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Dear Sweet Autumn Baby

Autumn Wedding Day

Our perfect autumn wedding day in November 2008

Dear Sweet Baby,

After a long, hot summer, the weather has finally started to turn cool. It’s beginning to feel like autumn: the season of your birth.

Your father and I were married in this season, on a gorgeous fall day nearly three years ago. There’s something so peaceful about this time of year, so mature and deliberate. Spring, with its wild abundance and infinite possibility, has always been my favorite season. But autumn seems like such a perfect time for you to come into our lives. It’s certainly become a special time in my life, and becomes more so with every passing day as we draw closer to your arrival.

I’m fully in preparation mode now, doing all I can to feel ready. It never seems like enough. I know there’s nothing I can do completely prepare my heart for the day it grows huge with love for you. Nothing in the human body can expand that quickly without some pain involved — without aching at least a little bit. I already feel my heart swelling and being stripped raw at the same time, just by having you inside me.

People talk so much about crazy pregnancy emotions, but rarely about why expectant women get so soft and vulnerable to everything around them. Perhaps it’s a kind of practice run for how fully and helplessly we love these babies when they finally arrive.

This pregnancy — the process of creating you and growing you into something real — has not been brief or fleeting. It feels like I’ve been pregnant for ages and I still have more than a month to go. I can feel my body readying itself to bring you into the world; now it’s just my heart that needs to get itself into shape. I fear it will truly burst when I finally lay eyes on you.

It’s been more than 10 years since your dad and I first met. We were so young — in years, but even more so in spirit. We took our time growing up: moving to new cities; changing jobs and careers; collecting experiences and friends along the way. It took a long time for us to get here, and a lot of people haven’t always understood why.

But we know.

We know it took every one of those years — every week, every month, every season — to bring us here today. We anticipate your arrival with hearts that have grown broader and stronger with every passing year. And still, we know you will turn us upside down and inside out. That our lives will never be the same again.

Ten years. Ten autumns. And now, the autumn of you. Of new feelings, new experiences — a whole new chapter for us. I wait for you with bated breath, knowing this is only the beginning of the rest of our lives.

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The Fierce, Rabid Giving Tree

The Giving Tree

Courtesy of Shel Silverstein

Recently, a friend sent me a note in which she mentioned that “The Giving Tree” is her daughter’s current favorite book. Before reading my friend’s letter, I hadn’t thought of my favorite Shel Silverstein work in a while. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about why I love this story so much.

“Once there was a tree … and she loved a little boy.”

According to Silverstein’s website, this touching story “offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.” The tree loves the boy without condition, never thinking about what’s in it for her. When it seems there’s nothing left for the tree to offer the boy, still she finds more to give. It is a poignant story, and a beautiful concept.

Some people think the tree represents God. I don’t know how I never noticed it before but, to me, the story chronicles the relationship between a mother and her child.

Until now, I didn’t think too much about how mothers give their flesh and blood in the most literal sense possible. Just as the tree provides her fruit, her branches and even her trunk, women share every bit of themselves; all with the goal of helping their babies grow strong enough leave and forge their own way in the world.

My mother did this for me, and her mother for her and so on. It’s an incredible thing when you stop to think about it.

From my earliest visions for the nursery, there’s been one part of the décor that I’ve consistently imagined: a mural climbing up the wall and arching over the crib. Without really knowing why, I always pictured a tree, with or without birds, leaves or fruit, but always forming a protective canopy over where the baby will sleep.

It’s only just now occurred to me that I’ve been picturing the Giving Tree all along.

I recently came across another thought-provoking perspective on motherhood in a book called “Sister Mine” by Tawni O’Dell. According to the book’s protagonist, a mother’s love “is not warm and cuddly like a soft blanket, as it’s popularly portrayed. It’s a fierce, rabid love, like having a mad dog locked inside you all the time.”

Already, I get it — I don’t want to think of this baby ever feeling sadness or fear, loneliness or pain. And if any person threatens this baby’s safety or well being, I suspect there’s a rabid, frothing dog lurking inside me, just waiting for the moment she’s needed. (Suddenly the term, “bitch” seems so perfectly apropos.)

I guess my interpretation of motherhood falls somewhere between Silverstein’s and O’Dell’s versions, but doesn’t align perfectly with either.

I can’t wait to let this baby swing from my branches and nap in my shade, but I don’t plan to end up a felled stump, happy only when I’m serving my child. Similarly, I know I’ll ferociously protect my baby from the pain in the world, but without teaching him or her to turn a blind eye.

I want to be a Giving Tree for this baby and I hope the world will be one too. And yet, I don’t want the world to simply drop apples into his or her outstretched hand. I’d prefer to watch my child climb the world’s highest limbs and learn that the sweetest fruit is sometimes the hardest to reach.

And the tree was happy.

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