Friday, December 11, 2015


Dear Girl Child,

First of all, I feel compelled to emphasize that I am not normally sentimental. You know this, because you inherited this trait from me, along with an aversion to being touched strong boundaries about your personal space. I am the person who threw away 90% of the crap precious treasures you brought home from school/church/summer camp. I have ONE BOX of baby clothes for each child, and it's not a big box. One scrapbook album for each of your first years--and I worked HARD on those, dang it, because you did NOT inherit your artistic talent from me--and about 5 more for the whole family, and no more although I keep promising myself I'll use that app that makes it so easy. Like everyone else, Facebook is now our family album. It usually takes moms getting to the third child before reaching this level of unsentimentality. (Yes, that's a word. Because I say so, and you still take my word as law when it comes to the English language.)

I am also bad about taking pictures and videos. Now, though, I wish I had more (just LOOK at that greatness above this paragraph. But I have always been better with capturing memories with words than images, so this will have to do.

First, you should know that you were not only planned, you were AGONIZED over. By me, not your dad. He said we could have a baby whenever I wanted. (Smart man.) He was 27 and I was barely 22 when we got married. I could not imagine being allowed to care for a baby by ourselves. I felt I was still looking around for the grownup in charge and panicking when I realized it was supposed to be me. (Spoiler alert: sometimes I still feel this way.)

It took me five years to be ready.

Five years of being broke while your dad worked his tail off in various forms of physical labor and I went to college and became a middle school teacher (which let's be honest, probably definitely extended my timeline of wanting a baby). Five years of wondering if we would ever be able to own a house (I had this fixed idea of needing a YARD before we could procreate, and now I hardly ever venture out into it. Weird.) I started having baby fever but also fretting about being financially responsible. A good friend once said, "If you wait till you can afford a baby, you'll never have one." So true, but I didn't get it. Because I am an external processor, I had to talk this all out. Many times. Usually in bed around midnight.

Finally one night while I sat up in bed dithering out loud, the lump of blankets next to me your dad said, "I think you're being selfish."

What??? I thought I was being wise and thoughtful of the future because of course I had to be the PERFECT MOM bringing a PERFECT BABY into a PERFECT WORLD we had created.

AHAHAHAHAA! Excuse me while I gather myself after laughing that hard. I knew NOTHING.

I made him explain. He said, "I am not getting any younger and I don't want to be too old to play with a kid when we have one."

Now, you and I both know this would never be the case. He would've wrestled y'all on the floor if he'd been Abraham and I were Sarah; he's just a huge kid at heart. But he totally called me on my selfishness and made me realize that I was waiting for ME, not for him--and certainly not for our baby. Because I wanted to see myself as a perfect mom. He made me see that the perfect time to have a perfect baby was never going to happen. totally did.

I can't explain how except...God, but once I meekly said, "Okay, I'll make an appointment with my doctor to see what I need to do to start trying," everything fell into place. A house we could afford magically fell into our lap. We stopped thinking about getting pregnant and...boom. Six weeks later, we were frantically remodeling our new/old house so we could move into it by the time our lease was up and I realized I miiiiight be pregnant.

There have never been a longer three minutes than the time we spent waiting to look at that pregnancy test. And there has never been a shorter amount of time between that discovering one is pregnant and quitting all remodeling duties. (Hey, that 1970s paint we were sanding off the walls had LEAD in it! I was probably saving you from having three arms or something! Your dad disagrees, but whatever, he didn't have to be pregnant for the next nine months.)

You made pregnancy so easy. I was only sick one time (On The Border, you are still dead to me). We decided not to find out your gender, much to Mawmaw Sher's dismay, since she was champing at the bit to buy adorable baby clothes. (As her post today admits, she secretly prayed for a baby girl with red hair. God apparently listens to grandmothers who have waited mostly patiently for five years for a grandbaby.) The doctor didn't have your sex written in the chart so she wouldn't accidentally say "he" or "she." She was so excited because almost no one chooses to be surprised in the delivery room these days. I still can't believe we waited. (To be honest, on my part it was mostly because I knew I didn't want to decorate a nursery twice and Classic Pooh would be gender-neutral. Gah, I was so sick of Pooh by the time your brother left babyhood.)

Anyway, you also made it easy on me by making it very clear when it was time to go to the hospital. I had been hoping my water would break because the otherwise basically useless childbirth class taught me that if your water breaks, you go to the hospital, do not stop, do not pass Go and most certainly do not collect $200. There was a couple in that class who were there preparing for the birth of their SECOND baby. I know, whaaaaatttt? They were so young and ignorant for the first child's impending arrival that she DIDN'T KNOW SHE WAS IN LABOR and had the baby at home by accident.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I DID NOT WANT that outcome. I had known since the age of about ten, when your Mawmaw told me I was born painlessly after a magical thing called an epidural that I wanted one when the time came.


