflowing 6 years ago. The first time I felt that love from head to toe was the morning after Owen was born. I was dozing in my hospital bed, trying to ignore the hot throbbing of my cesarean incision and a bit out of my wits from pain medication. John had spent the night at home and was coming to the hospital early, but he hadn’t arrived yet. I was alone. The room was half-lit with the purple glow of 6:00 AM in November and quiet but for the gasping of some monitor they’d strapped me to. The nurse came in with Owen and told me his body temperature was down. She untied my hospital gown and helped me bear my chest; then she stripped Owen to his diaper and laid him on my breast. “He needs your body heat,” she told me. “I’ll come back in an hour.”
The night before had been long and brutal, a nearly 30 hour labor ending in an unexpected and emotional c-section. I’d been a mess in recovery, shaking and sobbing, and they’d kept me there longer than usual, so I’d had very little time with my baby. The time I did have was bleary and crowded with family who’d come to see. Now the nurse left me alone with this small, warm, breathing boy tucked under my chin. She'd given him to me because I was his mother and it was my body heat he needed. Artificial warming lamps were no match for my blood-warmed body, pulsing with the heat and the love he needed.
I experienced that moment out of time. I’d never felt so exactly in the right place, so content and certain and calm. I think of that hour as my initiation into motherhood. I’d been on the threshold before, but during those minutes alone with Owen for the first time and nurturing him wholly for the first time, I crossed into that realm from which you can never retreat, the realm of mothering and its fulfillment, its love, its fear, its anxiety, its complication, its sadness.
Owen is my favorite because…
He thinks my jokes are funny and he makes jokes that I think are funny.
He loves reading and writing and music.
His dearest birthday wish is a package of dry erase markers.
He hugs his brother and sister goodnight every single day.
He loves school as much as I loved school.
He can’t tell a lie and has the guiltiest conscience of anyone I’ve met.
He taught me to be a mother, and he gave me my first taste of the gorgeous, swooning love of parenthood.
Happy birthday, Snowball!