a letter to Baby J on her first birthday

Dear Darling Baby J,

It was exactly one year ago that you made your entrance into the world.  I knew my world would change once you were born, but there’s no way I could have imagined what a ride your first year would be.  I suspected certain personality traits about you before you were even born, and for the most part I was right, but at the same time, you are wonderfully different than I ever expected.  I wouldn’t change a thing about this past year (except maybe for more sleep.  This year has been a bit lacking in the sleep department for me, but you seem just fine with it.)

When I was first pregnant with you, I hoped you would be a girl, so that your sister would have a little sister.  When we found out you were a girl, we were all overjoyed.  Your big sister named you “Jellowanna” while you were growing inside of me.  I don’t know how she came up with that name, but it stuck.  My mother worried that your sister would still call you Jellowanna after you were born, but she never did.  Not once. She knows your name, loves your name, and even has dolls named after you.

You and your sister are quite the pair.  She has been in love with you from the first moment she saw you.  We have pictures of the first time she met you, and the look on her face is one I that I have only seen at that moment.  She loves to make you laugh, too.  Just today, on your birthday, she was wiggling on the floor in a goofy way, and you were watching her and falling over with laughter yourself.  So she wiggled even more, and you laughed even harder.  I have never heard a baby laugh as hard as you do.  You and your sister are well on your way to a beautiful friendship, and that makes my heart so incredibly glad.

But you, yourself – what are YOU like at one year old, darling girl?  Well, you are walking, and walking faster every day.  You like to be where the people are, especially where Momma is, but your big sister or your Daddy are acceptable short-term alternatives.  You love to get out of the house, whether it’s a ride in the stroller or a ride in the grocery cart or even just a ride in the car.  You also still enjoy a ride in Momma’s sling, and it always works to calm you down when you’re fussy.  You especially like to be in the sling and half on my back when I’m working in the kitchen.  I think you enjoy seeing the view from up high.

You don’t really like to sleep, but over the last two weeks I’ve seen some big changes.  I wonder if it’s the homeopathic remedy I gave you two weeks ago?  The other day you took a 2 hour morning nap, a 2 hour afternoon nap, and you slept beautifully that night!  But most of the time you’d rather be awake and playing than sleep.  There have been many more days where I have put you down for a nap, only to hear you talking and playing and whining to yourself in the crib for the next hour or more.

You love baths.  Momma gives you a bath every night.  You need it, because most nights food ends up smeared into your face and hands and hair, plus you hate when Momma tries to clean you up with a washcloth.  So, every night into the baby bathtub you go, where I wash your beautiful, curly brown hair and your plump, incredibly soft, gorgeous baby body.  You don’t have a single mole on your body.  Your sister and I and your Daddy each have many birthmarks, but your skin is perfectly clear.

You have the most beautiful, unique, curly brown hair.  Your curls often form a crown around your head, as your bangs stick straight out over your forehead.  I have never seen hair like yours on anyone.  You have ringlets behind both your ears that look as if someone formed them with a curling iron.  You have a long lock of hair at the nape of your neck; people laugh and say it’s practically a mullet.  I’ve considered cutting it off to even out your hair in back, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  Your “mullet” often curls around your neck anyway, and then it doesn’t look so long.

We still call you “Little Miss Big Eyes.”  You have such big, gorgeous eyes.  I think they’re eventually going to be solid brown, and they’re definitely more brown than they were when you were born, but they still have a hint of blue/green in them.  They’re beautiful.  My father recently mentioned that you have a very square jaw, and he thought that in that respect, you looked a bit like his mother, your Great-Grandma Violet.

You already have 8 teeth!  Teething hasn’t seemed to bother you too much.  But sometimes you use your teeth to bite me, usually in my shoulder as I hold you.  I’m not sure what to do about this, outside of putting my fingers against your mouth and saying, “No!”  I have learned that this is your way of communicating that you’re tired, irritated, and need for a change of situation.  But I hope this doesn’t become a bigger problem in the future.

You’re still breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding you has been more of a challenge than I was expecting, and we’ve overcome a number of hurdles that I did not experience with your sister.  We dealt with thrush that wouldn’t go away, a strange latch (all the lactation consultants said your latch was fine, but it always felt a little wrong to me), uneven supply issues, mastitis, and a bit of biting, but through it all, we’ve persevered.  And when you ardently try to latch on and then close your eyes in relief when you find what you were looking for as you drink happily, at those times I am so glad that I persevered.  And on hot days, you really enjoy a bottle of cold, pumped breastmilk!  Sometimes when I happen to have a bottle on hand, I’ll give you a bottle straight out of the fridge in the afternoon, and, wow, you would think I was serving you an ice cream cone.  That’s one of your favorite treats!

As I’m writing all these descriptions of you, I feel like I’m still not capturing the essence of who you are, darling girl.  I will say this: When you know what you want, you are very persistent until you get what you want.  You are fearless; you dive right into toyboxes, or under chairs, or up steps (or down steps), into water or wherever else you want to explore.  Despite all this, you have a very even temperament.  You were never a colicky baby or overly fussy, but you always knew exactly what you wanted, and it was up to me and Daddy to figure it out.

You love music.  You love when I sing to you.  You love when I do anything with you.  You are very attached to me.  Sometimes I’ve felt that you didn’t care for me very much, as you’re not as snuggly of a baby as your big sister was.  But then there are definitely times when you want me and only me.  You have a new trick that you started over the past few months of tucking your head into my neck when we’re out in public in a group of people.  It’s as if you’re feeling shy and you want to be close to me.  It will be interesting to see if you turn out to be a little shy as you get older.  And I know you do love me.  It’s obvious on the big smile on your face when I get you up in the morning, and it’s obvious as we sit down in the chair to nurse.

I love putting you to bed.  This is convenient, because I am currently the only one who can do it.  After you nurse, you sit up on my lap and put your head against my chest as I rock you and sing to you.  I enjoy this quiet snuggle time so much, and there are many nights when it’s hard to put you down in your crib, especially when you’re all sweet-smelling from your bath.  And when you fall asleep in my arms — oh, that’s a very good thing.

I am looking forward to your next year of life.  I think you’re going to keep me on my toes, however!  Not only do I have to really keep my eye on you, I’ve already seen you throw a few little tantrums, so I think we’ll be in for plenty more adventures.  I know that your first words will soon be coming, as well as perfecting your walking skils.  Sometime in this upcoming year you will wean, but at the moment, you don’t really like to drink anything except for momma’s milk and some occasional water.  You think juice is yukky.  Hmm.  I’m not sure what to do about that.

I hope that you always continue to regard me as your safe place, the place where you can always go for comfort and a warm, soft chest to lean against.  I hope that you continue to always trust that I will catch you, the way you do now.  I want to continue to bond with you and know you better all the time, and I want to help guide you through this beautiful and terrifying world in which we live.

I am so grateful that God sent you into my life, your father’s life, and your sister’s life.  You have blessed all of us in more ways that you will ever know, and in more ways that I can find words to say.  Before you were born, I prayed that God would send just the right baby for our family.  And he has.  Darling Curious J, you are exactly the right baby for our family.  You are just what we needed.  And today, we celebrate your first birthday.

God bless you my daughter, today and always.  I love you so very much.