Exactly ten years ago right now, Baxter Newland Young (Gallagher) was born

Exactly ten years ago right now, Baxter Newland Young (Gallagher) was born.  

9:30 pm on December 16, 2004.  

For most folks, I think their children's birthdays are a combination of joy, pride, and nostalgia.  For me it is all of those things, though the nostalgia is tinged with such sadness, since the person by my side as Baxter entered the world would be gone just 18 short months later.  And we had no fucking idea.  (I mean... thank GOD we didn't know, right? But we had no. fucking. idea.)

When I think back to that day, I remember feeling so ill all of a sudden and saying to Mike at 4 am "Great.  I'm 40 weeks pregnant and now I have a stomach flu."  He suggested perhaps it was labor.  I scoffed, "No. Way.  This is a stomach flu.  Or food poisoning."

He calmly read to me from the pregnancy book through the bathroom door:  "Umm... smoosher? It says "many women's first signs of labor mimic the symptoms of a stomach flu ... or food poisoning."  As my "stomach flu" came and went in 20, 15, and then 10 minute intervals, Mike and I walked the snowy streets of Queen Village and Old City.  I labored my way through the cobblestone all day, with Mike holding my hand and humming "My Phone is on Vibrate for You" by Rufus Wainwright (until one particularly bad labor pain came and I stopped him and said, "if you don't stop humming, I'm going to punch you in the face.") 

After vacuuming the house (twice) and watching the then-new movie Elf on all fours in cat and cow positions, it was off to Pennsylvania Hospital we went.  Our dear friend and trusted PA, Michaela Murphy met us there and they both held my hands and stroked my head and Baxter very quickly decided to join the party.  

Mike was so happy.  He was glowing.  Yes. Like a pregnant lady... glowing.  He loved his little man.  He called him "Mister B" or "Baxman." Even in those really terrible first weeks when Baxter just cried from 3 pm until.... eternity, Mike would swaddle him up, jiggle him according to the strict rules in "Happiest Baby on the Block," and shhhhhh in his ear until he would momentarily rest.  

The night Baxter cried all night long, Mike jokingly swaddled him up, opened the closet door, and raised his eyebrows to me with an inquisitive, "Eh?" like "Can't we just.... toss him in here for a bit?"  I laughed so hard I cried.  It was like 3 am and I was delirious, sleepless, anxious, and suffering from severe postpartum.

I have a lot of sadness and regrets about those early months.  I was so depressed.  Like deep dark depressed.  I couldn't find my way out.  I should have been medicated, but I wasn't.  When Mike was diagnosed with a "benign" brain tumor in October of the following year, I think I was only just starting to see the light.  And then the bottom dropped out.  


Each night, before bed, I sing a song for each child, Baxter (10) and Edie (4).  They choose the topic and I sing a made-up song.  I do my best to rhyme and tell a good story.  It's great improv practice for ComedySportz.  And man, Baxter is quite a thoughtful critic.  Sometimes he'll say "That one was ok... not your best though."  or occasionally, "Mom.  THAT one was GREAT!"

Last night, Baxter requested a song about his birthday.  We were all snuggling in our king size bed.  Me, PJ, Edie, Baxter.  

In the lyrics, I went year by year, chronicling things Baxter had done.  "When Baxter was a little guy, he turned the age of one.  He crawled around and chased the cat and liked to suck his thumb...." 

(Not the most sophisticated of rhymes... but you get it...)

I got to age three:  "Soon Baxter ran around and suddenly was three.  That's the year we met his dad and became a fa-mi-ly!" 

Baxter's face lit up and he reached over to Peej and gave him a high five.

When I finished, I got " Best song yet, mom."

Mike, PJ and I have made an amazing little dude.  He's smart, funny, kind, and a total dreamer. He shares so many traits with PJ at this point, that it's eerie.  The notion that there is no actual shared genetic material between them seems utterly implausible.  Cat allergies?  check. check.  Asthma? check. check.  Walking into things while reading a book?  check. check. A love of all things video game / super hero / ninja / kung fu / greek myth / star wars?  CHECK CHECK.  Would eat pizza for every meal from now until the end of time if given the opportunity? Check check.

I love these guys. All of these guys. I am sad that Mike didn't get to see this young man grow up.  That is extremely unfair.  PJ and I both get emotional at the thought that Mike didn't get to share in the joy that is parenting this boy.  About once a year or so, Peej and I both get this aching feeling that it's just so fucking shitty that Mike doesn't get to see all this.  No, we don't dwell in this space.  We acknowledge it, and eventually are brought back to the fucked up incongruity that says "if Mike were here, PJ wouldn't be... and neither would Edie"  and then we laugh at how fucked up it all is - and go on with this life we're creating for ourselves.

And what a beautiful life it is.