To Arick and Avery:

To the two guys who hold pieces of my heart on the birthday that they share:

Have I told you lately how much you mean to me? How deep my love for you is? You and I, we are intertwined in so many ways that I have lost myself to you. I can no longer tell where I end and you begin. Even the beats of my heart pound in perfect harmony with yours. We have something magical that I’ve never before experienced and I hope I never experience again because that would mean that this love is my last. And I’d go to the ends of the Earth to maintain it.

I’ll always think of you as my birthday present. Turning 30 wasn’t easy for me but you singlehandedly made it better. When I needed someone the most it was you who came to my rescue. They say that the best relationships grow from friendships and in our case this couldn’t be more true. With you I laughed until I cried. Before a thought could form itself into spoken word you knew what I would say. We are two halves of a whole. Two perfectly imperfect halves. My 30th birthday, and the weeks following it, were made bearable because of the light you brought to me. Thank you for that.

I remember joking, in a way that now turns my stomach, how Avery would be viable (24 weeks) the week before your birthday. That meant that he could technically be born on your birthday and survive. I remember qualifying that statement with “but we don’t WANT that.” How sickening is it that this would be exactly how it would transpire. You’ll probably never get another gift as special as the one you got your 22nd year. On that day I didn’t- I couldn’t- get you anything. Instead I gave you our son.

We’re so resilient now, after everything we’ve endured together. I clung to you so needily in those weeks following Avery’s birth. Nothing was certain and we lived NICU visit to NICU visit. Little did we know that after those four very traumatic months the gut punches would keep coming. Cerebral palsy. Polymicrogyria. Your vision of your son, gone in medical terms and syllables that sent us reeling. My guilt over not giving you the perfection you deserved was suffocating. But I can’t say that your embracing Avery exactly how he was surprised me. He was the son we were meant to have. Together we understood that he WAS perfection.

I want you to know that Avery (and Abby) couldn’t┬áhave a better father. I’ve watched you teach our son to use a walker we never knew if he’d even be able to stand inside. Paint Abby’s nails and put Lego houses together with her. You’ve sacrificed so much to be the father that you are. You’re no longer the 20 year old I met three and a half years ago. You are the man you wanted to be but thought you couldn’t be. There are no two kids with a better Daddy than you. One day I hope that God sees fit for us to add another little monster to our mess. I hope she (or he) has your hair, your eyes and my attitude. And my spelling. Definitely my spelling.

I love you, Arick Elijah. For everything you are and everything you will be. For the non-stop laughs and being my anxiety medication. For having my back till the end, even if I’m wrong. For being MY best birthday present.

We, Abby and I, we wanted you long before you came to us. My girl wanted a playmate, someone else to adore like all of her friends had. I just wanted my only child to have what she desired most. No, you didn’t come as I expected. But from the moment I knew you were coming I knew you. My son. I’d finally get to have the son I’d wanted for so long.

When you were taken from me our connection didn’t weaken. It grew stronger. I instinctively knew if you were struggling even when we weren’t there. We’d stay just a little longer because I felt like we just needed to, right before you had an episode. Our bond was, and still is, tangible. Your Daddy and I lived and breathed you for the first four months of your life. We watched you grow from a red, thin-skinned little creature into, essentially, a newborn. And now here we are, you’re turning 2 years old today.

We knew before you were born that you may have difficulties. Cerebral palsy was tossed around quite a bit, it being so common with extreme preemies. When we got your diagnosis at 13 months, I expected that to be it. We were sucker punched by polymicrogyria. By the realization that you would have endured CP had you been born full-term. But we’ve all grown so much since then. Having your diagnosis has brought answers and a small bit of closure. We accept you as the child we were meant to have. I cannot imagine an alternative to precisely what our lives are. Or to who you are. You are amazing, son. You’re determined and tough, loving, head strong, feisty and so smart. Can you believe that I used to worry that you wouldn’t be smart? That you’d suffer unnecessarily. I don’t anymore. The light that shines from within you is so bright, son. You’re perfect, and I’ll spend the remainder of my days ensuring that you know this.

I looked at you yesterday as I changed your clothes. I saw something I rarely see. All of your scars. We’re just noticing many now as you grow, evidence of those long forgotten IV’s and surgeries that saved you. I realized I don’t see you as the broken child, the one who’s been mended so many times that you can see the seams. You aren’t that to me. You’re just my son.

I promise to always be your biggest supporter. To be your loudest cheerleader. To stand behind you in all of your endeavours in life. I promise that I will do whatever is in my power to make your life better and to make you stronger.

I can’t wait until you wake up, and I can kiss your smiling little face good morning and proclaim you two years old. You’ll get excited and try your best to hold out two fingers, but that second one just doesn’t stay up as well as the first. And that’s okay. I can’t wait to watch you go pick out your favorite toy and crawl back to me with it. You’ll kiss it, stand up in front of me and demand I kiss it, too. I hope you always have that love for everything. I hope that it is an extension of my love for you, you perpetuating the love you’re always shown. I just can’t wait Avery, to pick you up and hug your tiny little body, my two year old disguised as a one year old. I can’t wait…

You’re still the child of my dreams. You always have been. I love you as far as the east is from the west, and then a little farther.