Hugh, today you are 6. Your Dad – you still call him Diddy like you have since you first started to talk and we often wonder when you will drop this adorable nickname – chose your presents this year, and you loved them. You got a Nerf gun and whole bunch of Star Wars Lego, with tiny figurines that you will use in the many, complex battle scenes that you set up all around the house. Lost bits of Lego will eventually be found with the soles of my or your Dad’s bare feet (often first thing in the morning, when the feet are particularly tender). There will be much swearing and then resolutions that absolutely no more Lego will be purchased by anyone in this house, ever again. Until Christmas rolls around and you earnestly tell Santa that if you had a Mandaolorian Speeder with Anakin Skywalker figurine, you would be the luckiest boy in the world.
You often talk about how lucky you are, but I wanted to tell you how lucky your Dad and I feel, every single day, to have you. It took us a long time and much heartache to get you, but when we first saw you as a tiny cluster of cells, and heard your heart beating, our lives changed forever.
I loved being pregnant with you, although it was also scary because I worried a lot that something might go wrong. Things had gone very wrong for me before, so the fear was real. But they say that some women blossom during pregnancy, and my obstetrician definitely thought that about me. At my 30 week check-up appointment, he walked into the room, stopped in his tracks and said ‘Look at you!! You look absolutely amazing, you are just glowing’. He was so excited about how well I looked that he proceeded to call in the nurse to come in marvel at my heavily pregnant self. Having you inside me might have made me need to go to the toilet approximately every 35 seconds, but it also made me shine from the inside out.
You were born on a Friday. You had to be birthed by caesarean because you were in breech position, so the doctor pulled you out by the legs, like a calf. You were also a similar size to a calf – 4.4kgs of chubby baby which made you look a lot like the Michelin Man:
I remember that first day with you like it was yesterday. I had you in my arms rocking you to sleep, as the sun was just appearing over the horizon. Looking down at your beautiful face, I felt almost like I too had just been born. As I stared at you, all of the hurts and misfortunes and losses that had happened before you came into my life slipped away. My heart felt bigger and also fuller. You rejuvenated my heart and then you filled it all up, right to the very brim. And you have continued to do that every single day.
You were a delightful baby, who started sleeping through the night (which is the yardstick of every parent in the entire universe) at five weeks old. You didn’t much go for sleeping during the day, which sometimes made us both very cranky. But as you grew, your infectious smile and extroverted personality started shining through.
You started talking very early. Your first Christmas, when you were not quite eight months old, your Aunty Viv noticed that you were starting to say Matthew, your cousin’s name. At that stage you also started saying Mum, Dad and cat. Soon you were talking a mile a minute, and since then pretty much the only time you’ve stopped talking is when you’ve been sleeping. And sometimes you talk in your sleep. It took you aaaaaages to start to walk – you were nearly two when you finally did it! I dropped you off at daycare as a crawler, and when I went to pick you up that afternoon you walked across the room to me like you’d been doing it for years. We had tried everything to get you up on your feet, but in the end you did it precisely how you wanted to, when you decided the time was right. At age 6, you are still exactly the same.
As a toddler you were obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, so much so that ‘they’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight …’ became the theme song to our lives for about two years. I have put all your Thomas things into a box so that maybe one day you can share them with your own child. I hope I’ll still be able remember the lyrics by then.
You started school in 2013, when you were still only 4 years old. When I asked your kindy teacher if maybe you should have another year there and start school when you were 5, the look of horror on her face said it all. You were more than ready for your next challenge (and her ears were probably ready for a break.) You were so little and so adorable in your uniform, and so bloody excited to be finally going to school! Your Dad and I both took you on your first day, and you bounced into that classroom, not a familiar face in sight, with complete confidence. I was prepared for you to be sad and scared, but you were neither, so we both remained dry-eyed that day.
As wonderful as the morning was, when I left you at school it was to go to the hospital and have my third round of chemotherapy. Dad and I did the best we could to shield you from the shock and fear that cancer brings. You and I talked often about why my boob had to be cut off and why my hair had fallen out, and you asked me one night if my boob would grow back like my hair – I laughed and laughed, but you were quite indignant because logically, it made sense. When I finally finished treatment (on your 5th birthday, so one year ago today) you quickly stopped talking about my illness and it seems now to be a distant memory for you. I really hope so. One of the things that made me so angry about my diagnosis was that it was the impact that it might have on you, but fortunately you are resilient (as children tend to be) and you have continued to bounce along through life with your characteristic verve.
Today, at 6, you are a very bright child, inquisitive and interested in what’s going on around you. You make friends easily, and love socialising. You also enjoy travelling and holidays, and especially camping. You love eating out at cafes and restaurants, although your taste in food is still fairly limited – chicken nuggets please – but you also feed off the buzz of being out and about. You are easy-going, love animals and babies, and are amazingly skilled at computer games. You are learning the piano, and have swimming and tennis lessons. Your sense of humour is starting to shine through, although to be frank we could really do without the incessant knock-knock jokes.
As well as being a talker, you love reading. You learned to read very quickly, and since then have taken to it like a duck to water. It really is pretty amazing, and makes me so proud. Reading and writing have always been my creative outlet, and I am starting to think that you might have inherited this. I hope so – I have so many amazing books that I want to share with you.
What I admire most about you Hugh is your seemingly boundless ability to give and receive love. You are so full of love for your Dad and I, your grandparents (especially Grandma, you and she have always had a special bond), your aunts, uncles and cousins, your friends and your pets. You are accepting of difference – in fact you mostly don’t even notice it – and when you meet someone new, your instant reaction is to like them and want to be friends with them. You enjoy nothing more than being surrounded by the people who mean the most to you. One of your favourite things to do is huggle (your word for a combination hug and cuddle) on the couch with me on one side and your Dad on the other. This is also one of my favourite things to do, just the three of us in our own little world.
You and I share a special bond, and can communicate with just a look. When we are out and about I will often find your hand linking with mine – I am always amazed by how our hands just find each other without any conscious effort. We sometimes butt heads, because to be honest six year old boys can ocassionally be hard work, but every night as we lie next to each other in your bed while we read stories, the days problems seem very far away.
You mean the absolute world to me, my baby, and there is nothing I would not do for you. The challenges I faced in conceiving you and keeping you, and then more recently in keeping myself alive, have shown me with great clarity that the future is not a guarantee. But what you can be sure of is that, whether we are together or apart, you will always, always be in my heart, filling it up to the very brim.
I started singing this song to you when you were in the womb, and I still sing it to you most nights at bedtime. It’s an old song, but it’s like the words were written about you and me. I love you Hughie. Happy Birthday my baby.
Michelin Man image was sourced from here.