The birthday girl
Dear Mary Elizabeth (also known as M.E.), April 5, 2010
This past weekend we celebrated the new life that is you. Just one year ago I was walking alongside your daddy on a beautiful spring day. It was Palm Sunday, and it seemed fitting that I was in a passion of my own, pausing only to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and to breathe through contractions that were becoming more intense by the minute. After nearly two months of bedrest (you were in a hurry and wanted to come out way too early!), my body was telling me it was the day I was finally going to get to meet you.
I was admitted to the hospital when I was almost 8 cm dilated. We weren’t there long before you were in my arms. (Daddy says I didn’t even push for one minute before you made your big debut. I guess you were still in a big hurry to leave your uterus zip code.) I held you for a long time, nursed you, and fell in love.
Your big sisters were eager to meet you. They were the first visitors allowed in the room. Madeline had the honor of naming you (we gave her several choices none of which included her preferred monikers of Glitter or Flower). Rachel wasn’t so sure about seeing Mommy hold another baby. She curled up next to me and burrowed her head into the crook of my arm and grew very still and quiet while everyone else ooohed and ahhhed over you.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Rachel to become a proud big sister. In fact, in those early weeks, I often played referee to sibling squabbles over who got to hold the baby (you!) next.
You were such a little thing (5 pounds 13 ounces) with a head full of dark hair and bright blue eyes. Now your hair is strawberry blonde, and your eyes are an earthy blend of blue and green.
Our first few months together weren’t easy. Your daddy was working long hours, so I was juggling a newborn and two other little ones solo most of the time. You and I had long stretches of alone time every night doing what I began to refer as the midnight march. Starting at around 8 p.m., you were only happy either nursing or nestled against my chest as I walked and walked until the new day had begun – usually some time after midnight.
There’s one tough night that stands out from those foggy, sleep-deprived days. Daddy called. He was in Washington D.C. for a conference and he told me about some great ethnic food he’d just devoured. I could hear the buzz of happy chatter in the background when we spoke on the phone. When we hung up, I burst into tears. And so did you. It was just the two of us crying so completely in the darkness, neither one of us knowing what was really wrong.
Oh, but it was so worth it. You are so worth it. I remember thinking I’d do anything to have those long nights end. But now that they’re just a piece of our past together, crazy, maternal me sometimes misses those marches and bouncing you and whispering to your sweet, helpless self.
Mary Elizabeth, in just one very, very quick year you have given me an incredible return for my investment. Your smiles are endless. Your giggles are constant. That fussy newborn has been replaced with the most content baby. Recently, I was driving around town when you just started to belly laugh out of the blue.
“What’s she laughing at?” I asked your big sisters.
“I don’t know,” Madeline said. “She’s just happy.”
She’s just happy. That’s you. You’ll sit beside a pile of toys and play for 30 minutes or longer. Sometimes when we go grocery shopping, I’ll forget you’re even with us as you hang out quietly in my Ergo occasionally kicking your feet with glee.
You’re crawling and cruising along furniture while standing, but I don’t think you’re going to be walking too soon. You love it when your sisters and I crawl on the carpet with you. You’ll start giggling and will speed up as if we were playing a game of chase.
You haven’t met a stranger yet. You smile at everyone. And they smile right back at you.
Not surprisingly, your first word was “hi.” But that’s not the word I vividly remember you saying for the first time.
About two months ago, we were walking along a dimly lit path back to our hotel on the beach. Daddy cradled you in his arms while pushing Rae in the stroller. I’d been holding Madeline’s hand, but she’d skipped ahead and was now lagging behind.
I turned to find her resting on the pavement gazing up at the night sky, a navy blue bowl brimming with stars.
“You see that bright star there?” she pointed to the biggest star glittering in the sky. It seemed to wink at me when I caught sight of it. “That’s the one you make a wish on. Make a wish, Mommy.”
But before I could make my wish you began to fuss. “What is it, M.E.?” I asked. “What do you want?”
You reached your arms out to me and said, “Mama!” as clearly as the aquamarine tropical seawater we could hear crashing on the beach.
I didn’t need to make a wish after that.
You’d think that as a third child hearing those words pass from your lips wouldn’t be as special, but it has never lost its sacredness. Neither has nursing you and feeling your warm body against my own or hearing your giggles or seeing you grin and wave your chubby arms in greeting for everyone you meet. Every day with you is a gift. You color my world with happiness.
I love you so much, Mary Elizabeth. I can’t wait to see your personality continue to emerge and to watch you grow and change. Stay healthy and strong.
Happy first birthday, sweet baby girl!
You at one week
Wow! What a difference a year (and some good mama’s milk) make!