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Happy Birthday, Baby Boy.

March 3, 2007

Dominic - six months old

It's hard to believe where I was 28 years ago today.

March 3, 1979 was a Saturday and a few weeks after one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit Howard County, Maryland. Though most of the snow had melted, the chill lingered and my anxious anticipation for spring nearly exceeded my anticipation of the birth of my first child. His due date was February 1st (obviously miscalculated), and I, nineteen and almost two years married waited impatiently for the day when Dominic would finally arrive.

I knew I would name him Dominic since I was twelve years old. I saw the movie, The Singing Nun with Debbie Reynolds. There was a little boy in the movie that was the object of her ministry and affection. She wrote and sang a song for him - and I knew from that day, that I would name my first son Dominic and sing him that song. I often dreamed of him between then and March 3, 1979. I could see him in my mind and knew there was a bond between us even before he came to be.

That Saturday morning my water broke and we went to Howard County Hospital. I never went into labor and the baby over 8 lbs., so Dr. Ashai recommended a C-section. Dominic was born in the afternoon and I only saw him briefly. Just after he they cleaned him, suctioned and wrapped him in a warm blanket, they laid him next to me. I will never lose the memory of the first glimpse of Dominic. His eyes were clenched shut and his tiny fingers - too long for his little hands were pointing to his face - as if to say, "Put me back - I don't like it out here." Because I was being stitched up and my arms were fastened to the surgery table, I couldn't hold him or touch him - except with my eyes.

In those days, hospital staff whisked away all C-section babies to a nursery where they were observed in isoletts for at least 24 hours. Because I had just had surgery, I couldn't walk to the nursery to see him. When they wheeled me back to my room after delivery, the person pushing my gurney stopped briefly at the nursery window and signaled for a nurse to lift Dominic up so I could see him. She held him up and I heard my sister unaware I was present say to our mother, "Oh look! There he is - they're holding him up. He's so beautiful."

The first twenty-four hours after delivery were unbearable because I couldn't see Dominic or hold him. Finally they brought him to me. I recall everything from that moment in detail, the fractured daylight coming through the blinds, the coolness of the hospital room, and the smell and feel of Dominic, the blanket he was wrapped in with the pink and blue stripe. I took him in my arms put him to my breast and felt myself move from child to a woman somewhere in those first moments. What I was becoming was beyond my control - but it was a good thing. I never knew I could love something so much.

Dominic - held by Mom - age 3 monthsWe brought Dominic home to a room perfectly prepared for him right down to the handmade blanket, pillow, curtains and stuffed monkey I sewed while anticipating his welcomed arrival. I couldn't hold him enough. I had heard stories and read about the trials of a newborn and the fatigue parents felt by having to meet the demands of a sleepless baby trying to get used to the world. Yet I joyfully left the comfort of my bed to respond to his cries. I remember rocking him in the middle of the night in those early weeks - singing songs I remembered my mother and grandmother singing as if they were always in my head. My husband came out to tell me that I was a good mother - a rare compliment from a man with an aversion to affirmation.

Dominic and Mom at Lake Elkhorn - Columbia, MDAs Dominic grew, he did so gracefully with little issue. He was remarkably curious and inquisitive, but cautious when it came to embracing people outside his family. At 22 months he coped with the arrival of his new brother. Thus began Dominic's lifelong struggle with being overly responsible and striving for perfection. He was always a good boy and did what was expected. He was a caretaker and never understood his younger siblings that were not bogged down by the need to be responsible.

If anyone ever asks me if I have any regrets in life, my only regret would be that I didn't show Dominic more love. Shortly after he was born I gave birth to his brother and sister and his father left us. I struggled with handling the daily stresses of our life and he needed more attention. If I had it to do all over again, I would put other things aside and spend more time with Dominic. Since that's impossible I pray for him every day hoping God will fill in for my inadequacies.

Dominic - 28 years - holding niece, GracieToday is Dominic's 28th birthday. His brother, sister, nieces and I traveled hours to be with him on this special day, letting him know how much he means to us. Today, he is a brilliant artist and a remarkable writer with insights that are deep, thoughtful and expressive. He struggles in his life with shyness and being different - all artists do. But the gifts he has both discovered and undiscovered will continue to surprise him and us as he progresses in life. I believe Dominic will make a difference in the world.

Sadly, the world is not kind to people like my oldest son - but after they make their mark on the world, they tend to gently love us and subsequent generations with their creations - their interpretations - their insights. They bring light into the darkness and the darkness can never really overcome the gifts they leave to us.

Happy birthday, baby boy.

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