Happy birthday, baby girl! You're one year old! I've been thinking for a while about what I wanted to say to you on your birthday. I've even sat down to write this a few times, but I've just gotten so overwhelmed that I've had to walk away, leaving the computer screen completely blank. See, I've known this day was coming and I've repeatedly assured myself that I was okay with it. But just this morning, I opened my inbox and found that the weekly email that used to be titled "Your Baby This Week" is now titled "Your Toddler This Week" and I lost it! I would never have guessed that I'd be this emotional, this sentimental, this sappy.
In the weeks before you were born I spent a lot of time preparing for you to enter our home, and by the time you arrived I was sure I had everything in order. The house was clean, the crib was made, your clothes were ready, there were bottles and blankets and tiny fingernail clippers just waiting to be used. But, little did I know that our home wasn't what I should have been preparing, it was my heart. I had NO IDEA what having a baby would do to my life, my soul, my capacity for love and worry. I didn't know that I could learn so much from someone so brand new to this world. I didn't know that I would abandon every shred of dignity I have just to make you giggle. I didn't know that you would have such beautiful blue eyes and a smile so big and vibrant that it swallows up all the light in the room (along with the dog toys, your dad's shoelaces, the cell phone bill and whatever else happens to be within your reach). I didn't know you would take everything I thought I knew, roll it out like clay and mold it into something completely new... and so beautiful.
There hasn't been a single day this past month that has conformed to any identifiable schedule. Things have been pretty crazy around here lately, mostly due to an accident that has temporarily crippled me. I know there are so many people worse off than I am right now so I've really tried to keep the complaining to a minimum, but just between me and you, this has been REALLY HARD! And you, my love, are the main reason it has been so difficult. You won't understand this until you have children of your own someday, but it's nearly impossible to take care of a one year old when you only have the use of one leg. Your dad is doing all he can to help, rising to the challenge of being mom and dad for a while, but there have still been a few times that I've just gotten so overwhelmed by our situation and I've lost my patience with you. I'm very sorry for that Morgan, and I promise to do better.
Fortunately, you've been able to roll with the punches like a champ and out of all of us, you seem to be handling these rough times the best. When we all fall into bed at the end of the day, you're usually the only one who still has a smile on their face. In fact, with the exception of a few almost unbearable whining periods, you have always been such a delightful baby. You're generally just so happy about being alive and that attitude, along with your goofy grin, is dangerously contagious. I challenge anyone to spend a few hours with you and NOT walk away clicking their heels and whistling show tunes.
I love the way you make me smile. I love the way you sing to yourself. I love the way you shake your finger and say "No, no, no". I love how much you enjoy being outside. I love how you call Dixie by name and how you think all dogs are named "Di-dee". I love how hard you laugh when your dad swings you around in a pillowcase and calls you his sack of Motatoes. I love the way you can point to my nose and eyes when I ask you to. I love the way you giggle when you taste something really good. I love that your favorite place in the house is behind the couch and how you could spend hours a day crawling back and forth like it's a tunnel. I love that you like the same foods that I do. I love the way you take several steps then look back at your dad and I, waiting for our applause. I love your fearlessness and sense of adventure (even though it scares me half to death when I look away for a few seconds, then turn back to find you standing ON TOP OF your walker or sitting on the fifth step of our stairway). I love the way you try to climb into the bathtub with me when I'm taking a bath. I love that you're still my little nursling. I love how you repeatedly climb in and out of your Bumbo chair like its the funnest game ever invented. I love the way you try to drink mustard straight out of the bottle. I love the way you start to stir in your sleep, then calm down as soon as you feel me next to you. I love how you mirror your dad's expression when he pulls faces at you. I love the way you stand up in your carseat when it's sitting on the floor and rock it back and forth as if you're surfing. I love how you say "Me, me, me" when you want me to share my food with you. I love how quickly you learn new things and, even more than that, I love how much you are teaching me.
You have helped me recognize my own determination and strength. You've put me through patience boot-camp. You have taught me that no matter how busy or hectic my day has been, there is always time for a game of "This Little Pig". You've taught me to humble myself and accept help when I truly need it. You have helped me own up to and work at strengthening my weaknesses. You've taught me that I can function on surprisingly less sleep than I expected (thank you, by the way, for not putting that one to the test too many times). You have taught me that just about any task can be done with one hand when I'm holding you with the other. You have taught me how to give of myself, 100%... and then some.
I've heard people say that they don't ever want children because of the way having kids changes life, and do you know what? They're absolutely right, having a baby changes EVERYTHING! My life hardly even resembles what it was before you were born, and looking back I barely recognize the person I used to be. But instead of feeling nostalgic and longing for those care-free days before you were ours, I look at you and I feel so right. So blessed. So complete.
Thank you for this wonderful first year, Morgan. I look forward to so many more. Happy birthday, love.
P.S. I don't care what my email says, you will always be my baby.