Sweetest Sweetest Baby Girl,
I watched you today on the video monitor as you woke from your afternoon nap. You lay there for a moment, groggy and disoriented, sucking your pacifier and listening to the happy noises of your brother playing in his room next door.
Then you noticed the balloons. You lifted your tiny finger and pointed, not sure what you were seeing.
You got up slowly on your knees, your hair a mess of bedhead, your big blue eyes full of wonder as you tilted your head upward. You didn’t reach for them at first, but just looked at them, thoughtful.
After a minute or so, you stood and reached. And I felt that familiar ache, that swelling that feels like gratitude and melancholy all at once, at the sight of my tiny human on tippy toes, stretching toward her first birthday balloons.
Brother and I snuck the balloons into your room while you were napping. He was so excited, and although I knew there was a chance that he would wake you, I let him help me anyway. He is your best friend, your only real playmate, and you adore him. You don’t say “Mama” yet, but you do say your own version of “Noah.” Of course that beloved big brother of yours had to be part of the balloon surprise.
Like the angel that you are, you slept right through our sneaking. You have turned into a champion napper, and you’ve always been a really content baby. You have made the last year easy on me, and I love you for it. Sweetness seems to be an innate part of your disposition.
A year ago today, when you were a tiny, bruised, sleepy newborn, I held you in my arms and wondered what you would be like. It was hard to imagine how you would fit into our family dynamic, what your temperament would be like, how I would manage with two children at home. Though I loved you immediately, you didn’t feel familiar yet. You felt fragile, and I felt fragile in my role as your mother.
Now everything about you is familiar: the way you wriggle away when I change your diaper, the sound of your giggle as I chase after you on hands and knees; the way you pull at my earrings the moment that I lift you close to my face, or lunge for me when I walk into the room and you are in someone else’s arms.
I know what you will do before you do it. You have become an extension of me—a living, breathing, bear-crawling piece of my heart. And though everything about your babyhood is so familiar to me now, I know that in a few years, I won’t be able to remember what you were like as a one-year-old. I will remember in generalities, but not in all of these specifics. You will be a little girl to me then, and I will know in perfect clarity everything about you at that stage, but all that will remain of your babyhood will be the photos and videos—and the details that I have captured in writing. Which is why I do it and always will.
So tonight I sit down and write you this letter to record the moment when I watched you wake up to balloons overhead on your first birthday—when my heart filled with love for my perfect one-year-old girl with the curls at the back of your head, the one darling snaggle tooth, and the sweetest habit of burying your head against my shoulder when you are sleepy.
You are a perfect fit, not just in that space on my shoulder, cradled between my cheek and my heart, but in this family. You have made every day since your birth better than the days before it—fuller, more complete—for all of us. For Daddy, for Noah, and for me. We could not possibly love you more.
Tonight the four of us played with your birthday balloons out in the backyard and took photos of you climbing on Noah’s red firetruck. It was windy, and it was past your bedtime. Noah was wired, and Mom and Dad were a little cranky, but we took a few moments to talk about our wishes for you for this next year and to release your balloons one by one into the sky.
Noah wished that you will have a delicious cake on Saturday at your little family party; Dad wished that you will get more teeth this next year (of course he did); and I wished that even when you are older, you will keep giving me your sweet snuggles—nestling up against my heart when you are tired.
The first couple of balloons blew out of our hands before you even noticed, but as we sent that last purple balloon floating into the sky, you raised your finger to point. Daddy held you in his arms and pressed his cheek against yours, and we watched that purple speck rise up up up and then disappear—the beauty of this day, this year, lingering.
Thank you for making my heart so buoyant, so full of awe and gratitude when I think about you that it too soars heavenward. Tonight I thank God that I am your mother, that I get to witness this beautiful little life unfolding.
Happy first birthday, my perfect little love. Sleep tight. I can't wait to see you first thing tomorrow morning.
Yours forever and ever and always,