Tuesday, September 15, 2015

a letter to bethany on her first birthday

My sweet, dear Bethany--

You'll have to forgive me--I feel like I'm out of habit with this. When your brother first came around, I blogged regularly and had plenty of time to compose a birthday letter to him (http://www.laurenm83.blogspot.com/2011/10/on-your-first-birthday.html) but here we are, my second child. Coming in under the wire and piecing together bits of time to work on this. I promise I'll get it done before the week is over!

You started out as a dream to us, imagining this fourth little person that would complete our family. As everyone asked, "So when are you going to have another?" we were trying to plan and find the perfect spacing that would allow us the one on one time with your brother while also insuring that you two could be playmates. And so it was a couple of weeks after Christmas during a visit downeast to see your great grandparents that I noticed my smell was off. I could clearly smell something vinegary, but your daddy couldn't. And I couldn't wait for us to get back home and take a test, just to see. Sure enough, a faint little line showed up. I tested once more in the morning, just for good measure--and it was clear. A second little one was on the way.

We included Davis in the announcement, ordering a fun shirt from Etsy and telling our family members over the next couple of weeks. He was ecstatic to be the messenger--"I'm going to be a big brother! There's a baby in Mommy's belly!" We announced it to the world on my 31st birthday, and you took us on a ride over the next few weeks that I will never forget.

Davis's pregnancy was so easy, but you, little girl--we knew you were going to be a different. Nausea and food aversions had me subsisting entirely on peanut butter and jelly or cereal. Smells would send me to the bathroom, and I had to turn away meals at restaurants that sounded enticing when I ordered, but were the last thing I wanted to see when it was actually brought to the table. You were rough on me, hon.

But it was worth it, and it gave us a clue that you might be a girl. All of my friends with bad morning sickness had had girls, and even though it would have been so convenient to have another little boy (you, James and Davis would have lined right up with clothes) I knew it would be fun to have a little girl as well. So the day of the big ultrasound, we ordered pink and blue cupcakes to share with your brother's class and went on in for the big reveal. And there it was--or rather, wasn't. You were a girl, and we were headed into a whole new world of pink :)

The next few months flew by, and being second-time parents, we weren't as concerned about getting the nursery set up. We knew you'd sleep in our room the first few weeks anyway--realistically, we had everything we needed. Life kept on going, and I was determined not to let things slow me down. Your brother needed his routine and those last few trips as an only child to go on the Disney Cruise, to see Thomas at Tweetsie Railroad, to go to the beach--and we did it all, even traveling up to 38 weeks beforehand for your cousin James' first birthday.

I suppose the biggest surprise during that time was your VSD diagnosis. A routine 3-D ultrasound that led us down a path of cardiologist specialists and high risk birth plans. We were told that the NICU team would have to be there when you were born, just in case, and it brought a stark reality to us that your entry into the world may not be as "normal" as we'd hoped. Our friends and family came together to support us, and we saw glimpses of God working through the whole experience, reassuring us that everything would be okay.

Then you teased us, with Braxton-Hicks contractions over the last few days. We assumed you'd come early, like your brother. But no, you came just a couple days shy of your due date, ready as ever. Just an hour or so after they broke my water and a couple of hours after we actually checked in, you were out in two pushes (and no time for pain meds!) born at 1:40 pm, and no issues with the VSD. My family had gone to get lunch, thinking it would be hours til you were born, and then were surprised to get a text as they were finishing up that you were here! This whole birthing in the afternoon thing was new to us, too, and we had a stream of visitors that day. It was actually kind of fun, being alert and content, feeling like regulars on the maternity floor. I knew the routine and what to expect, falling easily into nursing again, trying to catch sleep while I could and enjoying the last few moments of peace before we returned home. There was even a point in that first evening where everyone left us for a couple of hours (they all assumed the others were in there) and it was just you and me in that tiny little hospital room, with you snuggled up sleeping next to me. Justin came back and the three of us laid in bed together, relishing in the moment. The nurses even asked us, "So are you going to have any more? You seem so calm and handling things so well!" "No," we said, "this is it. She's the last one...but she's special." I was determined to only stay one night in the hospital, and true to my word, we were able to be discharged the next afternoon.

