My sweet baby boy,
You made it! You turned five this week, and I am pleased to say that you are still alive. It was touch and go there for the first few years. Your father and I truly had no idea what we were doing, and got the bulk of our information from Parenting Magazine.
When I look back over your years, I have very mixed emotions. I had just turned 18 when you were born, and I didn't know what I was doing. I wish so badly that I had known the things I know now. I feel so horrible about the unnecessary pain and fear you endured because of my lack of knowledge. I let the doctors induce me with Pitocin when you were 8 days "overdue", because after an ultrasound they said that the amniotic fluid was low. The next day my water broke, and then the contractions got painful. After 5 hours of crying through contractions I decided to get an epidural. Then I spent the remainder of the afternoon playing rummy with your dad and my mom. When it came time to push late that night, the doctor kept pressuring me because your heart rate was dropping (I remember it dropping, my mom remembers it raising - I don't know which version is correct). It was a very stressful time, and I pushed for over an hour laying on my back with 3 people on either side of me holding my legs back as far as they could go. The doctor gave me an episiotomy without saying a word, and eventually I pushed you out. Knowing what I know now about childbirth, I am amazed that you came out at all with all of the interventions that were in place. Under those circumstances, I should have had a c-section, but I lucked out. When they gave you to me, all clean and wrapped in a blanket, I felt nothing. I didn't know what to feel. I was so tired and everything had been so surreal that I felt outside of myself.
I tried to breastfeed you, and that was excruciating. I spent 8 days trying to nurse you, and when the bleeding didn't stop I tried to just pump and give you bottles of breast milk. After about a week of that I gave up completely because I wasn't pumping enough anymore and had no idea how to increase my production. I put you on formula and never looked back. You were okay, and I was finally able to breathe. I had been very stressed out about not being able to feed you easily, and it was such a relief to not have to worry about my milk and my pain anymore. I wish I had had more resources back then. I wish I had tried harder to breastfeed you. But you are now a brilliant and sensitive five year old, and I know that you haven't suffered because of it.
When you were one week old, I took you to the pediatrician for a bilirubin check because you were jaundiced. The nurse that took your blood was a moron and I'll never forget what happened. She gave you a simple heel prick to collect a small amount of blood, but for some reason she wasn't able to get what she needed and she squeezed on your heel for at least 10 solid minutes. You were screaming and I was crying - it was awful. I've always regretted not stopping her, not saying something. Something like - "Hey! Let's take a break, this isn't working." Or "Hey! Stop torturing my newborn!" Or "Hey! Let's try the other heel!" But I didn't know what was going on, and I couldn't think of anything to say. I just cried. I suffered along with you. But I'm still so sorry to have put you through that.
For the first couple of years you and I were very close. As selfish, depressed, and tired as I was, I loved you with my every breath. You were my world.When you were a couple months old we packed up and moved to Texas while daddy was in tech school. I was a mess being suddenly severed from all the family and friends I had even known, and now living in a new state with a tiny baby and no car. I stayed up all night long watching info-mercials and slept all day. I fed you regularly, changed you and held you. But you spent long stretches of time in your little bouncer seat in front of the TV watching Baby Einstein DVDs while I slept. I couldn't seem to get a grip on my new life and I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. But I really loved you.
I pureed much of your baby food myself, which is actually how I learned to steam vegetables. We lived on the second floor of an apartment complex, and I remember carrying you in your car seat, my purse, your diaper bag, and your stroller up and down those stairs every time we went anywhere. You were the best baby - never fussy. I could just walk around the mall with you for hours and you'd be content sitting in your stroller, until it was time to eat and I'd sit down and feed you a bottle and then we'd continue on without a hitch. I didn't know what I was doing, but somehow you survived. We both survived.
I remember that when you were about 4 months old you had horrible constipation, so bad that you would cry and bleed. I didn't know what to do, but I listened to your pediatrician who told me to put karo syrup in your bottles. Yes, that's right. I gave you corn syrup. I still can't comprehend what that was supposed to do. I also started giving you diluted juices. None of those things helped, and for a couple of months you had horrible constipation and we would both cry every time you pooped. But you survived.
You slept with me until you were close to 6 months old, and then I felt like it was time to "sleep train" you in your own bed. I felt this way because of the stupid parenting magazines I was reading. We lived in a one room apartment, so I bought a playpen for you to sleep in, in our bedroom. You did okay. I don't remember letting you cry for very long, and you were such an easy-going baby that you adjusted rather quickly. I would sit outside the door when you did cry, and cry myself. I'm so angry that moms aren't taught to trust their instincts anymore. Everything in me was screaming to pick you up, but I didn't. Luckily you adjusted well and quickly, and usually didn't cry more than a few minutes. But knowing what I know now, I am so sorry.
