In an effort to keep all things equal between you and your brother and make up for an almost entirely neglected baby book, I’m writing you a letter for your first birthday. If you’re like your mother and possess the emotional fortitude of a wet paper bag, one day you will read this and weep. If you’re like your father, then you’ll probably read it stoically and say “Mom, do you need a hug or something?”
From the start you were a high maintenance baby. When I was 9 weeks pregnant I found out that there was an issue that could potentially put you in some serious harm. The worst case scenario…well, I don’t even want to think about that. Other than monitoring you with weekly ultrasounds there wasn’t anything I could do to keep you safe. It was hard as a mother to be that helpless and I felt sad for both of us that there couldn’t be as much joy in this pregnancy as there had been with your brother. In total I had 26 ultrasounds over the course of my pregnancy. As the outlook improved I began to look forward to these appointments. Each week I saw you grow. I saw your chubby cheeks fill out, watched you squirm and flip inside of me, and breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor assured me that everything was completely normal. On those early mornings with goop covering my belly as I peered in at you, it felt surreal to see you grow.
Two days after we celebrated your brother’s 2nd birthday I met you. I’ll admit, I was nervous. How could I love someone else as much as I loved Anthony? How do you love your children equally? My fears we unfounded. After 20 minutes of pushing (compared to 2.5 hours with your brother) you arrived and I melted at the sight of you. Your dad spent the first night in the hospital with us but he left early that morning to be with your brother leaving us alone. I was secretly delighted to have this time just the two of us. You, swaddled up tightly in the way only nurses can swaddle, rocking your newborn hat with a bow. Because of course there had to be a bow. You were my Olivia. I had always dreamed about one day having a little Olivia and here you were, my dream come reality, ready for endless snuggling.
That was the only time it’s ever been just you and I for an extended period. You, your brother, and I have been the Three Musketeers since I brought you home. As the second child you’ve had little that was new (besides bows, duh), had to wait patiently (or not) for mommy’s attention, and go with the flow as we catered to the demanding whims of your toddler brother. With two kids someone always gets the short end of the stick and my life has become a series of quick judgment calls of who can fend for themselves briefly while I tend to the other. I regret that more often than not that that person has been you. Don’t ever think it’s because I love you any less. Because I don’t. Toddlers are just really loud, demanding assholes. That being said, since it’s not my first rodeo you’ve also benefitted from a much more relaxed and confident mother.
Honestly, I don’t even know why we had the OB cut the umbilical cord. Since birth, you and I have rarely been separated. Other than sleep, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been apart for more than 2 hours. It’s been both a gift and a curse. A curse, because I am not exaggerating for humor’s sake when I say that you are a stage 5 clinger. “Separation Anxiety” should be officially changed to your middle name. Especially as of late. Putting you down results in screaming and crying. Moving outside of a 5 foot radius from you results in hysterical sobs. Going completely out of your sight is a category 5 meltdown that stops abruptly the moment I scoop you up in my arms. To be needed in this way is exhausting, but also flattered. Rest assured though, I get the point, you really love me, so you can tone it down a bit now.
It’s also been such a wonderful gift having this time to develop such a closeness as we have; an opportunity I didn’t have with your brother. I’ve watched you grow day by day. Picked up on the nuances of the things you’re mastering and milestones you’re hitting. I’ve witnessed your personality blossoming slowly and then hitting us all at once in the last few months. You are going to cause a lot of gray hair. Maybe it’s the many episodes of DVR’ed Real Housewives we’ve watched at 5am that explains some of your more ferocious outbursts.
A friend asked me who was the easier baby you or your brother. I tried to compare you and came to the realization that there is no easier/better, only different. You are you. You are your own person and there is so much that I love and adore about you: your infectious smile, your zeal for food, the way you idolize your brother and squeal when he comes into the room, the way your legs kick in your highchair during breakfast when you hear your dad coming down the stairs and you look around frantically for him, your own special word for Ruby, which is basically a kissy noise since the two of you have spent the past year frenching one another, the easy way you fit into my left hip as I tote you around EVERYWHERE, how you giggle when you’re about to do something you’re not supposed to – like stick your hand into Ruby’s water bowl and shove that hand in your mouth, the hilarious way that Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” is a song that calms you down. This list of loves is endless and has more than made up for the sleepless nights that continued for oh, eight months or so.
Your first birthday snuck up on me. Life this past year has been so busy being lived and survived that I am in shock and honestly, a little heartbroken over feeling like I didn’t take advantage of your fleeting baby stage. I’m sorry. Even when I couldn’t, please know that in my heart I wanted to hold you longer, sing another song, actually read you a book before bed, and shower you with nonstop kisses and cuddles. I delight in you daily. You are the tiny person that completed our family and made me feel like I had everything I could possibly wish for in this life. I love you, sweet girl. Happy 1st Birthday!
Love you always and forever,
PS: I know I said everything I could possibly ever want, but more sleep would be great. Thanks.