to fiona, on your second birthday


as i prepare for your second birthday, i think about the 9 months that i carried you in my body. all those weeks i counted and marked and recorded while you grew, you went easy on me. you never made me sick, never gave me weird aversions or cravings, never made me too tired to keep my routine. you slept when i slept and moved during the day, giving my stomach divots and peaks where they'd never been before. and when, at midnight on your due date, my water broke, you made your way into the world exactly when you were supposed to. i realized i shouldn't be surprised that you were perfectly punctual, seeing as you'd been so considerate all along. it was an easy labor, and thanks to probably an overly aggressive epidural, i felt nothing as you were delivered at exactly 8AM on August 29th. the ease of my pregnancy carried into delivery and even breastfeeding, and scott and i could not stop remarking how lucky we were, how good you were. you became our angel baby, my dove, my bunny. 

last year, when you turned one, i realized how much change a year can hold. i saw you change shape and lose your infant traits. you came into your personality. you developed a sense of humor, and a strong will. you went from tiny, immobile, completely reliant newborn to chubby-faced, crawling, smiling, laughing 1 year old. and the contrast made me realize how much i have changed since you began to grow in me. so much of who i have become is because of what you need, what you ask of me. it's gratifying and rewarding and also difficult, my constant effort to fill the negative space in your existence. at the end of each day i assess how i've done in fulfilling my role as your mother, and i come up short. in my own mind, i can never do enough for you. 

and yet, you thrive.

soon after you turned 1, we left you for 7 days, the first time scott and i were leaving you together. i cried walking away, but you just watched and held onto your baba. without us there, you stood alone from a sitting position for the first time. you only barely waited for us to take your first steps. you slept and played and laughed and cried, and again, you surprised us, by being... fine.
 

around 14 months, you began walking back and forth between your dada and i, as we set you up and launched you back and forth between us. each route ended with a giant, trusting lurch toward the catching parent, and much celebration for every completed step. in our new house, you found the courage to walk alone, then run and chase. you faced every fall bravely, and we quickly learned you weren't going to need comforting every time you landed on the floor. 

at each milestone in your short life, i've agonized over how it would impact you. we put off weaning you from your bottle because i worried so much about how bedtime would go, and then you went to bed contentedly the first night. you adjusted to your new class at 18 months once you discovered it reunited you with your favorite boy from infant care. you sleep... on a cot... on the floor... in a room full of other kids. for hours! every day! it's as if every time i set myself up to worry about you, you do your best, you rise to the challenge, you face the task at hand and leave no room for us to doubt you. 

when i think of your second year, i know the most beautiful, wondrous, fulfilling thing is the way you've learned to communicate. it started with nodding, which you did with your whole body. then came the shrieking, a continuation of your baby dinosaur days as a tiny infant. then, instead of words, you expanded your noises. from moo, to woof, to meow and roar, you memorized animal noises diligently, performing any time we asked (unless a third party was watching, of course). now our greatest entertainment is seeing what you will say next. whether it's noo-noos or apple daw, or even yo-yuck. your language quickly becomes ours, and even when you're not with us, we use your words. this week you've been calling us mommy and daddy, and i can't NOT notice the difference from baby babble to kid-speak. 


here you are at 2, and i keep finding myself saying "she's a real person. she's not a baby anymore." it's not entirely true, of course. you are still my baby. you still prefer to be carried rather than walking free. you are energized by hugs and kisses and high fives from those who love you. but you are growing and i can't ignore the fact that day by day you lose a little bit more of the "baby" and gain a little more of the girl. i look at you, with your dusty blue eyes and your sunlit hair, with your single dimple and full grin, and i see you 10 years from now. i hold you before bedtime, and i see the baby who you're excitedly leaving behind, and the girl who awaits. here you are at two years old, right in the middle of two worlds. when you speak your name, you almost whisper the "f" sound, as if it's a whistle stuck between your lips. "fi-fi baum" you said yesterday, clear as day. you know who you are, and we continue to learn every day.

i wanted a baby girl for what feels like my entire life. i dreamed of you, fiona, as evidenced by the fact that i wrote your name, "fiona christan" in my journals starting when i was 12 years old. when i found out i was pregnant, i wished and wished and sent all of my hopes into the universe that you would be a girl. i played you my favorite fiona apple songs, and i told you all of the hopes i had for my daughter. now, at each milestone i take stock of how far you've come, how far we've both come, and i am utterly amazed. you are everything i hoped for and nothing i could have predicted. we are, both of us, changing all the time as we take steps forward, and even as we fall on our faces. 

happy second birthday to you, my love. keep growing.

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