This is my love letter to my 11-year-old daughter. It’s hard to believe that the last time I brought a child into the world was 11 years ago today. I didn’t know then that would be the last time. I thought I had more time.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was bigger this time than the first time. I could barely see my toes. But we were so excited to take our little family of 3 to 4. I was nervous. I couldn’t sleep the night before the induction because I knew, just like the first time, this baby was going to change everything.
I won’t lie, we had quite the eventful labor and delivery. I knew it wasn’t going to be like the first birth when about 3 hours into the induction, we realized that our video camera wasn’t working. All of this preparation and the camera didn’t work. The Big Guy called his brother who lived a couple hours away and my brother-in-law, who was in doing his residency at the time, somehow cleared his entire day and drove us his camera to use. I will never forget that.
I’ll also never forget that he drove all that way, gave us the camera, wished us luck and drove right back to where he came from. He had no interest in accidentally being present when delivery rolled around. I remember it was funny to me because…he’s a doctor. But I will never forget the huge gesture he did without hesitation he brought us a camera to record our daughter’s birth. He was like a very humble superhero.
I remember laying there in my hospital bed while the Big Guy walked his brother out, about 7 hours into the induction and a broken waters later, looking at my cell phone and seeing a picture of my firstborn and second-guessing the entire thing. What was I thinking? How could I ever love another child as much as I did my first daughter? Was that even possible? I cried. No, I sobbed because all I could think, with my second baby stuck inside me and my first baby at home completely confused at 2-years-old as to where I’d gone off to with my big belly, was that one or both of them were going to feel like they got less love than the other. The thought of it broke my heart.
Eventually, after hours of trying different positions, a nurse had to lay on top of me to help push my Gabs out. I was in labor for what seemed like forever; scared to fail both of my children, certain I was not going to be able to do it and afraid that, unlike the Grinch, my heart wouldn’t grow two sizes. But it did.
From the moment I saw all that black curly hair in the mirror as I was pushing our Gabs into the world, I knew it was going to be alright. Apparently, I am a Grinch at heart. They laid her on my chest, after removing the cord from her neck and her purple body, and I was reminded in that moment how lucky I was to be a mother and what a privilege it was to bring her into this world.
I was reminded again how thin the veil between life and death truly is and I gave myself over to an overwhelming, all-encompassing, everything is going to be alright kind of love, much like I did the first time. In these moments, I’ve been proven that miracles exist and in these miracles, in my baby’s eyes, I see God in his purest form.
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Of course, the next day my firstborn daughter came to meet Gabs at the hospital and was so confused and overwhelmed by everything that I checked myself out of the hospital AMA before 24 hours because even though I was basking in the glow of my newborn baby, I knew my 2-year-old still needed me too. This heart doubling in size thing was still new to me and I had to figure out how to live in my new reality of 4. But it was good and Gabs completed us.
You are like sunshine on the water. Beautiful, special and breathtaking but a moving target. Just when I think I have you figured out, you grow and move and everything shifts and I have to work to learn to understand you again, from another vantage point.
You were born an old soul. In many ways, you are more mature than your big sister but in many ways, you are still just a little kid. The way you play, laugh and the pattern of your freckles spread out across your cheeks, as your glassy blue eyes smile out at me from beneath a cascade of honey-kissed summer hair, always disheveled, reminds me that you are still a little girl in many ways.
Yet at other times, the words you speak, the soulfulness in your eyes, the crack in your voice when something makes you sad reminds me that soon you will be a woman. You are straddling between the two worlds right now; one foot firmly planted in childhood while the other is stepping into womanhood.
I feel you pulling away, little by little, like the pull of the tide on the waves. I feel myself letting go, gently, like the wisps of a dandelion being blown into the summer sun full of hope and wishes. This is the hard part.
All I want to do is hold on tighter. Reign you in and pull you back close to me but I can’t. I have to let you go so that you know that I trust you. I have to give you freedom so that you can grow and find your way back to me.
Just know that I will always love you, no matter what you do or where you go. I will always be there to pick you up when you need me to. I will not judge you. I will not abandon you. I will not belittle and berate you. I will respect you. You can talk to me about anything and I will listen.
When I look at you, I will probably always, at first glance, see that newborn baby girl with the black, curly hair and the chubby little cheeks. I’ll remember the way you smelled of Johnson’s and Johnson’s baby soap and your baby breath of green apples. But know that I see you, the young woman that you are trying to become. I see the butterfly but I’ll never forget the chrysalis you once were.
Love you forever to the moon and back,