Baby girl, you are one, and I have loved getting to know you over these first twelve months. I’m looking forward to your first steps, your first words, while also willing time to slow a little. This evening, you sat on the stairs a few steps above me, pulled my glasses off my face and giggled with glee as you tried to put them back on. And I know there will be times when I miss moments like that, when I yearn for them.
On the day we brought you home from hospital, over two weeks after you were born, we took a photo of you sitting in our huge armchair. You looked like a doll. On your first birthday, we put you in the same place and took another photo, compared the two to see how you’ve grown in this blur of time. We’ll do it every year. I imagine you at three, doing that fake photo smile your brother currently insists on. At six, with front teeth missing. At nine, with your fringe a little too long. At thirteen, sullen and uncomfortable in your skin. At sixteen, part-girl and part-woman. No longer fully ours.
We owe all these future moments to the medical staff who took care of you in your early days. That’s why we spent your first birthday on a motorway and in a hospital, saying thank you for your life, when your brother spent his first birthday at the aquarium. There is nothing we can say to those nurses, those doctors, that will come anywhere near to expressing our gratitude. So we will honour them by taking pleasure in you; in your everyday triumphs, your contagious joy.
Baby girl, I try not to think about how different things could have been. About coming home without you, trying to explain that to your brother. Trying to carry on getting up every day. Cleaning his teeth, loading the dishwasher, tidying the toys away, if there was no you. You are the final piece of our family puzzle. It feels like you’ve been a part of us forever. I ask your brother, sometimes, whether he remembers the time when you were still in my tummy. He says he does, but his expression gives him away. He thinks I’m making it up.
I’m not unrealistic. I know the years to come will bring times of fear, anger, sadness. I will lose sight of you in a crowd. I will hear that you have done something shameful. I will lose my temper and burst into tears as you refuse to do what I ask for the hundredth time. I don’t expect plain sailing. I don’t expect wall-to-wall fun. I expect the reality of parenthood, with all its wonder and its hardship.
You are one, baby girl. You are finding your feet, climbing the stairs, testing out your voice. I don’t yet know who you’ll be, but I’m so grateful that I’m going to find out. When you are old enough, I will tell you about your shaky start, about the medical staff who watched over you, day and night, until you were strong enough to come home with us. For now, I will go to you when you cry out in the night, I will pick you up when your brother knocks you over, I will kiss your perfect skin when I change your clothes. I will be your mother. You will be my girl.
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Laura is a writer who lives in Leicestershire with her husband and their two children. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found trying to get her son to put his shoes on, encouraging her daughter to sleep past 5am or moving small items from one room to another. You can follow her on Twitter and on her blog about getting cancer when she was pregnant.