To my sweet baby girl,
You are one today. A full 365 days old. It’s hard to believe that you have arrived at this point already. I remember bringing you home and snuggling you tight and thinking about you being a one year old little girl-- it seemed so preposterous, so distant. But here you are, older and intelligent and beautiful . So many days I’ve sat back and watched you growing. I watched you when you were small beginning to fill up the swing’s seat a little more, watched your surprised face when you rolled over for the first time, watched you figure out that you could propel yourself across the floor to reach a toy. Now, I sit and watch you look at books, turning the pages and talking out loud as if you’re telling your own story. Time with you has been like water running through my fingers. I’ve tried to hold it all in my hands, keeping it with me; but just like water does, time found the cracks and crevices and has slipped on through.
Your arrival and your life has changed my heart in ways that I struggle to express. My words won’t do justice to the beauty that you’ve brought about, but I will try anyway…..
I remember the 2 months before you began growing within me, when each pregnancy test told me no. I cried out of fear and out of selfishness. I’ve always loved control. I hope you aren’t that way. This was the beginning, when Christ started calling my heart to surrender, to surrender to His will, His timing, and His control.
I remember the extreme excitement I felt mixed with fear when I found out I was carrying you. So many of my friends have had tragedies in their pregnancies, and I feared this with you. I set goals for myself-- I could stop worrying once I reached the first 7 week ultrasound and saw your heartbeat. When I saw your little heart flickering, the joy spilled over into tears. But that wasn’t enough. A new set of worries came. So, I told myself I could stop worrying after I heard your heartbeat. That sound. I will never forget it. Waiting in anticipation, praying that they’d find you, that you would be lively within me…. You were. But that wasn’t enough and a new set of worries appeared again. So I told myself that after the first trimester was over, I could stop worrying, stop analyzing every pain that made me think I might be losing you. And yet, that wasn’t enough either. So, my 18 week ultrasound became my next goal. I laid in bed one night while your Daddy prayed over me and you. I told him I was afraid, afraid I would love you so much and you would go once I did. He told me to love you without restraint anyway, so I did. My heart was always meant to love you. I know that. Even when I tried to hold back because I was scared I would never be ok again if I lost you…. Even then, I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love with you. Once again, God called me to surrender. To surrender my worries and my need for control, to surrender the one thing I held so dear and to trust Him and His plans. That one thing was you.
I remember when I let go and trusted your Creator. It was so liberating and a little scary, stepping out in faith alone, faith that He would see you through until completion.
I remember the weeks of carrying you, even the difficult ones, with fondness. I loved being pregnant. I loved waking up and watching my stomach stretch and grow. I loved that I needed bigger clothing-- it was proof there was life within me. I’d always wondered what I’d look like pregnant, what it would feel like to have a baby squirming inside. It seemed so surreal that it was happening to me. I treasured those moments. Carrying you was the fulfillment of so many dreams.
I remember the weeks of pregnancy, reading and preparing for your birth. So many women don’t make choices in their births, and it’s not because they don’t care. They just simply don’t know. But I knew, and when you know better you do better. So, we planned a natural birth for you-- no interventions, no medicine, no IVs, no beds, no monitors, and no hospital except for delivery.
I remember the anticipation and fear I felt, wondering if I’d be able to make it without pain medication. Fearing that other people would be right, that what I’d planned for you wouldn’t come about because I’d be too weak. They’d forgotten about the strength found in the Savior, and so had I. But He reminded me a few weeks later.
I remember when the contractions began at 35 weeks and thinking that you’d be coming early. I remember my appointment with my midwife that week where she thought the same thing-- my body was preparing and showing signs, your head was engaged, and yet you waited. You are living proof that you like to do things right on time, my love.
I remember one night at 37 weeks pregnant when contractions started and kept coming for two hours. I remember waiting for that magical trifecta-- longer, stronger, and closer together. I remember they began to fall into that pattern. Then just as quickly as they’d arrived, they stopped. The waiting grew harder.
I remember two days before going into labor, longing to meet you. It wasn’t a desire to not be pregnant anymore. Even when I was humongous, and I felt pretty sure you were going to fall out of me at any moment because you were so low, I still loved pregnancy. But I just couldn’t wait to see your face, to hold you, for all of the work my body had been doing in previous weeks to come to fruition.
I remember the day proceeding labor, 2 days before your due date. I remember spending time with your Daddy that day. We watched movies and hung around the house. I cleaned and he took pictures of me while I swept. Later that night, when contractions seemed to be changing, I texted our doula, Gaylea, to let her know. She told me it sounded like we might be having a baby that night and to go to bed. I followed the rules. Your Daddy didn’t.
I remember the anticipation, the difficulty I had falling asleep that night. But somehow, sleep came to me until 12:46. I remember waking up and going to the bathroom, coming back to bed and looking at the clock. 12:48. I remember how hard it was to get into bed at that point because I was so big. I remember the gush of water that came when I sat down, racing to turn on the light to check, and hollering for your Daddy.
I remember him running into our bedroom. I will never forget his face. He was so excited. He had just turned off the TV and was getting ready to come to bed when I called for him. Sleep would have to wait. You had different plans for us that night.
I remember the significance of that night- my labor beginning where conception began. My pregnancy coming to an end in the same place that your life first started. Two beginnings- yet one beginning closing and another one was unraveling into life.
