Dear Baby,

Monday, October 17, 2011

When your Papa and I decided we would find out your gender before the birth, I was anxious up until that day, but at the same time, I was nervous. I wondered how I would feel once I knew whether you were my son or daughter. I imagine finding out after I had given birth to you would have been a completely different experience than finding out during an ultrasound. I was worried that I would somehow be disappointed, not with you being a boy or girl, but with our decision, with my impatience. I never thought that I would have any negative feelings - It was just. . . uncharted territory, I guess. It was one of those rights of passage that made me realize just how fast time goes. One day, your Dad and I are broke newlyweds, living for the moment in a one bedroom apartment with art supplies scattered all over the living room and Hamburger Helper on the stove. The next, we've made a human and are in a waiting room, knowing our lives are going to change even more as soon as we see your beating heart and get the news. It was a surreal day, here and gone like a blur. This is the video we made to announce to our family and friends that a little girl will be joining us in February. As it turns out, I don't have any regrets about our decision. I've been able to bond with you in such a different way. I love knowing that those bumps, kicks, and rolls are you, not just my child, my daughter. I have my hands on my belly every few minutes throughout the day, savoring this experience. (Your Papa is a little jealous. He's always jokingly yelling, "Quit playing with my baby!" when he sees me chasing your thumps around my belly with my hands.) I have less than four months to take advantage of this magical time with you, so I'm soaking it up. A lot of nights, I lay in bed with questions dancing in my mind. What kind of personality will you have? Will you be a picky eater? Will you be artistic, like me, or will you have a different talent, something uniquely you? Will you like your Papa's old country music? (It turns out, you do.) Will you love to read like your Papa and I both do? (You do and reading together each day is always a savored moment.) What kind of things will you dream about? Will you love being outside like I did when I was little? (Yes.) As these thoughts take over and flow into each other, there's always an abrupt pause in my running mind when I ask myself, "What do I want for you? What are those memories I want to leave you with, to reminisce over when your childhood is gone? What are the important lessons that I want to be sure you learn?" I'm sure these things will bend and change as time passes, just as you and I will, but right now, these are the best answers I have to these questions. I want you to indulge in and enjoy life. I want to see you conquer the world. I want to watch you explore all you want to explore, learn all that you want to learn, love and be loved. As weird as it sounds, I want to encourage you to devour this world, to have no fear - take hold of your dreams and fight to make them happen. I want you to experience all the shades, tones, and variations of the mental and physical experiences possible in life. This doesn't mean you have to have wild, crazy, jaw-dropping aspirations for yourself for me to be proud of you. This is your life. These are your dreams. Make them as big or small, simple or complicated, close to home or far away as you want. I want to raise you with the same desire I have, to seek and find those people, places, and experiences that will define your own personal joy. I promise we'll always support you in your aspirations and process of self-discovery, whether they're in far away places or in our backyard. The whole wild world is waiting for you. (I can't wait to let you listen to "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty. I can remember your Papa singing it to me as we drove the dirt roads of our hometown in high school, and I can't imagine a song more fitting to what I just finished writing.) At the same time, if you meet someone who makes you stop in your tracks and rethink the path you're on or what you've always wanted, let your guard down. Don't hold onto your dreams too tight and miss out on something more beautiful and fulfilling than any dream you could have - love. Sometimes you just have to let go and let life take you where it wants you. If I hadn't learned that, your Papa and I would be in completely separate places. We wouldn't have had the privilege of building a life together. On the same topic of love, don't be reckless with other people's hearts, and don't put up with people who are reckless with yours. Hold out for someone that treasures you, and if you never find that person, don't pity yourself for it. If you do, accept that they can't and will never be able to complete you. Don't try to change them too much. Be content to simply have a companion through life's conflicts.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. Some of the most interesting people I've known didn't know what they wanted to do with their lives. They were just living in the moment, and that's okay, as long as you're happy.

Enjoy the beauty of your youth as best you can. You probably won't understand the beauty of your youth until it has faded but trust me, in just a few short years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and you won't be able to grasp how much opportunity lay ahead of you or how good you actually looked. You are not as fat as you imagine and all those things you were self conscious about at one time or another in your teenage years will no longer be so obvious. On that same note, don't bother with beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Friends come and go, but for the few you meet who are worth it, work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and the different paths in life. The older you get, the more enjoyable it is to still have people in your life that knew you when you were young.

Don't waste your time on jealousy and envy. Depending on who you compare yourself to, sometimes you're ahead and sometimes you're behind. The race of life is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

I've never liked when people would say, "Just be yourself."  It allows you to use the excuse, "That's just who I am." Be who you want to be. If you have to make changes to be a better version of yourself, make them. You're the only one who you'll have to spend your entire life with, so don't sell yourself short. You can make the best or worst of life. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you've never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you ever find that you're not, I hope you're strong and brave enough to start all over again.

All the Love in the Universe,


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