Dear, sweet, tenacious, powerful, funny, smart, beautiful daughter,
I’ve avoided writing this because I fear the myriad emotions that will accompany it. I worry that I am unable to bear the weight of countless unnameable BIG FEELINGS. However, this is not the example I want to be, so here I am writing even though I am scared.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to have kids. I saw how hard it was on my parents, and I never wanted that for me. Nor did I want to fail at motherhood. I never wanted to expose my faults to an impressionable young human, thereby creating one more screwed up kid in this world. I didn’t want to be unsure about being able to make ends meet when someone else was dependent on me. I didn’t want to change diapers and clean up perpetual snot. I didn’t want to give up sleeping in and spontaneous backpacking trips to far away countries.
Then I met your dad. I tried not to meet him because he already had a kid (your brother) and that was terrifying. But I couldn’t stop myself, and once we met, we rarely left each other’s side. Because of this, I saw how devoted, involved, and loving your dad was with your brother. I began to question all my assumptions of parenthood. Maybe it’s not so bad? Maybe I could hack it? Your dad wanted you in his life very badly and he wanted me to be your mom…and so we made you.
I was scared the entire time you were growing inside me. I was worried I would hurt you, poison you, lose you. I fretted that you would be born with an extra challenge of a major birth defect, or worse, a fatal disease. I was certain that I couldn’t handle being the parent of a child with any needs beyond the standard. I didn’t trust myself to love you enough. It wasn’t all stress and wringing of hands, however. There were countless joyful, peaceful moments. The first time I felt you wiggle (for sure), the first time I saw you, black and white and blurry on the technician’s screen, the first time I heard your allegro heartbeat, I cried happily. I rubbed my expanding belly and talked to you. I showed you off to friends and family.
We were determined to introduce you to the outside world as gently and naturally as possible. No doctors or fluorescent lights, no interventions, no unnecessary poking, prodding, injections or cutting. Just you , me, and your dad, with our kind and competent midwife standing by. This is what I wanted to give you. I believed (and still do) that a natural, (almost) unassisted birth was one of the greatest gifts I, in my meager capacity, could offer.
We found out you were footling breech somewhere in our third trimester. The doctors in our area have all forgotten how to welcome breech babies into the world. In turn, midwives are forbidden to guide a woman through a breech birth. We tried acupuncture, moxibustion, yoga, music, prayers (a desperate ploy for your agnostic mom), and finally, as a last resort, a painful external version. You remained breech, for reasons I only suspect (but in my gut, I know). We were faced with the choice of transferring to a hospital in another city with a team of doctors and nurses we didn’t know and trying to birth you, or sticking with the people we knew, and cutting you out. I panicked, and I “chose” a c-section because I didn’t trust my body or you. For this, I’m infinitely sorry.
This was only the beginning of a very difficult existence earthside, but that’s a story for another time. Despite every hurdle and obstacle, I began to love you beyond all reason. Through the debilitating post partum depression, I loved you. Through three years of interrupted sleep, I loved you. I have never taken anything more seriously than your fragile life in my hands. I couldn’t give you the gift of a natural birth, but I can offer you the best of me. Sometimes, you see the worst of me too, but your very being makes me fight it.
In three years, you have been my teacher. Sure, I’ve taught you how to count to ten, and eat with utensils, which are all fine for blending in and cohabitating with your fellow western cultured humans, but you have bestowed upon me wisdom that I could not possibly possess without your existence. My compassion and patience grow each day, along with my empathy for other humans. My need to control all things is slowly evaporating. The elusive ability to live in the moment, as tired as that cliché may be, is within my reach. I understand what pure, joyful, unrestrained love really means, and how it feels. This, and infinitely more, I owe to you. Thank you.
You are spirited and headstrong, which will serve you well in this world, especially as a girl. You know what you want, what you don’t want, and how to ask for it. I promise to nurture this as well as I can. You are smart, inquisitive, affectionate, and perceptive. You have more energy than I’ve ever had. You are fearless. I vow to protect and nourish these qualities with all my might. The world will try to take them away from you, but my greatest hope for you is that you are resilient and believe in yourself. Trust in oneself is a rare and powerful tool. I hope to teach you to always honour it. This is the greatest gift I can think to give, on this birthday, and always.
As you begin your fourth year, I celebrate my teacher, my daughter.