My sweet baby girl —
It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it?
You experienced so much change and you had to learn so much. In fact, you learned more in this first year of your life than perhaps you will in any other single year moving forward (!). And the change you experienced – it was unimaginable, too. You went from having every single need met so perfectly that you had never even experienced need – to a world in which you experienced every basic need and more – hunger, exhaustion, frustration, anger, fear, sadness – sometimes all in one day or even one hour. I’m so sorry, sweet baby girl of mine, that it’s been so hard.
And yet – you amaze me. Despite all these hard things, you grew and thrived. You learned to roll over, sit, crawl, stand, start to walk. You learned to drink and eat (and boy do you love food!), to smile and laugh and start to talk. I am so proud of you, already, for your persistence, for your feisty spirit, for all the many things you have learned and accomplished in this short year. Today, you are ONE.
My sweet baby girl, it’s been a hard year for your Mama, too.
At first, I had a hard time adjusting to being a family of four. There was no 12-week maternity leave from my work as a freelancer and full-time caregiver of your brother, and so I struggled with projects and audition preparations and trying to love your brother well with less time, instead of just snuggling with you on the couch all day (not that you were much of a snuggler!) and watching TV or listening to audiobooks while you nursed (although you preferred to eat in total silence anyway).
As I slowly got the hang of our new family dynamic and grew accustomed to the ways that both you and your brother needed me, my nervous system went a bit haywire and I started feeling easily overwhelmed and bombarded by my senses. The sound of your cries became especially difficult to bear – yet I knew that you had to learn to soothe yourself to sleep so that I could get the healing sleep that I needed. Every day was tough, but I worked hard to create a healthier life and mindset (which I wrote about here and here). My relationship with God started to blossom again and I relied often and heavily on His grace.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in (your) weakness.” 2 Cor 12: 9 (parenthetical added)
We came out of those particular woods sometime in February – but it’s still no cakewalk, sweet baby girl. I continue to fight the depression, nearly every day – the overwhelming feelings and sensitivities and hopelessness. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance your needs and your brother’s needs and your daddy’s needs and my needs and our family’s needs. I’m still figuring out what career work feels “worth” the effort and time right now, and what it is that I want most to be doing. I’m still looking for God in my weakness.
But you know what? We made it, kiddo.
We made it through the first year, and that first year is not easy for anyone, anywhere. But we did it. And we needed each other to make it through. You needed me in all the obvious ways – for food and nurture and stability and love and diaper changes and daily baths and pretty much everything in between. But I needed you, too, sweet baby girl. On some of my worst and hardest days, it was your smile that reminded me that there is light in my life. No matter how difficult meeting your needs felt at the time, it was often those very needs that gave me purpose, reminding me of my greatest work and responsibility. It was your needs that reminded me to choose this life.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
I have found SO MUCH LIFE in you, sweet baby girl, and in your brother – even though it’s for you both that I gave up so much of my life.
I wish this first year had been all walks in the park and snuggles during naptime, happy memories and spontaneous adventures. I wish that it hadn’t been so colored by depression and guilt. I wish that I could have treasured nursing you like I did your brother, and I wish that I had been less annoyed by your I’m-so-starving-that-I-need-to-scream-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-between-every-bite-of-food-until-you-put-more-in-my-mouth style of eating (God bless your daddy, who fed you basically every meal that he could).
I wish that I didn’t feel so guilty for not loving your babyhood.
But I do love you, my sweet baby girl, and I love your little hands and feet, your sweet newborn cry for milk that you’ve long outgrown, your amazingly long eyelashes that frame those enormous, blue eyes. But I am eager for the next stage, SO excited for you to grow and walk and talk and become my sweet little girl instead of my sweet baby girl.
And that’s OK.
I will let go of that guilt – of all the things that I felt were imperfect about your first year, all the regrets that I have, all the things that were so hard. I will choose to believe something different.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Cor 12:9
I will choose to believe that His grace is enough for me, and that your first year was a year not only of hardship — but of grace.
So when we sing Happy birthday to you tonight, I will smile and raise my glass high because we made it through your first year, sweet baby girl. And even though it was a hard year – an imperfect year – it was a good year, too. It was a year of grace.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl Hannah Grace.