I forgot to take your picture last month.
You turned six months old — a considerable milestone — and I didn’t mark the occasion.
I took your brother’s picture each month of the first year of his life, without fail. I even coordinated outfit changes and creative poses and extensive digital retouching.
I had a lot more time on my hands back then.
I confess this now because I fear someday you’ll notice. You’ll see the disparity in pictures and think it means something. You’ll look for the inconsistencies in how we were with you and your brother, and you’ll wonder if we feel the same for you both.
Let me address your feelings now, before you’re able to have them: The day you were born, I learned to love more than I ever knew I could.
On that day, I checked into the hospital fairly convinced that you were going to be a boy. Your dad and I decided to wait to find out, but I thought I knew. My second pregnancy felt so similar to my first that I thought the gender had to be the same. On top of that, I thought my doctor had slipped and accidentally revealed you were a boy.
I tried hard not to care whether you were a boy or a girl since it was so completely out of my control. I knew there would be wonderful things about either gender and I truly was just grateful you had been declared healthy throughout my pregnancy.
But secretly, buried deep inside me was a tenacious desire to have a daughter.
And yet, in that moment when you first came out and clung to my chest, I was so overcome with love for you that I didn’t think about gender. After a few moments with no reaction from me, your dad finally said, “Hon? Do you see?”
I looked down at you and could hardly believe my eyes. “It’s a girl,” said your father, and I understood he knew just how happy those words would make me.
A beautiful, dark-haired baby girl. A daughter.
We bestowed upon you a lovely, old-fashioned name that carries a measure of dignity and grace. We introduced you to your aunts and grandparents and great, whooping cheers erupted throughout the room. Tears flowed from everyone’s eyes and your brother climbed into the bed to get a better look at you. You: the perfect addition to our family.
I’ve learned so much from you already. Mostly, I’ve learned the love in a parent’s heart isn’t divided when another child comes along. Rather, my capacity for love grew when you came into my life. Like the fabled Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day. I love everything more because of you.
In my eyes, you aren’t second. You’re more.
Yes, more laundry and diapers and medical expenses. More spills and messes and Goldfish crumbs in the car. More sleep-disrupting cries in the night. More to worry about; more to support.
But more of the most wonderful things in my life, too.
If I forget to write down all your milestones and moments in a gold-lined baby book, I apologize. I’m a second child myself, and I understand how the smallest injustice or inequality can be perceived as indifference. So please know it’s merely that I want to spend every extra moment I have just being present with you and your brother, soaking in all the wonderful things about you both.
These are golden days in my life: you, at seven months old, pleasant, bubbly and cherubic. You offer a wide, toothless grin to anyone who smiles at you, but you seem to reserve your purest smiles for me. Your brother, at two and a half, funny and sweet and affectionate. Waving and talking to anyone he sees; ready with a kiss or a song or something to make his audience laugh.
Golden, precious days that will pass all too quickly.
I know there are slammed doors and stomped feet ahead. I know that, before long, I’ll be at the periphery of your universe rather than the nexus. And if I frustrate, irritate and enrage you, that only means I’m doing my job.
I’ll deal with all that when it comes. For now, we are kindred spirits, blood sisters, a mutual admiration society. We are connected in the most organic, intimate way possible, and I’ll hold you close for as long as I can.
Today, we’re outside together on a gorgeous summer day. You’re rolling around on the quilt that once lay atop my childhood bed and your sharp, observant eyes take in all that surrounds you in our garden green back yard. You turn your head toward the chirping of the birds in the trees and your wispy hair blows with the wind. Every few seconds, you look behind you to see if I’m still here.
Of course, I am. I always will be.
You travel to the edge of the blanket and your tiny hand plucks a blade of grass. You study it, turn it, feel it. And then you let it go, watching it fly away in the breeze.
Someday I’ll do the same for you. For now, you are mine and I am yours. Totally, utterly, completely yours.
I conclude this love letter to you, my second child, with a promise: I rescind all the hopes and dreams I had for you. I vow to let you be yourself, to follow your own path without judgment or disapproval. I’m already perfectly content with who you are; all you have to do is keep being yourself and I’ll be proud of you every day of your life.
I’ve only known you for seven, lightning-fast months, but I already know you’re a special, beautiful person. You have a happy heart, an easy smile and a quick and curious mind. I’ll move heaven and earth to keep the world from taking those gifts from you.
Thank you for coming into my life.