To My Daughter, on Her Third Birthday
Three years and two days ago, I had one name: Christina.
I wore it and I wore it well. I studied, I worked and I played. I danced and climbed mountains and ran like the wind. I was free and there was no one to stop me. I loved life and it loved me.
But then one July a little seed was planted inside me and it grew. It grew and it grew and it grew. That little seed was you.
Then forty-two weeks later, on the nose, with a big belly about to explode, out you came, quicker than I thought. No long labor, no deliberation. It was time and the doctors and nurses knew, even before I did.
Faster than I could blink an eye you were in the world. And there you were. They held you up and I saw you over the sheet. You were a baby. My baby! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
They measured you and weighed you and then they brought you to me. They put you naked on my chest, just as I had asked, right next to the sheet that separated you and me from the men and women that had so carefully and attentively brought you into the world.
You cried and suckled and took to the world like it was yours to keep.
You stayed beside me while I healed. I never let you out of my sight. You lay on me and in the crook of my arm while I nursed you, watched you sleep, and nursed you some more. I learned how to swaddle you and to change your diaper and to feed you. I learned how to care for you.
Most importantly, I kept you next to me as much as I could. Not only had I read all of the books but I knew in my heart that that was where you belonged.
The little you, who was also a big part of me, lay beside me for four long days before I could take you home.
At first I was uncertain about this new, crying being who needed so much from me and without a pause. Is this what I had wanted? Is this what I had asked for? Is this what I had expected?
Despite all the preparation, I did not feel prepared.
Oh sure, I had the co-sleeper and the swings and the bottles and the bibs and the onesies. It was all there. But somehow you can’t buy the one thing that one really needs: Experience.
I don’t think one can ever be truly prepared for what lies beyond the birth of a first child.
People had told me my life would change but I didn’t believe them. How can a little baby like that be so much work, I’d ask? My life will be the same; I’ll just have a baby along for the ride from now on.
They would just shake their head and smile. They knew it could not be explained. And they knew I was in for a shock.
After some time of getting used to you, I started to change.
“Here, give her to me. I know what to do,” I’d say to those who didn’t know.
We worked together—she at being in the world, and me at learning to give 100% of myself to someone other than myself.
We’ve seen some good times and some bad times. We’ve worked through some smiles and some tears. I’ve watched as she’s reached many milestones – usually without any help from me. I’ve had many sleepless nights and have cleaned up a number of messes in the middle of those long seemingly endless times. I’ve seen her grow from a little baby, into a toddler, and soon into a little girl.
After three years, I think I have finally made the transition.
Yes, it has taken that long.
Up until a few months ago, I was only known as “Momma!” “Momma!” “Momma!” Usually with arms stretched high. “Up!” she’d demand.
A few weeks ago, for the first time, my little girl looked at me and said something like “Mommy, what you doing?”
My heart melted. I almost cried.
Where had she learned this word? Where did “Mommy” come from? I knew it was me, but I still couldn’t believe it….Me? Mommy? Yes, I am Mommy!
So now I have two names: Christina AND Mommy.
And there are some things Mommy knows how to do better than Christina could have ever done them.
Mommy knows how to choose a cloth diaper, fit it, change it, and clean it.
Mommy knows how to call the doctor in the middle of the night and how to put a wheezing baby on the phone.
Mommy knows how to put an infant and a toddler to the breast.
Mommy knows how to soothe a colicky baby like nobody’s business! I lovingly refer to her as “The Baby Whisperer.”
Mommy knows how to give really big hugs and how to kiss really little toes.
Mommy knows what it’s like to have a baby sleep on her chest all night long while keeping one eye open, just in case.
Mommy knows that a cookie can fix just about anything and that a song can soothe most of what ails.
And Christina knows a thing or two, too.
Christina isn’t climbing rocks much these days. Christina isn’t running as fast as the wind anymore.
But Christina knows that special feeling of having a baby kick the inside of her stomach, and that amazing “thump, thump” when the doctor checks for a heartbeat.
Christina also knows what it’s like to go to work every day while still remembering that there’s a very little girl out there who needs her Mommy.
And Christina knows when it’s time to take her baby from some other caring adult just because her girl will only be soothed by her.
And, most importantly, Christina knows to bend down when she picks her baby girl up from school because there she’ll be, a little girl now, grinning from ear to ear, running towards her, reaching out, calling “Mommy, Mommy!”
And Christina knows, that no matter how much she may miss parts of who she used to be, the little girl who calls her Mommy fills an amazing spot in her heart that no one else can ever replace.
Happy birthday, Baby Girl.
Love, Your Mommy.