As you sleep in my arms, I'm amazed at how light you feel. I stare at your tiny body, so fragile that a gust of wind could hoist you into the air. I love this feeling of protecting you and dreaming of all I have in store for you.
You are my third son and I will use what I've learned so far to make your family experience worthy of your miraculous existence. I do have some phenomenal team members for this effort -- your mommy, who cares for you like the sun nourishes the earth; your brother Benjamin, who already watches out for you like a gentle sentinel; and your brother Jacob, who refers to you as "my baby" and giggles with delight at your every sigh. That's not to mention the doting grandparents who view you as a gift and the close friends who astonish us with their support.
I will nurture and teach you. But, as with your brothers, I intend to help you thrive in an often-difficult society. That's why your mommy and I have named you Ari, which means "lion." It's our hope that you will grow strong and pounce on every opportunity to do well for yourself and others.
For now, I'm content just cradling you, basking in your warmth and listening to the little creature noises you make in place of the loud proclamations you will soon roar. Perhaps it's because you are the last (though certainly not least) child your Mommy and I plan to have, I am intent on recording in my memory and on paper all the moments of your new life.
Of course, some of that recording got me in trouble during your mother's labor. Minutes after Mommy woke me to announce, "I think my water broke," I picked up my red composition book to write, "Finally, I get to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night -- just like the movies." You see, Benjamin (now 6) and Jacob (3) took their sweet time in leaving the womb. You were in such a hurry, you started the birth process almost two weeks before your due date.
Mommy laughed at my scribbling in the journal, but I couldn't stop writing until Grandma showed up at 2:30 am to babysit your brothers so we could leave. A split second after I parked at the medical center, Mommy speed-waddled toward the hospital, worried you might pop out before she got to a delivery room.
Things moved so fast that, by the time the nurse (at 3:50 am) checked to see how you were progressing, you were halfway to coming out. Mommy got so excited that she declined the usual pain medication. Papa and Nana, looking tired but happy, came to provide moral support. I kept taking notes in the red journal if only to keep my nerves settled.
With a couple of hours to go before your introduction, Mommy and I talked over names. We had spent months imagining what you'd be like. Would you be a boy or a girl? Would you look like Mommy, Daddy, Benjamin, Jacob -- the FedEx guy? Soon, we would find out and we wanted to have a name ready for you.
At 5:30 a.m., Dr. Perlow declared that you were ready to emerge, so the nurse prepared special lights, tools, washing items, cold juice, a mirror -- I noted everything, even though we'll probably save this part for you until you're older.
At 6 am, Mommy started pushing. She worked hard, wanting to see you so badly. "This hurts," she said in the biggest understatement of her life. I have little understanding of it, except for the nail marks in my hand.
She rested for a bit, calling for some oxygen, so I whipped out my journal to capture the moment in ink.
"You're documenting everything?" Mommy asked, incredulously.
"You'd rather I take pictures?" I asked, smiling.
"Put down the [bleepin'] pen, Gregg!" she said.
"Yes, honey," I responded with the words you will one day learn are vital to any romantic relationship.
It was good that I put down the pen because, a few minutes later, Mommy pushed like a linebacker and out your head popped! At the doctor's okay, I moved in to help deliver the rest of you into the great outdoors. "It's a boy!" I shouted as I held you aloft.
I then was able to cut your umbilical cord and put you in your mother's arms. She still had enough energy to radiate her love while she curled you to her face.
And here we are tonight. As I hold you close, you sleep so peacefully. I press my ear to your chest and hear your strength. I am listening to the first beats of a lion's heart.
Welcome to the world, Ari.