An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her First Birthday


Ellie, My Baby,

Maybe it’s time I stop calling you a baby. You’re so much MORE these days. But I’ll be honest, I don’t have the strength to leave it all behind yet. 

I wish I could freeze you as you are. I would without a second’s hesitation. But you don’t want that, and it’s not what you need. 

You arrived here to grow and change, and it is my life’s greatest honor to walk beside you as you explore the world you’ll learn to call home.

A year ago, we almost lost you before we even got the chance to meet. My body couldn’t take the stress of being your home any longer.

I used to imagine you’d join us with a cacophony of ferocious, agitated cries when I became so pregnant that I couldn’t even waddle well anymore.

But fate had other plans.

5 ½ weeks before your due date, you entered the world in silence. The fluorescent lights of the operating room blinding your first view of the world that came far too early.

I’ll always remember the way my heart stilled as they brought you over to the monstrous medical bassinet. 

Still silent.

I swore my head was about to detach from the way I was craning my neck to look around the fleet of doctors and nurses to catch a glimpse of you.

I worried you wouldn’t be okay. The anxiety so strong in the pit of my stomach that I thought it would swallow me whole.

But then I heard the most beautiful sound – the smallest, barely audible, squeak – and suddenly everything was right in the world. 

You made it. We both did.

We spent our first five days as a family in the hospital. Your father and I were so elated that you made it out unscathed that even your time in the NICU didn’t sting as bad as I feared.

They prepped us before you arrived for the worst-case scenarios. Months in the NICU, feeding tubes, and if you were unfortunate enough, a trip to a local, specialized children’s hospital to go on a ventilator.

But by some miracle, you didn’t need any of it.

And today, you’re still constantly defying everyone’s expectations. 

Your hazy newborn days feel like a lifetime ago now. We spent them cuddled up in your rocking chair while I willed my eyelids to stay open for just a second longer to keep studying your face. The TV humming away in the background. 

As those days and weeks bled together, you morphed into something entirely new.

Your soft baby gurgles and coos turned into the forceful exclamations of “MaMa” and “BaBa” that echo through the house when youtube has the AUDACITY to play another ad between your Encanto music videos. 

And bottles of preemie formula have been traded for sippy cups and pieces of bite-sized finger foods (which somehow ALWAYS end up decorating the hardwood floor).

I’d be lying if I said life is the same as it was before you were born – how could it be? – but it feels much fuller these days.

Every moment with you is a gift, Ellie. Every milestone you reach is another cause for celebration. 

I live for your smiles, your hugs, and those new sloppy open-mouth kisses that I’m always afraid are going to turn into bites.

When I look at you, I see a carbon copy of my face. My own hair, eyes, heck, even the same deep curve to my lips reflected back at me. But your personality? That’s something entirely your own.

You have a wild side that keeps me on my toes, and it’s already hard for you to take no for an answer. 

But I hope it will never become easy. There are too many doors for you to burst through that others will say you can’t.

There is this vibrancy about you that words don’t do justice, paired with an independent streak that frustrates me now. But it will serve you well for the rest of your life.

I know I have to let you grow up, as much as I don’t want to. Plus, you’re bound to keep changing before my eyes.

But, how about this? 

Let’s make a deal.

Right here, right now.

You promise me that you’ll never lose the fire that I know burns in your gut and the love that fills your heart.

And I promise I’ll never leave your side.

Happy 1st Birthday Ellie. 

Your Momma


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