I remember the contractions, working through them in the darkness of our house. I remember being stunned by their raw intensity. But I wanted to feel everything, to complete this journey with you. It was so hard, but God was so faithful. It was a continuation of the surrender He’d begun in my heart months before. His peace was present, even palpable. It was intimate, and He taught me much on my knees.
I remember looking at your Daddy while I labored, just the two of us alone, and loving him intensely in that moment- for doing what I could not. The years of togetherness giving him the wisdom to know what I needed, even when I couldn’t speak it. I remember his touch on my shoulder, his voice when he prayed, and his arms that helped me stand through the pain. I remember the peace that was in his eyes. I have loved him for so many years, but maybe most at this moment. I hope you experience this one day.
I remember the car ride to the hospital. I was complete 10 minutes after we left the house.I knew it. I didn’t need to be checked to confirm it. I felt so connected to you, so connected to what was happening to my body in those hours. When we passed the Smyrna Airport, I knew you were ready to meet your new world.
I remember the great relief when we arrived at Vanderbilt and your quick arrival- 11 minutes later. True to your character, when you’re ready to do something, you do it right then.
I remember them placing you on my chest as soon as you were born. Your cord was still pulsing and your cry filled up the room. I remember examining your face and those precious little lips in the shape of an “O”, quivering and screaming. Even now, when you cry, your face looks exactly the same as the first time I saw it, and I go right back to that hospital bed in room 9.
I remember the surreal feeling- I couldn’t believe that you were finally here... Looking at you and thinking how much I had to learn about you.
And oh, how I remember the love. My girl. My precious baby that I’d felt and waited for my entire life. The tangible proof of God’s goodness, of the love He cultivated in the heart of your Daddy and me. You literally took my breath away. You still do.
I remember looking up at your Daddy beside me and saying, “We made it! No drugs!” It was such a feeling of accomplishment, that the 3 of us had run this marathon and won together. There is a saying that parents would take on any amount of pain so their child would be safer and happier. This was one of my first gifts to you--choosing the pain so you could have a gentle arrival. And I would do it all again a thousand times over. You were worth it.
I remember 1:00 that day. Everyone was gone. Your Daddy had finally fallen asleep after being awake for over 24 hours. It was just you and me. I held you and wept. I couldn’t believe you were mine. You were better than I expected, more than I’d prayed for.
I didn’t feel that overwhelming sense of “What do we do now?” when we brought you home. I felt so comfortable with you, comfortable just loving you.
I remember the first few weeks, this indescribable bond that emerged as we learned what you liked and what you didn’t, felt out your personality, and became more connected to you than we ever imagined.
I remember watching your cheeks grow. You were so chunky. I never imagined I’d have a chubby baby and I loved every single roll!
I remember when you started chatting and cooing all the time. I knew you were going to be a talker. I waited in anticipation to hear your voice, to hear a real word come out, and when it did I was blown away.
I remember the mornings spent in physical therapy with you, reminding myself of the things that God was teaching me. I loved watching other people who had no previous connection to us invest themselves in you and your well-being. It was so humbling.
I remember simple days at home just watching you grow and develop, and the excitement that I found when you achieved simple things-- sitting up, reaching for toys, a new tooth. I am so grateful I have these treasured memories with you.
I remember asking questions to my family & friends, wanting to do what was best for you. Second guessing myself, hitting my knees in prayer, talking with your Daddy about a thousand different things regarding childrearing. Your life has taught me how great my need is--the need to dwell in the presence of the Savior.
I remember rocking you at night, even months after you were born, even now…. And just crying when I watched you slip into sleep. Sometimes I see you from across the room and my heart fills up so much that I don’t think I can stand it, and the tears flow as I remember these moments with you.
All these memories, etched in my heart. Even if my brain forgets, my heart will always remember. I cannot tell you the insurmountable love I have for you, Abi Kate. I pray that God gives you a daughter one day so you can experience it for yourself. You are exquisite.
I love you for being you. I love you when I see traits of your Daddy and me inside you. I love your unique personality and your pleasant disposition. But I love you for more than just this-- I love you because Christ used you to reach me when I was unreachable. Oh, I’ve never been really out of His reach, I know. But I had steeled myself against things that He’d been calling me to for years, things He wanted me to surrender, a faith He wanted to blossom, a heart He wanted to prune. I am humbled that He would use you, use my own child, to quicken my heart and my life to Him, to teach me the beauty of surrender.
My doula told me countless times while I was pregnant that I was giving birth not only to my child but to my motherhood. I did my best to get a grasp on what that meant, but I didn’t truly understand until I had you in my arms. The way we prepared for your birth, the way it played out-- that has fashioned the way that we've parented you. It taught me to be bold in my choices, to question ideas and research, to trust the decisions that we make for you, and to be an advocate for you in every way. But most importantly, it taught me to rely on the One who has all the answers already. You ushered me into motherhood so gently and easily, and I am so grateful to you for that.
Your name fits you perfectly, the name we picked out long before you were conceived, before we were ever even married. Abigail means “The joy of the Father” and Kate means “Pure.” This is you-- you possess these qualities. I pray so often that your life will continue to bring joy to your Heavenly Father. That you will seek after Him and live as a pure and holy vessel, that your identity would be found in Calvary’s cross.
One year ago today, I couldn’t have known the love I now feel, the fulfillment I experience, the gratefulness and growth that has taken up residence in my soul. You have spurred on this change, Abigail. You have given our lives this great new meaning. And we love you desperately.
Happy first birthday, Abi Kate! We are so thankful for your sweet life. You are our most priceless gift.