I don’t like to write posts that purport to be letters to my child, to be read in the future. I have written them, a few of them, but always with a sense of unease. Unease at sharing thoughts that I would present to my child as a private gift – as something that I mean to pass from my heart to hers – with an audience. Of course, everything that I write here is meant, someday, to be given to her, shared with her – to help her to understand me, and my journey as her mother, a little better, and to help her, perhaps, to understand herself a little better, to know a little bit of who she was in the hours and days and weeks and months that will always remain beyond the reach of her memory. So the form of the letter is tempting, because it allows me the pretense of speaking directly to her, of reaching through time – of imagining a reach through time – to share my voice, this voice, the voice of her mother in the time of her extreme youth, with her.
Still, I’m not going to write a letter to her today. Today is her birthday, but I’m not going to write her a letter. I’m not going to write her a letter because the letter that I would write today would be entirely self-indulgent (though aren’t they all?). It would be all about me, and it would be all apology and hand-wringing. It would be about my anxieties, these days, that I am being a truly terrible mother, that I have not been nearly as attentive and involved as I should be, that the ongoing distraction of nausea and other sickness and the whatnots and wherefores of day-to-day life have gotten in the way of mothering and that I feel guilty for having done so much of my loving and caring for her from arm’s length, from the corner of the room, from my prone position on the couch or the bed or the floor, issued forth only in whispers and weak hugs.
It would be about feeling guilty, and anxious, that these days are slipping by and I cannot participate fully in them. That I cannot participate fully in her. That these are the last days – the last weeks, the last months – that she and I have as mother and only child, mother and only daughter, that we have as a duo, as a pair. Next year our family will have grown, gods willing, and she will be one of two. No longer my only child, the only child of my heart.
I know, I know: I will love her no less when her sibling comes; my heart will expand and the love of two will be infinitely bigger than I could ever imagine. But still: I lay awake, sometimes, at night, in the quiet, and although I do not cry, I can feel my heart constrict and a pressing damp at the corner of my eyes as I think, this will all change. It will all be different. We will no longer be two, she and I, me and she. I will no longer be able to say, I love you most of all, you are my very dearest child and the best and brightest light of my heart. She will no longer be one. She will be one of two.
She will be no less special for that, no less loved. She will, I think, be more special, more loved. I’m not sure why or how, but I imagine that the expansion of our family means an expansion of love that spreads in all directions and reaches beyond all depths and heights. It will all be more. But it will all be different.
So I want her to know this, on her second birthday, on her last birthday as an only child: that I feel this impending change, deeply, and that – for all of the immeasurable joy that lays before us – this time, this time of us, this first time, this first experience of what it means to hold my heart outside of my self and cling to the throbbing mess of it will be held deeply and tightly in the place where my dearest memories are held. That she will always be my first.
That I love her, deeply, desperately, even – especially – in those moments when I can barely hold my head up, even – especially – when it seems that I am lost in my own miseries and distractions. That there is not and will never be another her, and that I will always be grateful, beyond grateful, to God and nature and the universe for the miracle that is her.
Happy birthday, baby girl, big girl, my girl. Happy birthday.