I wrote this on Colette's first birthday, but never published it. I thought I'd do it now so I'd always remember.
This is one of those letters that feels impossible to write. For how does one ever sum up something that changes your life forever? It's been an entire year with you, and the fact that you arrived on New Year's Eve feels fitting - the whole world celebrates another year of life on your day, my love. They gather, party, applaud and dance - as they should - and you and I, we will always pretend that secretly, they are celebrating you.
When you arrived, it was snowing outside our hospital window. You took your sweet time at first, but when you were ready, you were ready, moving me from a 6 to a 10 in less than 10 minutes, and 20 minutes of pushing later, you were making your presence known in my arms to the entire hospital.
The doctor commented on your strong lungs and she had no idea yet just how strong they were. You put those lungs to the test from the first night and haven't stopped since. Even though they weren't supposed to, the nurses even suggested we give you a paci and they take you to the nursery for a bit on the second night, because you did not want to sleep when the rest of the world slept.
You're a fighter and that's a good thing. You needed to be as we spent the first five months of your life living in four different places, and even out of hotels for weeks at a time. You were never given the structure, routine, the cush reality of knowing what to expect and when to expect it. You were constantly being moved around from place to place, but you were always with me and I hope that was enough.
I did fail you so much this year dear one. The mistakes I made with you were many, which makes me thankful that your long-term memory has yet to kick in. We cried so much together, you and I. You for reasons I don't think I'll ever understand and me for knowing that I was helpless with you. That I was failing you as a mother, but could do nothing to fix it.
We had a hard first year, there's no denying that, but now that you're older and I'm beginning to see you morph from a baby to a toddler, I know deep in my core that I wouldn't have changed a moment with you. Because you changed me. You blew the roof off any expectations and pride I had in my mothering and brought me to my knees. You made me weak, powerless, exposing my fears and insecurities as a mother - as a person - and forced me to the cross.
It is a heavy weight on my heart to be the one entrusted to raise you into a woman. This year brought to light just how inadequate I am for the job. You deserve more than me, my love. But you and I, we're what we've got, so I will do my best to give you all of me, teach you what I know and learn from you along the way.
As I look at your knees, red from crawling and your four adorable front teeth (Seriously, they kill me.) I'm reminded of just how fast time will go. Every once in a while I see glimpses of our future, of the beautiful young woman you will become and the sassy teenage 'tude that comes with. But today I just want to live in the here and now. Today, I want to remember the little girl that dances with her arms in the air every time the music comes on, the one that tilts her head back and forth while babbling in a very intense conversation that no one understands but her. I want to remember the baby girl that plays with my necklaces and tries to brush my hair, the one that blows zerberts and dribbles apple sauce down her chin while giggling.
And what I'm realizing is that often, you will be the teacher and I will be the student. Because just like this past year of my life, you will teach me to love unconditionally, to cover my days in prayer and to release any pride that I can do this on my own.
Only 12 months old and God is already using you in big ways to change hearts.
I have a feeling this is only a glimpse into your future.
And so, when we are lost and confused, when we can't figure each other out - as we spent so much of this past year - I will look in your eyes and you will look at mine, and then we will turn our gaze together to the sky.
I will forever be yours and you will forever be mine, and together we will forever be His.
Happy birthday babygirl.