Before you were born, seven years ago tomorrow, I loved you. I loved feeling you move in my belly, watching as an elbow or a foot or maybe your hand pushed against me from the inside, there under my heart.
And then you were born, at the end of one last desperate push and I loved you even more. I loved you more even before I could murmur your name, before I saw your fiery hair, your serious gaze, your perfect tiny toes.
The day after your first birthday, you took your first steps and I could barely contain the rush of pride and awe and more love that filled me, even as I held out my arms for you to tumble into them, grinning.
Days after your second birthday, your brother was born and when I saw you at the door of the hospital room, where I sat waiting for you and Daddy to come and bring me and Luke home and you smiled at him first and then me, I loved you even more.
When you were three, we uprooted our tiny family and began a new life here in Belleville. But on the last day in Newcastle, as I watched you and Luke move about the empty rooms of the only home you'd ever known, whispering, "Goodbye, House!" I thought I might melt with love for your bravery and your trust.
When, months later, I watched you put a trusting hand into the one offered by your JK teacher and bravely march off into your new role as a student, I melted all over again. And I loved you even more.
At four, you discovered your own fire and I struggled against your will and your fierce new need for independence. Every night for a year, I snuck into your room long after you'd fallen asleep and prayed for patience and the courage to let you go, just a little bit. And then I offered up my thanks that you had chosen me and that you felt my love strongly enough that you could rage against it, knowing that it would never change. Realizing that, I fell in love with you all over again and again and again.
I lost you when you were five, remember? For five, agonizing minutes, at the mall. When we were reunited at the Information Desk and I fell to my knees and wrapped my arms around you, I remember feeling overwhelmed with pride that you had done all the right things to ensure your own safety, as I taught you but had never been certain you understood. And it overwhelmed me - this fierce, mama-love, as it sometimes can. Without you, I would be lost. Because of you, I have been found.
Six. I don't think there's anything in the world more amazing than seeing it through the eyes of an inquisitive, sensitive six-year-old Matthew. All year long, you have challenged me to view the world we share through your heart - and what a view it offers. You are an amazing big brother - patient, giving, parental. You are wise and good and fair and as I have often thought, when I am grown, I want to be just like you.
Your sixth year has given me so many glimpses of the man you might one day be. And though we hold hands less often than we once did, I cherish those moments and I love you just a little bit more.
Tomorrow, you will be seven and I cannot wait to see what's in store for you, this year. And to see how loving you transforms me into the kind of mother you deserve. From you, I have learned my greatest lessons in forgiveness and patience and kindness, because you exemplify all of those qualities each and every day.
Happy Birthday, Matthew!
Thank you for choosing me. Every day, I love you more.