"There are so many bears in the world, dear, but no other bear that will do. You are the bear of my heart, dear, and I am the one who loves you."
The beautiful words in Joanne Ryder's book, Bear of My Heart, made me tear up as I read them, my large pregnant self awkwardly perched in the tiny seat in the children's section of the Wantagh Library. Though I didn't know my baby yet, I knew he would be the bear of my heart.
My Alex is now nearing four and a half years old and it is hard to remember that there ever was a time when he was not here, filling my heart. He was the baby I prayed for desperately, the one I wasn't sure I could have. Test results said my chances of having Alex were not very good, yet another reason I hate to put any faith in tests. One month later, with just the smallest of interventions from a specialist, as I hid in my classroom closet on my cell phone to hear the news, the happiest, life-changing words were said: "Congratulations, the test came back positive."
Alex arrived two days before his due date, on an Indian summer October day. As he came into this world, relief flooded over me that he was here, but then a quiet panic when I didn't hear him cry. And then bells rang and the room filled with people. Donna, the nurse who had given us our prenatal class, was fatefully the nurse who assisted in delivering Alex. She reassured me he was okay, "just a little stunned." Apparently, the umbilical cord had tightened around his neck as he was born and he needed a little assistance. Gratefully, blessedly, thankfully, he was fine, although his rough entrance bought him a ticket to the NICU for a few days. They only let me hold him for a couple of minutes before he had to go, but when they placed him in my arms, my world clicked into focus, forever changed.
I looked at his little face, the one I had desperately wished for, the bear of my heart, and I said, "Yes, of course it is you!" He was the unknown baby no more, he was my Alex, here and his very being was so recognizable, like we had always known each other across time and space. They took him from me, because tests had to be run, he needed to be monitored, and they thought I needed some rest.
A few hours later, I finally got to see my baby again. I was wheeled into the NICU, and as the nurse picked him up out of his plastic crib, I gently said, "Hello Alex" and his little head turned right towards me. The nurses said, "Oh, look, he knows your voice." We knew each other, a bond so deep and ancient yet brand new.
Life is full of many moments and most pass you by, never to be thought of again, while others are burned in your soul, to be relived and called to mind often. Holding Alex for the very first time and having him turn to hear me, the first moments of this precious relationship are among my most treasured memories.
"No matter how big you may grow, dear, or whether we're near or apart. I will love you forever and ever, for YOU are the bear of my heart."