Today, you turn two years old.
It’s been exactly two years since that day we met in that freezing operating theatre. I lay there, with your Papa standing in his chalk blue scrubs by my side, when, although numb from the waist down, I felt the exact moment they took you out and you took your first breath. Your first cry was moments later. And although it felt like an eternity at the time, in a couple of minutes they had wrapped you up in blankets and placed you in my arms.
In those early moments with you, one of the thoughts that kept crossing my mind was that at one point, I thought I’d never get to meet you.
The start of my pregnancy with you was shaky. It was one of the most intensely painful times of my life. Constant doubt, constant fear, constantly feeling like I was about to lose something so very precious to me. I hated how volatile the situation was and that I had no control over any of it.
And so, finally holding you in my arms, feeling the warm weight of your tiny, wriggling body and smelling the sweetness of your skin, was one of the most incredibly perfect moments of my life.
And now, you’re two.
How are you two?
How has that helpless little newborn become someone so independent? You’re in that phase now where you really, really want to do everything yourself. Put your shoes on, get onto the bus, eat your lunch, wipe the table, carry your baby sister, choose your clothes, and walk everywhere without a stroller. I know I’m impatient. I’m trying. Really, I am. I know you need to take things at your pace, and that you need to not always feel rushed. I know that I try to over-pack our agenda sometimes, which makes me veto your efforts and do things for you myself. I’m trying to slow down, I promise. Because I know you need to learn your own strengths and abilities and to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to do something for yourself.
How have those indecipherable cries and my frantic attempts at responding to them become conversations? We have actual conversations now. You suggest what we should do for the day. You ask me to invite certain people over. You choose your clothes and you request certain foods. You tell me when you want to call your grandparents and you’ve just started prefixing your sentences with “I think…” and “Maybe…” which makes you sound so grown up that I can’t even deal. I can rationalise with you. You ask questions. You negotiate. Man, do you negotiate. Often, I try to continue the rationalising and find myself stopping mid-sentence when I realise that, in fact, I’ve got nothing. You tell me stories. You tell me when you’re feeling happy, or when you need a hug, or when (and I quote) you “need Beyoncé” and I turn on the speakers and we dance it out together.
How has someone that once solely needed so much from others become so capable of generosity? You offer your snacks to people we walk past on the street. You go out of your way to make sure you give me a sip of your water whenever you have a drink. And you’re not just generous with your possessions, but also your spirit. You are constantly wanting to help bathe your baby sister, kiss and hug her, put a blanket on her and you ask in a very concerned tone, “What’s wrong baby?” when she cries. You greet everyone we walk past when we go out. I love watching you with other children. Somehow, someone so young and so small can already show compassion and empathy. I learn from the simplicity and genuineness of your interactions.
You’re cautious and careful by nature, but I’ve noticed that you’re becoming braver these days. Taking more risks and looking for adventures. It scares me sometimes because I want to keep you safe, but then I see the sparkle in your eyes when you conquer something you thought was scary at first, and I know I need to let you learn to be fearless and to test your own boundaries. I have to hold myself back from holding you back.
And you know, at the same time, sometimes I expect too much of you. I’m so in awe of you and how quickly you’re growing that sometimes I forget that you’re only two. When you curl up in bed and your long, dark lashes rest lightly against your soft cheeks, I see my baby. When you get hurt or upset and I feel your hot tears against my face when I hug you to comfort you, I see my baby. When you’ve been energetically running around and climbing things, and then suddenly slow down and ask me to carry you, and you dig your curly little head into my neck, I see my baby.
You will always be my little baby. Whether you’re two or twenty. It’s one of those annoying things parents say, but sweetheart, I’m afraid it’s true.
You’re asleep right now. I wonder if you’re dreaming, and what you’re dreaming about. I can tell you this: once upon a time, my dream was to be someone’s mother, and getting the privilege of being yours is more than anything I could ever have wished for.
Happy birthday, baby girl.