We had one week with help at home (thank goodness for help!) and then it was into our routine. My dear second child, you were thrown into the "make it work" mantra at an early age. At two weeks old, you were accompanying me to preschool drop offs, field trips, Homecoming parades and grocery store runs.

We settled into a nice little schedule and I soaked up every bit of those three months, knowing they would be my last extended break from work for...well, pretty much ever.

You blossomed, showing us how chill, laidback and easy going you could be while also having very specific ideas of how certain things should go (must be held by Mama almost all the time.) We were big fans of baby-wearing and sleeping in the room with us, while not so fond of long car rides or gas bubbles (but who is?)
I think the biggest thing this time around is that I knew to a certain point what to expect--and that everything is a stage. You weren't going to act a particular way forever, and I could go forward with confidence, knowing that we could ride out any difficult time.

You definitely benefited from second-time parenting in many ways, though it also made us less attentive to other things. You don't have a video of all your milestones like Davis did, and if it weren't for Timehop or Facebook, I'm not sure we'd have any semblance of a baby book.

If I had to choose a word or two to categorize our experience of this first year, one would be "complex." Nothing was as straightforward as it was with Davis, and you came into the world at a complicated time in our lives.

This past year, our collective families have seen numerous challenges with medical issues, hospital stays, construction site visits, outreach presentations, and who can forget the flu epidemic before Christmas?

Even our childcare was more complex than with Davis--we had primary and back up and crazy weeks with five different care givers on five different days. You rolled with it all, though, and for that we are grateful.

You also proved to us how different siblings could be...by this time in his life, Davis was significantly attached to his Wubbanub and we knew we'd have a tough time weaning him off of it. You? The paci was hit or miss, and eventually just a miss. Go figure. One less battle to fight in the future.

We had stricter ideas of how we wanted to sleep train Davis, when to start purees, and then solids--and with you, it was a much more fluid process. "Do what works until it doesn't" became my motto, and I was comfortable with those gray areas of parenting.

So I don't remember specific turning points or major accomplishments, but I remember little moments of catching naps on the run, watching big brother play teeball or go swimming, and keeping each other company as life moved on at a rapid pace.

You were my companion through it all, and we learned to make it work.

I'm an older sibling, and so is your daddy. I can only try to imagine what your experiences as a second child will be like going forward, but I promise to try to understand and find a good balance (without the mom guilt.)

I want to keep having the one on one time with you, developing a mother/daughter bond that will carry us through difficult times.

We see so much of your daddy in Davis, and I hope (really really hope) that you and I are cut from the same cloth, too.

This perfect balance of personalities and interests in our family, the emotional with the rational, the thinker with the doer, the analytical with the heart.

I can't guarantee that it will always be easy. Davis was our "guinea pig," and you are dealing with the consequences of what we learned from the first-go-round.

There will be days that enforcing the rules doesn't work, or you get dragged to one more soccer game or swim meet or Cub Scout event or whatever we have going on--and you don't want to be there. The future me apologizes to the future you.

It'll get better, I promise.

More than anything, I want to find your same passions and interests and help cultivate them. Already, you're carrying around crayons and have shown more interest in coloring over the past two days than your brother has his entire nearly five years of life. 

You watch--everything--and you learn from it. It's like each day we see you pick up on one more details or notice one more piece of your environment. 

We hope to instill in you a love for traveling--seriously, girl, you've gotta get on that bus. We are a traveling family, and without the ability to travel, we lose connection with some of those that we love dearly. So we hope this next year will prove to be the year that traveling clicks for you, because we have BIG plans!

I hope your relationship with your brother continues to grow. We walk a fine line, giving you both your space and then trying to get you to "work things out." You've just started to realize what the baby gate means in front of his door, and you desperately want to be on the other side.

I pray that you develop into an unstoppable team, a force to be reckoned with that is protective, loving and kind--and that you don't use those powers against poor Mom and Dad ;)

Above all, I hope that your heart continues to shine through those bright, beautiful eyes. That you allow us to see you, hear you, support you as you walk through life--the good and the bad.

You've come a long way, baby doll, and I can't wait to see where the path goes from here.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

we love you so much--

mama and dada