Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One (or Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes)

Musing on one year…  and a letter to my baby girl.

It’s crept up on me - our daughter’s first birthday.  And alongside the anniversary of the day of her birth comes my official realization of exactly how fast one year of life can pass.  It’s nearly daily, as we watch her play, that my husband tells me with a tinge of dread in his voice, she’s going to college soon.  And as seasoned parents tell me, he’s right.

Seeing the world from a new point of view
This year has been filled with beautiful memories: endless amounts of shameless gushing over everything she does, of the secretly held belief in our biased hearts that even as she embarks on the same milestones as every other single baby in the world throughout time, she’s the best baby that ever lived.  But even as I fill with pride and joy, I am also growing ever more familiar with the haunting feeling that we are going to mess it all up.  Gazing into my baby’s happy, soulful eyes, I know that not everyday ahead will be blissful and full of light. 

There’s something I used to do when I was pregnant.  Those haunting feelings were familiar back then.  I’d often lay awake at night worrying about whether the baby growing inside me was getting everything she needed, and hoping she was healthy, strong, comfortable, and well.  And so whenever I encountered that paralyzing worry, I'd get up and out of bed, and would pull out a notebook and write her a letter.  I made the decision not only to “journal,” but to actually write words directly to my baby.  I wanted to get a head start on what I hope will be a lifetime of open and direct communication - of not sacrificing what’s really going on for the sake of appearing like we’ve got everything together, or saving face.

Today is a perfect day for another letter.

Dear Baby Girl,

You are one year old today!  It’s been one year since you and I worked together, along with Dada and Kate, to bring you from inside my uterus out into the world.  You came into the world with your eyes wide open.  From the very first moments, you were already looking around, alert and awake. 

You are strong.  Just minutes after you were born, we placed you on top of me, belly to belly, and you inched and wiggled, all by yourself, up to my chest.  Once you were up there, you picked up your head, threw it over to one side, and began nursing for the very first time, all on your own.  I was there to make sure you didn’t fall, and to offer a bit of support and guidance.  But you knew what to do already.  Every time you come across a new challenge in life, or a big task, look inside yourself first, you might already have an idea as to how to begin.  But also don’t be afraid to look for help; we are here to support you.

You are small.  Yes, you are smaller than most other babies your age.  You have tiny hands and tiny feet.  But we are all small.  In comparison to this big, big world around us, we are just a very small piece.  Always look around you with wonder and remember that you are part of something bigger than yourself. But also know that our physical size doesn’t have anything to do with our capacity to love, give, and make a big difference.  You can do big, big things, no matter how small you are.

The world is both good and bad.  People will try to tell you that it's all one or all the other, but I don’t believe it.  When I look around, I see and experience that both are true.  In this past year of your life, there has been unspeakable badness and sadness.  A month after you were born, there was a horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and then a few months later there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon, and just this week a typhoon hit the central Philippines, the country my family is from.  Someday you might ask me why these bad things happen, and I will tell you honestly that I don’t know.  I will tell you that I still ask that same question.  Don’t ever stop asking that question.  Trying to find the answer can lead you toward a deeper understanding of people, give you a greater sense of empathy, and inspire you to fight for what you believe in. 

To find the good in this past year, I don’t have to look too far.  I only have to see you smile, which is something you do freely and frequently.  I only have to feel your Dada squeeze my hand as we watch you play, and discover, and learn.  I only have to watch the way complete strangers light up when they meet you.  You are already, even at your very young age, spreading good cheer everywhere we go.

I love you.  Unconditionally.  There's nothing you need to do or not do to earn my love.  People often warn me that someday you'll do things that will make it difficult for me to love you.  That as a teenager you'll roll your eyes at me and want nothing to do with me.  And I know we may hurt each other, sometimes unintentionally, and other times on purpose.  But I’m holding out hope that even through tough times, we'll keep talking.  I’m hoping that ours will be a home where we talk about how we feel and what we're afraid of, where we say we're sorry and take responsibility for our mistakes.  That ours will be a home where you hear and feel how much we love you, everyday.

Happy Birthday, my darling.  Thank you for this amazing year. 
I am so incredibly honored to be your mama. 

Love always,


One - is the finale from A Chorus Line.  When I listen to this song, I swear they are singing about my baby.  :)
Seasons of Love - sometimes unofficially called "Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes."  I've listened to this song from Rent since I was in high school, this year it has completely refreshed meaning to me.