On the first year (or baby chronicles: Part Ten)

I have been struggling with this post. I want this to be well thought-out. Meaningful. You have just turned a year old.

Shouldn’t I mark it with some importance?

It is all so amorphous, without solid form. Much like your growing personality and mental development. There is no hard line in the sand where you simply “begin” walking, or talking. You try, and fail, and try again, and get better at failing. Until eventually, you fail fewer times than you try.

The milestone is reached only in retrospect. In much the same way, you begun walking. Now, we believe you are beginning to talk and truly understand some of the words we say to you. Mama, appa, up, and uh-oh, are just a few words in your squishy vocabulary. In a few weeks, maybe some of your vocal demands will finally convince us of your forward development.

Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, and that is why this post has been so challenging. Let’s return to the beginning.


We have known about you, Joonsu, for almost two years now. We learned about Mackenzi’s pregnancy in March, 2018. I read the previous baby chronicles to reflect on this journey and the distance traveled. It is a wild ride, thinking about my emotional state during that first trimester.

So much uncertainty in those early days. I smile when reading about the change of seasons, which acted as a countdown to your arrival. There’s a bit of certainty in any amount of haziness. Before we even knew your name, we knew just about when you would arrive. We didn’t know anything about your personality or your wonderful smile.

Pregnancy and your gestation seemed to last forever. An incredible time in your parents’ lives. We became parents as we turned into doctors. I can barely remember what life was like before that snowy day, when Mackenzi came to me with a positive test. In many ways, our life as a family began that morning.

Your slow growth is forever enmeshed in the wildness of third year clerkships and the fourth year rush toward Match Day. So much change. I learned that I have not figured out as much as I thought I did, especially when it comes to relationships. My relationship to your mother, and to my own parents, and to my parents-in-law, and to you. I learned how selfish I am, and you continue to change the center of my universe: away from me and more towards us.

The days leading up to your birth were filled with tension and anticipation. The day of your birth was incredible and terrifying. You came into this world so big, ready to soak up all the love from those around you.


Those first weeks challenged me greatly. We just watched a Netflix special, and the comedian put it so well: two lives changed on your birth day. You came into the world, a new person ready to learn and grow. Mackenzi transitioned from a woman to a mother. And I? I stayed about the same.

Where did I fit into the puzzle of breastfeeding and napping? Mostly, I took care of the dog. I’ll be honest, I resented the way your changed our little solar system. We had a nice thing going, with a lazy pooch and a Mackenzi who adored me. After you came around? I had to share the spotlight, and it rarely shone on me after your arrival.

And who wouldn’t resent a tyrant with your level of demands? You wiggle around with the poopiest of butts when I try to change you. You cry when I don’t pick you up. Then you demand that I put you down! You slap my face without apology. You pull my hair and then turn on the water works when I try to to defend myself!

But then, you began to learn about the world around you. I can see the deep and profound curiosity in your eyes. I love watching the way you move your little body to solve the problem of “how do I get up there?” I could observe you bother our lazy dog all day. You are so busy!

And then we began to bond. I learned how to soothe you. I can quite reliably put you to sleep, assuming you are ready for sleep. You warm my heart with the biggest and goofiest smile when I return home from the hospital. And I am only a distant second to your momma, when it comes to who you want to bother.


Joonsu, you just turned a year old. We’ve rotated through the four seasons together.

You are walking. You still crawl, and I love the evenings where you stampede around the dining room while incoherently shouting. I’m consistently amazing at your ability to catch yourself when you tumble. You move so well, I hope you never lose this ability.

You are babbling, on the verge of speaking. You let us know, in other ways, your desires and preferences. Your sweet little voice washes away the troubles of the day.

You have a cold. The sniffles, perhaps from your birthday celebration last weekend. Your attempts to enjoy yourself and play with us, despite your discomfort, gives me great hope about your future temperament.

You are such a sweet fellow. Always sharing your toys (by aggressively shoving them into our mouths) or reminding us to drink water (by aggressively pressing cups into our mouths). You have a wonderful curiosity about the world, I hope to encourage that fire.


Yesterday, Mackenzi sent me this poem, and I think it a fitting way to end this ramble.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran


On the Education of a Physician

Four Prompts On Death Podcast

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