My baby turns one tomorrow. One year ago today, the night before she was born, I sat at this same computer with a swollen belly and a box-full of tissues, writing this letter to my son. Full of love and fear, I sobbed and worried and dreamed about how this tiny person would change all of us. I reread that letter today and the outpouring of love I received from both my nearest people and complete strangers, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this past year.
Somehow, everything has changed and nothing has changed all at the same time. I have more wrinkles and less sleep, but for the first time in my life, time has kind of stopped. You see, I’m a planner. As soon as I finish one thing, I’m making moves on the next. At breakfast I think about what I’m going to have for dinner. As a sophomore in high school, I knew where I was going to college. When I graduated college, I had a check in hand for the deposit on my first city apartment. When I had Aiden, I started planning for pregnancy #2. So now, for the first time, there is no next. There are new chapters, for sure, but when Lottie J. stepped onto the scene, the universe paused. And in that pause I saw the whole plan. This is the family, the life I was meant to have. Nothing was ever missing, but it was never finished. Now it is. She was the last plan.
So today, one year after I wrote her brother a letter, I want to write her one. No tears today, just gratitude.
To My Little Girl,
I always wanted a girl. And not because of the tutus we could buy or the patriarchies we could smash, which are both part of the fun, but because in my soul I get girls. Because girls are complex, amazing beings who are so strong and vulnerable at the same time. I know that girls come with a lot of tears and fire, and you are already full of both, but that’s part of what makes us passionate and special. There will come a time when you don’t like me very much; mother-daughter relationships tend to be intricate in their dynamics. But I know there will also come a time when you come back to me with such full force that our bond will be impenetrable. I know that because I’m a daughter too.
I want you to know how you changed us. You made your father very brave. You see, he was always nervous around babies, worried that his giant hands would somehow crush their little bodies. So he handled babies a bit like explosives, even Aiden, with caution and tremors. But with you, it was the first time I saw him hold a newborn naturally, calmly, with such joy and ease. Worry lines have never even flashed across his brow with you; I have watched him melt to pieces every single day over the last year. Those worry lines will appear when you hit adolescence, believe me, but know that every day he sends you out into the world is an act of bravery because all he wants in this world is to protect you.
You made Aiden a big brother. We know he’s your favorite; no one makes you laugh as hard or smile as wide as him. But you also taught him how to be gentle and care for someone else. When you cry in the car, he holds your hand and sings to you. When you climb all over him, he smiles and hugs you. When you go to sleep, he kisses the top of your head. We didn’t teach him any of that. You did. You are helping to turn my little boy into an empathetic, loving young man, and I will always be grateful for the role you play in his life.
You brought me calm. I don’t know if you can tell, but your mother is a pretty high-strung person. The first year your brother was alive I slept about a total of ten minutes because I was convinced that if I wasn’t vigilantly hovering over him every second of the day, he’d surely catapult himself into ruin. With you, I do a lot more breathing. Instead of scooping you up at every sign of danger, I let you wrestle with your big brother, watching as you discover the limitations and capabilities of your little body. I haven’t referenced a single infant milestone chart to ensure your skill acquisitions are correctly paced; instead I’ve let you develop as you will, capturing each first with joy and awe at how fast you are becoming the person you’re meant to be. I’m comparing you to no one, because you are like no one else on this earth. I’m comparing myself to no one, because there is no one else better suited to be your mom than me. I’m freeing us both from the constraints of comparison and self-doubt, and allowing us to just be who we are. It took me almost 35 years to get there, but you gave me that freedom.
I want you to know that I see the person you are. You may just be one, but you are already this whole little person. You have the best temperament until you are hungry. And then you’re really hangry. Like scary hangry. And, oh my, are you funny. You have a sense of humor and you know when you’re being silly and you laugh at yourself. You love to dance. My favorite thing in the world is to watch you dance, and I hope dancing becomes as much a part of you as it was for me. You love your family. The first thing you do each morning is to strain your neck to check and make sure we’re all there. I hope you will always look to us to ground yourself, to know that you are home and that all is right with the world.
I want you to know what you taught me about love: hearts don’t reach max capacity; they just grow. The day you were born I laughed. I laughed! Because in that moment I felt my heart double in size. In that moment, I knew this family was complete. In the moment I became your mom, I also became your person, and I hope that never changes.
You were a gift to us, my little girl. I love you, my last baby, forever. Happy birthday.