I've been slowly writing this letter over the course of a couple months. Some of the thoughts were inspired from other letters that I've seen, but I tried to make them more personal and my own and specific to this baby girl. I actually set this to publish automatically when I was happy with it and decide not to touch it again. When it does finally publish it will be almost new to me!
Dear Little (Um, Big?) One Squirming in my Belly,
Today is the first Mother's Day that we'll share together, and the only one we'll share where you are mine and only mine. These fleeting months where you depend completely on me and I am the only person who knows you - REALLY knows you - are something to be treasured. I love each and every second spent with you, and celebrate every kick and nudge. Today, you take my breath away literally as you encroach on space formerly occupied by my lungs, and in just a short period of time I'll glimpse your (likely chubby-cheeked) face for the first time and you'll take my breath away in an entirely different way. Soon enough, I'll have to share you with the world. You will be independent. I'll share you with your dad, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your classmates, your friends, and before I know it you'll be sharing your own life with someone who will teach you a meaning of love that you've never known before. But for today, you are mine. And I am savoring it. Though you won't always belong to just me, I will always be your mama. Even if we're lucky enough to give you siblings, your place in my heart won't diminish.
There are many things I want for you and so many things I want to tell you, though I know you'll truly only learn them by living your life to the fullest. But I'll still share a few.
I have so many hopes and dreams for you, baby girl, interspersed with fears. The world can be an amazing place. And the world can be a harsh place. My wish for you is that you celebrate the wonders of the world and work to overcome the bad. I want you to reach for the stars. I want you to be kind to others, even when society isn't. I want you to fight for the little people. I want you to dream big and always be proud of who you are. If a time comes when you doubt yourself, remember I believe in you. I hope you live a thoughtful life full of love, passion, and learning.
I hope you love those who are worthy of you without question. I know you'll experience heartache in life. We all do. It hurts and some days it feels like your heart has become permanently damaged, but I promise that you will come out the other side alive and even happy. Those people who hurt you are not worthy of your love. I hope you are able to see that better than I was as a young woman. You are worth someone who treats you like the amazing person that you are and who makes your heart flutter. Don't compromise on this. You will find them some day. And I'm not just talking about a significant other; I'm talking about your friendships as well. If someone drains you or tears you down or tries to lead you down paths you aren't comfortable with, drop them. A true friend will support you in making the right decisions and will build you up in ways you can't possibly imagine. People can be mean sometimes. You might experience it from someone in your class, or from someone you look up to. Sometimes, even from someone you thought was a friend. Trust me: they aren't. Use your family and true friends in those situations; lean on them for support and love. And you can always, always come talk to me.
Speaking of love, I hope you never question our love for you. I know you'll go through stages where family is the last thing you want to be around, but I hope that phase is short. Family is the most important thing in life, whether it's a family of your own choosing or your biological family (and I hope you always choose us). Your dad and I and any future siblings will be there for you every step of the way, and no matter what we will always and forever love you. As long as you're trying, we'll be so proud of you. I hope we have family dinners and family movie nights and family traditions and family vacations that you'll remember forever. I stopped going on family vacations when I was in my late teens; I regret that now. Those are times you can't get back. I promise: while you might be embarrassed by strong family ties, your friends without them will be jealous. I know the burdens that come with being the oldest child all too well: you are the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter. I can't take that burden from you, but I can help you understand it and I can empathize when it is frustrating. I hope someday, if you have children of your own, you're able to look to me for inspiration as I do your grandmother. She's truly an amazing woman and a hero to me. I hope to be that for you.
I hope you know that you are beautiful and you will always be beautiful to me. Society measures beauty by many standards, and few people fulfill them all. Those who do are often airbrushed and personal-trained into an unrealistic picture of what a woman should be. They are artificial. True beauty starts from the inside. If you are happy, if you are kind, if you are striving to be the best you can be...you will be beautiful. It may take time for others to see it, but they will. If you are one of the lucky ones who are considered superficially beautiful as well, understand this: that kind of beauty fades, and fades quickly. That kind of beauty comes in and out of style. That kind of beauty is never permanent. One day you might be the most beautiful girl in your class; and the next day someone more beautiful may come along. Never rely on that kind of beauty. If you focus on being a beautiful person on the inside, however, your beauty will endure.
Part of that internal beauty is intelligence. I know you'll be one smart cookie - never hide that. I want you to love learning of all kinds. I hope you eagerly devour books and go on walks and ask "What's that?" a million times. I want you to look at the stars and wonder where they came from. I want you to question what you see and what you hear. I hope I can foster this love of learning in you. Your grandma and grandpa instilled this in me so deeply I still ask those questions. I hope you find passion and adventure in life. I hope you to embrace creativity, even if you do get your father's art skills. I want you to look at every single day as an opportunity to further your knowledge.
Part of learning is also making mistakes. While I know they will hard for you to experience and hard for me to watch, I know they will happen at some point. That's okay. Mistakes aren't always bad. Learn from them. Examine them. Relish them. Without mistakes, we wouldn't have Silly Putty or Post-it-notes. If it was a bad mistake, own up to it, do what you can to fix it, and move on. Chances are no one will remember tomorrow.
All lives worth living come with these types of bumps in the road. Sometimes they are small, and sometimes they seem more like a mountain than a mere bump. You may worry you can't climb over it. But you can. Push the envelope. Push your boundaries. Make yourself a better person with each step you take in life. When you reflect on your life, I want you to look back with awe at the person you were and with excitement for the person you're becoming.
I want you to cherish the past, embrace the present, and look forward to the future. Don't spend so much time dwelling on what has happened or what will happen that you miss what is happening today. Cliche alert (like this entire letter hasn't been one giant cliche): In the game of life, you will sometimes be winning, and you will sometimes be losing. If you happen to be behind, don't be a sore loser. Soon enough, it will be your turn to be at the front of the pack. When you are winning, be gracious. Remember those times you were losing and treat the ones who are now in that position with compassion. Always keep in mind that the game ends the same way for all of us, no matter what our score was. So take your time, enjoy it, and play with integrity.
I read this once, and it spoke to me and the type of parent I hope to be for you:
I promise to do everything I can to help you build a life filled with creativity, security, culture, adventure, humor, compassion, knowledge, tradition and optimism.
Daughter of mine, longed-for child, (not so) littlest one, I promise you that I will be the best mother I can be. I know there will be days when we will test each other's patience, but I hope despite the yelling and (hopefully metaphorical) hair-pulling we can both remember the love that binds us forever. And I do love you, even if I'm grounding you for two weeks for getting your belly button pierced without permission. Ha! Who am I kidding? That's a two MONTH grounding at the least.
I love you.
Always and forever,