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Dear Braeden,

You will be 10 years old tomorrow. Like moms the world over, I find myself blindsided by this. It truly feels like yesterday that I gave birth to you. While many of the details of my past are murky, that day stands out with absolute clarity. I remember it all… my first contraction, not being quite sure, telling your Daddy to go ahead and go to work, in case this wasn’t “the real thing.” Oh, but it was. I remember calling Grammy, and her coming over, and finally being convinced that I had waited long enough, that it was time to go to the hospital NOW! I remember being driven in my friend’s brand-new car, and being terrified my water would break all over her front seat (it didn’t). I remember reaching the hospital and being in so much pain I could no longer walk. I remember the nurse who examined me in triage saying, “Let’s see what all this fuss is about,” and my satisfaction when she announced, startled, “You’re already seven centimeters dilated.” Yep, that was what all the “fuss” was about, bitch.

I remember my absolute gratitude for the man who gave me my epidural, which returned me to a place of wonder instead of one of anguish. I remember hours went by, but still you wouldn’t drop. I remember the stress in the room, and that the doctor was convinced I’d need a c-section. I remember asking if I could at least try to push, and him agreeing, but making it obvious that he thought my attempt would make no difference. I remember my nurse, a much nicer one than the triage bitch, encouraging me. I remember holding your Daddy’s hand, and Glen’s voice filling my ears because they allowed you to bring your own music, so I’d brought “Live at Largo” and “Dulcinea” and every other CD I wanted as the soundtrack to this day, this beginning. I remember that I pushed only once and down came your head, startling the nice nurse and causing her to page the doctor. Ha, c-section? It so wasn’t on my list. The doctor returned, and only 30 minutes later you were born, eight pounds eleven ounces of absolute perfection, your blue eyes inquisitive as you took everything in. My little boy. My Braeden.

How is it possible that it has been 10 years? It seems like yesterday, an hour ago. You were and are perfect. You are kind, you are sweet, you are often hilarious. You’re more of a people-pleaser than a trouble-maker, a quality that left us ill-prepared to deal with your little sister, but which your daddy and I very much appreciate. You always made parenting look easy… everyone wanted a kid like you. So beautiful strangers would stop me in the mall to remark on you, your giant round head and almond-shaped blue eyes. While pregnant I had no idea whether you’d be a boy or a girl, but the blue eyes I somehow always knew were coming. You’ve been special from moment one, my dancing baby. The first ultrasound I ever saw in which you were more than just a tadpole, you were already dancing, legs and arms going like mad. You’ve been such a gift, filling my days with love and wonder. Your gentle spirit, so much like your daddy’s, soothes me. I look at you and know with absolute awe and certainty that I have done something right.

And now you are about to be 10 years old, becoming more of your own person with each passing day. I am so impressed with you, always. I am torn between wanting you to go and grow and forge your own path, and wanting desperately to protect you from whatever difficulty life has in store. The arrival of your sister has changed our dynamic, and I miss our quiet times cuddled on the sofa. Now I have to fight for moments that slip away too quickly before she demands my attention or you run off to play with friends. All part of the process – and so necessary – but filling my throat and my chest with the ache of loss. Part of being a good parent is preparing you to run out that door and live your own life, and live it well. I try so hard to do this while biting back tears, the tears of EveryMom who secretly wants you to remain a little boy forever, cuddled safely with me on the sofa. But because I love you – I love YOU – I send you off with a smile, and a quick kiss when I am lucky. And I am lucky, because you still want me to kiss you, and encourage it… growing and changing and leaving, but gazing over your shoulder, because you are still my little boy, after all.

Oh my God, how I love you. I hope your every dream comes true, and that the path you take won’t have too many bumps along the way. I wish you strength and courage for this trip you’ve set off on. I can’t always hold your hand, but I will hold you in my heart forever. Happy birthday, beautiful Braeden. You will be 10 years old tomorrow. I don’t know quite how that happened, but please know that I have cherished every moment of it. I look forward to the next 10, and watching as you create your own adventures. You will always be my little boy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t revel in watching you grow. I love you, always and always, to the end of the universe and back and back and back…