At 6 months, I made a terrible decision. One that I will regret for the rest of my life. I want you to know what happened in its entirety, and I hope you can forgive me. When you were born I planned to have you circumcised. I didn't have any reasoning besides the mainstream ideals I was surrounded with - most everyone is circumcised and you should be, too. It was normal. I was also very mislead into thinking that it was a Christian practice I should adhere to (I've since learned that I am not Jewish!). The state insurance we were on didn't cover the procedure, though, so I waited. I knew that once we were all on your dad's health insurance through the Air Force that we could get it covered. When you were five months old I took you to the pediatrician to ask about circumcision, and she referred us to a urologist. The urologist told me that you had phimosis (a condition where the foreskin doesn't retract at all), and that you had to be circumcised. He said he was surprised you had even been peeing correclty all these months, indicating that it would cause you problems in the future. So we set the date. I didn't do any research. I didn't question. I was actually relieved that he had caught this condition before it became a problem! Because you were so old (6 months), they put you under completely for the surgery. I remember crying as I left you in the OR. When they brought you out, it was so horrible to look at. So bloody and red and swollen. You were upset, obviously in a lot of pain. They had wrapped you up with gauze, and then took it off because you wouldn't pee. It looked excruciating. I can still remember it. Your healing that week was terrible. We had to leave you naked on a blanket most of the time because you were in so much pain. But then you healed. And I didn't think about it anymore. In 2008 I found out that there was nothing wrong with you to begin with. The doctor had boldly lied to my face. Phiomosis is normal in babies and toddlers. The foreskin isn't supposed to retract at all for the first few years. You were healthy and normal, and I subjected you to intense pain, drugs, surgery, and now the lifelong effects of basically performing cosmetic surgery on a baby for no medical reason. I am so sorry. I really agonize over that decision I made, and I wish there was some way that I could take it back. It was a horrible decision. It was a horrible thing to put you through. But once again, you survived me not knowing what I was doing.
Before you turned 1 we moved to Ohio. I remember you pulling a chair over on yourself and smacking your head on the tile floor. There was a cut below your eye (from the chair), and I freaked out. We took you to the emergency room. But you survived :) Not too many months later you touched a very hot light bulb on a lamp, that for some reason we had left on the floor with no lamp shade. You burned your finger pretty badly, and we again took you to the emergency room. The burn took a long time to heal because you kept sucking on that finger, keeping it wet and exposed. But it did heal after a while.
I was crazy about what you ate. If Dominic and I had frozen chicken nuggets for dinner, I would cook you some broccoli. I remember giving you cut-up grapes at 11 months old. I don't think that was particularly safe, but luckily you never choked. You peacefully slept in a crib in your own room and rarely woke up in the night. You could play by yourself for hours. You were a good baby. I didn't know how good I had it!
When you were 18 months old you learned to draw a circles. This became your new obsession, and you would sit with a pen and sheet of notebook paper and draw circles until someone stopped you. At around two years old you drew a face - eyes, nose, and a mouth inside of a circle. I think there may have been some hair and ears. I still have it saved away in your baby book, although a year ago you got into your baby book and crumpled it up. I still have it. I have always been impressed with everything you do, because I'm your mom. It's normal for parents to think their kids are excelling at things. Only recently have I realized that you really are very talented. You draw horses and cats, Larry Boy and the Bad Apple, castles and pirate ships, with so much detail that I'm amazed. My friends are amazed, too. I am so proud of you.
A few months before you turned 3, your sister Melody was born. During my pregnancy with her, mine and your relationship took a huge hit. I was very sick and angry. I took it out on you. I couldn't get anyone to help me with you, and I took it out on you. I'm so sorry. There was a shift in our relationship. You had been my world up until then, my sweet little baby, and all of a sudden I needed you to grow up. Fast. I'm so sorry I rushed you. I'm so sorry things changed.
You have been an incredible big brother to Melody. You are still the sweetest little boy. I am pregnant again, and am again sick and angry. I've had no patience for either of you. I know you feel it. I know you remember it. I'm so sorry. I love you so much, and you are still my world. I just don't show it like I should. For some reason, as you've gotten older, I've had a harder and harder time relating to you. I don't get boy stuff, boy games, boy jokes. I don't think they're fun or funny. I don't even know how to play them. I'm so sorry. I still love you with all my heart. You will forever be the most important thing in my life. I feel like I've put up a wall around myself, like I'm not letting you reach me. I dismiss you because I'm tired or depressed. I don't know how to play with you. I don't have the energy to run around. I'm so sorry. Please know that I love you, and as I sit here crying and writing this ending, I am sure of one thing. You are an amazing person. And you are a survivor. You will come out of this crazy, selfish, mixed-up family stronger than any of us. Because that's who you are. I know you love me with all your heart, but you don't need me to be perfect. I have been a disaster of a mother for five solid years, and you are the most amazing person I could ever hope to call my son. I am so proud of you. You are kind and compassionate, sweet and tender, artistic and musical, acrobatic and funny, smart and articulate, rough and wild. You are a perfect boy. I can't take any credit. You are just amazing, and I love you. I can't wait to see what else you have in store for me.
Happy birthday, Julian.