Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Letter to My Littler Daughter: Year One (first birthday, 6 months home)

Dear Faith,
Today you have been home with us for 6 months.  This milestone matters to me because it's not only a significant amount of time, but it also marks that magical moment when the mythical switch flips and you have officially been my daughter longer than you weren't.  Of course, it's bittersweet because I can't help but think of your First Mama whenever I mark these milestones.

Speaking of your First Mama, she has an extravagant birthday party planned for you tomorrow.  Mostly we're just along for the ride, which is awesome.  She loves you so much.  I think this year we will celebrate 1 year home in March with a big party so that we can give your first birthday to your first parents.  We get all of your other birthdays, after all.

I've been reminiscing about the months of "radio silent" when we didn't know if you would be our daughter or not.  Those months were torture for me, although now they seem like they went fast.  Hindsight does that, I suppose.  I look at you and wonder at how different my life would be if we hadn't said, "yes" or if your first parents had changed their minds.  I look at you and marvel at how much my life would lack if you were not in it.  Sometimes I say to your daddy, "Look at what we would be missing out on if God had answered our prayers last fall!"  This time last year, we were grappling with the grief of many months without a positive pregnancy test.  This time last year, we were making tentative decisions about changing routes on our path.  This time last year, we surrendered our path to the Map Maker and He began to steer us to you.  Never before have I been so grateful for unanswered prayers!

I hope it's clear to everyone - EVERYONE - that you are no disappointment to me.  You are not a second choice or the child I settled for when my prayers for a healthy baby or a pregnancy went unanswered.  You are and were ordained to be, my daughter.  No disclaimers or conditions need be added.  I would choose you again and again and again and again.  I would dismiss all manner of "healthy" children and wait for you again.  Because you are the best.  And I'm so glad I get to be your mommy.

I love being your mommy.  I love the way you grin and flap your arms at me when I walk in the room. I love the way you hug me when I first pick you up.  I love the way you tense up in excitement.  I love how proud of yourself you are when you push yourself up to a sitting position from your tummy.  I love how much you love the dog.  I love the way you look like an inchworm when you scoot across the floor.  I love the way you squint and I never know if you're about to laugh or cry.  I love the way you quiet down when I sing into your ear.  I love getting to know you.  I love signing "Mommy" to you emphatically in the hopes that you will sign it back to me some day.  I love the way your eyes widen when I sign to you - I think it means you understand me!

Your daddy and I were talking tonight about how it doesn't feel like it should be your birthday already. Part of it is because you've only been home half of a year, but the other part is that you aren't really doing much that one year olds usually do.  I could be sad about that.  Sometimes I am just because I want things to be easier for you.  But mostly I'm totally okay with it because I feel like I'm getting some of the time I missed with you.  You came home at 6 months old, but you felt and acted like a 3 month old.  And now, at 364 days old, you seem to me like you are just 8 or 9 months old - recently mastering sitting up, crawl-scooting everywhere, putting everything in your mouth, popping out two teeth, and starting to pull up on things.  I am grateful for your extended infancy because I feel like I am being given a gift that I thought I would have to forfeit.

Let me be clear: I would never begrudge your First Mama a single day with you.  Never.  But that doesn't mean I don't wish I could have been there, too.  Someone once flippantly said - I think in the midst of a particularly exhausting season - that they would love to skip the first months of their kids' lives and get right to the fun toddler stage.  I know what they meant.  The sleepless nights can be killers and the more independent kids get, the easier most things become.  (Lord knows I'm grateful your Big Sis is potty-trained and I'm not changing two sets of diapers these days!)  But, as a mommy who missed out on the first six months of her baby's life, I wanted to say, "No.  Don't ever wish those days away!  I'd give my right arm to have those days sealed in my memory rather than hazy in my imagination.  Don't take them for granted, as hard and exhausting as they are - they are also sacred."

The days that added up to your first six months are sacred, too.  And as much as I grieve that I didn't get them with you, I am so glad that your First Mama has them to honor and treasure.  I hope that she lived them fully and that she, every so often, was able to push away the date looming in the past's future when she would no longer have your days to treasure.  I think often about that day - March 27, 2013 - and how different the memory of it must feel to us than it does to her.  For us, it was a beginning.  For her, an ending.  For us, it was joy and hope and thrill.  For her, grief and sorrow and heartache.  For you?  We'll never know.  I hope it was one of peace and safety.  I hope you knew from the moment I laid my hands on you that you were loved from the moment I laid my eyes on you.
The first picture we saw of you.  I immediately saved it to my phone's lock screen so I could stare at you all day long.  I was stupid in love from this very first glimpse.
Taken your first night home.
Taken a few weeks ago.
I think you know that now - how loved you are.
I think you know that I am your mommy - the one who treasures your days and celebrates your victories.
The one who gets to wake up tomorrow and wish you "Happy Birthday" for the very first time.

I'm so glad I'm your mommy, Faith-baby.

Happy, happy birthday.


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