But I had a certain amount of it after my water broke. I am sorry, I know this will gross you out when you hear it, but I didn't know exactly HOW MUCH water we were talking about. Not the modest cup or so I imagined. I sent your dad back into the house for a towel to protect the car seat "just in case" and he brought back a hand towel. Not sufficient, it turned out. I walked into the hospital with my dress dripping and the nurse joked about me messing up the floor.

It was all very funny but at least there was no question they would admit me because my water had broken. Well, it was funny from 2 a.m., when I arrived, until about 6 a.m., when I tired of walking the halls in a hospital gown, pushing an IV pole, to get my labor going. After that I lay in a bed and stared at a "focal point" the labor class had taught me to choose and thought, "This crap is getting REAL. I don't think I can DO this much longer."

Luckily, without me even asking, the doctor said I could get an epidural so they could speed my labor up, and I swear, I would've kissed the anesthesiologist if he'd still been in the room when the epidural kicked in. Things got much better after that. The next thing I remember, the doctor and nurse were so excited about seeing whether you were a boy or a girl. You were born, I listened for your healthy cry, they put you in my arms.

And there you were: 7 pounds 11 ounces, 19 1/2 inches long, blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair fuzz.

You were my perfect baby. And I had nothing to do with making anything perfect about you or for you. You were just perfect.

I don't mean you were not hard work (I'm still traumatized by the sleep deprivation you put me through.) I hope I have communicated over the past thirteen years that you are perfect just the way you are--that is, I mean that you are LOVED just the way you are, and that you will never have to earn my love in any way whatsoever. You guaranteed that the moment I surrendered to the idea of having a baby. That's why I was so scared, by the way. I was afraid of not having control. Well, motherhood is one long roller coaster ride of realizing over and over again that you have no control over all the things you fear the most. Actually, the one thing you fear the most is losing your child: to illness, accidents, death, or even estrangement. The thought of not seeing your face every day or at least hearing your voice scrunches my heart up until I think I might not be able to breathe. That started the day you lay in my arms, a baby burrito, and I realized, as the saying goes, that my heart would now forever walk around outside my body.

Out of all the girls in all the world, how did we get the very best one?

You have brought nothing but joy into our lives. (At least, that we remember. Your brother can thank his existence for our short-term memory loss.) You were bright-eyed and curious from Day One. I had never seen a week-old baby hold her head up so long; I swear it was so you could look around at people. You wanted to be held constantly but hated the front-facing carrier...and the baby I held you most of the time. Thank God you deigned to be placed in your bouncy seat for up to 15 minutes at a time--or 25 if I put on a Baby Einstein DVD--so I could gulp down lunch. Showering? Not possible till your dad got home. Some days he asked what I'd done that day and I had to think before answering, "I brushed my teeth." Oh yeah, and kept a human infant alive. Did I mention I'd never even BABYSAT a child under the age of 5 before you came into my world? I'm pretty freaking proud of myself for not accidentally sitting on you. We'd go to bed at night and I'd say, "Well, we kept her alive another day."

Until you woke up two hours later having the audacity to want to EAT, which, well, I am not proud of my attitude after about two weeks. Let's just say there's a reason God doesn't let children remember anything about their first year.

Sweet girl, your mama wants you to know I'd fight a lion or a bear or any man on God's green earth to protect you. I have tried my very hardest to nurture you but not allow my anxieties to limit you. When you fearlessly wanted to do something that scared me--like jump off the couch, climb the backyard fence, or attend kindergarten without me sitting beside you holding your hand all day--I closed my mouth that had been open to scream, "Nooooooo" in slow motion like on TV. I swallowed, put a big smile on my face, and said, "Sure you can!"

(There was this picture book called Little Quack that really helped. I channeled Mama Duck: "Come on, little duck," said Mama, "I know you can do it!" Good Lord, did I really just pull that dialogue out of my ancient withered brain?)

And the thing is, you have done it all. Everything I doubted turned out to be a lie. You proved every fear wrong. You fulfilled dreams I didn't know how to dream. You taught me how to parent you. I am only grateful that I had the sense to get out of your way when necessary.

I believe in you. As our favorite Doctor (Ten forever!) said about Rose Tyler:

"But if I believe in one thing... just one thing... I believe in her!"

And I believe in your dad, who convinced me to risk becoming an imperfect parent, which meant that I became fully human. I believe in the God who was merely waiting for me to take a leap of faith. Finally, I believe in the love that was born in me the moment I heard your speedy little heartbeat on that first doctor visit. My precious girl, I wouldn't trade anything on this planet for the last thirteen years I have been privileged to be your mother.

Now, in one week school will be out and I demand some mother-daughter time in which we will read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and talk about it, catch up with the Twelfth Doctor, practice with your newly-allowed makeup (I predict you are already better with it than I am, so please teach me your ways), agree about all the ways that seventh-grade boys are idiots, and just generally have a lazy old fun time in our pajamas together. I think you'll agree you owe me that much just from the story above.

With all my love,


  1. Happy birthday! What a wonderful post.

    1. Thank you so much! I wrote it off and on yesterday while tearing up randomly. "Sunrise, sunset..."