I can't listen to Christmas music without remembering that Christmas nine years ago when my snow-globe belly was bursting at the seams. I couldn't get comfortable while I slept. My pregnancy migraines were coming on strong; the shimmering lights that framed our window stung my eyes. I was tired and sensitive and oh-so-very pregnant.
But most of all, I was terrified. As everyone nestled together around their Christmas trees, I was falling apart. I knew that any day, my life was going to change forever. I lay in bed thinking, What have I done?
And then, under a full moon, a few days after New Year's, you were born. Just like that. I had no choice in the matter: I became your mama.
When the midwives handed you to me, you were screaming your head off. You felt like a little alien to me. Your cries vibrated against my chest. You glistened like a star.
I had to learn to love you. You wouldn't nurse at first. You wouldn't sleep. Your steely blue eyes pierced my soul at 3 a.m. when I whispered silently in my head, I hate you. And then, when you finally fell asleep on my chest, I loved you more than I had ever loved before, a burning love that I felt from the top of my head to the ends of my toes.
You showed me it was OK to love that deeply. It was OK to feel shocked by the depth of the love, frightened of it even. It was OK to resent the hard stuff. It was OK to wish it all away at the same time that I held onto it with all my might.
Dear boy, I see you now in the December night on the top bunk of your bed, playing some kind of game on your iPad. Your little brother is asleep and it's only you and me, just as it was all those years ago when I rocked you for hours because you would not sleep. For years I rocked and nursed you. I carried you around in a baby carrier so we could be heart-to-heart as we traipsed around town. I never wanted to put you down, to let you go.
I have no idea how we got here, with you zoning out on your iPad, kicking me out of your bed after we've chatted for a couple of minutes.
"Just wait on the bottom bunk," you say. "You can stay until I fall asleep."
So I do. I wait. And you fall asleep. I look at you sleeping, stretched out there, your long legs tangled in the covers. How is it possible that you are going to be 9 years old next month? Where did the time go? How many more Christmases until you don't live in our house anymore? How many years until we don't even speak to each other every day, and we go days and weeks without seeing each other?
I know it will happen slowly, as all of this does. And yet so very quickly, too. In the blink of an eye, as they say.
I will always be your mama. I will always love you fiercely. I will always feel startled by the depth of this love. I will always be in awe of your raw, honest beauty.
And every Christmas for the rest of my life, I will think of how I waited for you, how I waited for the moment when I would become a mother for the first time.
You made me a mama, and you will always, always be my baby.
A version of this post originally appeared on wendywisner.com.