To Chulengo, On Your First Birthday…
I am writing this letter to you on your 360th day of life as we prepare to celebrate your first birthday. I tear up as I type and I haven’t even written anything yet. I don’t even know where to start, as there is so much I want to say.
First, let me start with why we call you Chulengo. Before you were conceived, your dad and I went on vacation to Chile & Argentina. We spent a week hiking in Torres del Paine, a National Park in Chile. You must go when you are older. You will find yourself lost in the beauty of the Earth. It’s a land that is magical, peaceful, and unlike anywhere else on Earth.
While hiking, we saw these wild llama-like animals in the park, called Guanacos. A baby Guanaco is called a Chulengo. Their mating season is November through February and their gestation period is almost a year. So, when we were hiking in mid-February, we got to see hundreds of guanacos and their little chulengos. We were enamored by the cuteness of these little chulengos. We spent hours just watching these adorable little creatures take in their new world
Months later, we found out that you were going to arrive the next year! Your dad and I did not want to know your gender before you were born. We wanted to be surprised. As the first couple weeks went by, we weren’t sure what to call you. Not knowing if you were a boy or a girl, we had a hard time coming up with a gender-neutral name. Baby and Little One seemed too generic. That didn’t feel right. Then one night, while we were looking through pictures from our trip, we saw the photos we took of the chulengos. That was it; your nickname would be Chulengo.
When we started calling you Chulengo, family members asked if we named you after a smoker. Haha. I didn’t know there was a smoker called a Chulengo. But no, you were named Chulengo after the wild, adorable, curious, brave, perfect little animals we were captivated by in Chile. So, even though you have a real name, a beautiful name, we will always think of you like our little Chulengo.
Ok, Chulengo, your arrival into this world threw my world upside down — in the best way possible. Thanks to you, I have found my calling. I have discovered a passion that I never knew I could experience. Being a mom — your mom— is what I was born to do. While I enjoyed my work before you, it didn’t bring joy to me the way waking up and taking care of you has brought me joy. I feel so privileged to wake up every day and know that it’s you and me.
Seeing your curiosity for all things, your contagious smile, and your intense persistence on a daily basis makes my life enjoyable. The bond we have cultivated is like something I have never experienced. Our morning embraces, our mid-day explorations, and our afternoon cuddles are cherished moments. This past year you have needed me — to comfort you and to nourish you. This past year I have needed you — to show me what I am truly capable of being. To show me that Christopher Robin was right: I am braver than I think, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think. While there are days when being your mom can be challenging, I have developed unshakable confidence that I can do what is right for you.
When you were born, there was a song that was popular on the radio: “Something Just Like This” by Coldplay & The Chainsmokers. Every time we were in the car together, this song came on. Now each time I hear it, my heart skips a beat, and I go back to those days when you were a tiny little peanut bundled in the backseat. And I could glance at you sleeping peacefully in your car seat.
The singer describes how he has read all about the superheroes of the world. And how he doesn’t feel like he measures up to those names. And his Love says something like “I don’t need a superhero. I need something just like this.” When I hear that song, I realize that while I am not a superhero, nor do I have superhero powers, I am your mom. And I want something just like this. Just like what I have, right now.
Each time I hear that song now, it is a reminder that even though most days aren’t easy and parenting is hard — really hard — this time is so special. This moment, every moment of every day with you, I want this. Each day, I want you. Each day, I want to cuddle and laugh with you. Each day, I want to soothe you when you are sad or hurt. Each day, I want to teach you and help you discover what life has to offer. Each day, I want to provide for you, nourish you, cultivate your spirit. I want this.
Your first year has been incredible. You entered the world via C-section because you were in a breech position and stubbornly wouldn’t move. I tried everything: lying upside down on the inclined ironing board, a version, flipping upside down while hanging by my legs to the side of the pool, doing somersaults in the pool, strategically placing heat, ice, & music to get you to move. But you had plans of your own.
This year you have moved with us across the country. You have learned to roll, sit, pull up, stand, and cruise all before our eyes. You have started mimicking our movements and sounds. You have flown on more than a dozen round-trip flights. You have traveled to nine different states. You had your picture taken with NFL player Travis Kelce holding you. You have touched the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. You have five very sharp teeth, three on top, two on bottom, which you use to gnaw into anything you can get your hands on. Your favorite word is dada. Your favorite foods are mushrooms, watermelon, and lasagna. You made it through the flu, even though we were scared every moment until you were healthy again. You can win any staring contest. You think you are funny when you drop food on the floor. You have slept through the night less than a dozen times, but you are so sweet and cuddly when we have our middle of the night snuggle sessions in your nursery. You have spent hours upon hours with me nursing — my favorite times of the day. I can’t believe we have had the lucky chance to nurse for one year and hopefully beyond.
So Chulengo, this week of your first birthday, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being the perfect addition to this life that I love. Thank you for helping me grow daily. Thank you for forcing me to become a better and happier version of myself. Thank you for teaching me patience and helping me realize that I control the energy I put out into the world. Thank you for helping me understand what really matters in life, and not get hung up on the small stuff that doesn’t matter. Thank you for making me laugh. Every. Single. Day.
Thank you for making my husband the most incredible dad. The way you both light up seeing each other when he comes home from work is awe-inspiring. Thank you for bringing joy to each person who meets you. Anyone who sees you has a sparkle in their eye when you interact with them. Your silly faces, surprising responses, and cuddly behavior bring irreplaceable joy.
I look forward to seeing you continue to grow. I look forward to seeing what challenges you choose to take on. I look forward to seeing you become a little boy and then a young man. I look forward to leading you to a life of happiness, fulfillment, and success.
I love you Chulengo.