Art with the Littles, Vol. 3: Placemats

When stuck indoors with two busy, busy children, it can be challenging to come up with new activities that last longer than 5 minutes. This activity can be modified to be simpler or more complex depending on your child’s age, how you want to display it, and how long you want it to survive be displayed.

Supplies needed:

  • clear contact paper
  • different colored squares of tissue paper
  • different colored sheets of construction paper
  • scissors
  • clear (Scotch) tape
  • window (sunny day is a bonus)
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First, I cut squares from a multipack of colored tissue paper and placed them in a bowl—which was toppled over multiple times with the paper squares splayed across the floor.

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Second, I cut the contact paper to be 24 inches (about 60 cm) long. I carefully peeled the backing off the contact paper and hung the nonsticky side on the window with the sticky side facing me and the girls. Then, I started putting the squares up on the sticky side of the clear contact paper and smoothing it down. One of my girls liked to ball up the tissue squares first and then place them. I tried to smooth some of the tissue squares out, but I didn’t want to intrude on her “artistic license.”

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I cut out the first letter of their name from the tissue paper and placed it backwards on the clear contact paper so it would show the correct way from the other side. At this point, if you just wanted to make something to hang in the window, you could place another layer of the clear contact paper over it to seal it and tape it to the window or you could just turn it around and place it directly on the window.

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To complete the placemats, I placed the sticky side of the tissue/contact paper creation on top of two different colored pieces of construction paper, but you could let your child choose what color(s) they want. Then, I let my girls stomp on the back side of the construction paper to help the contact paper adhere and folded the contact paper that hung over the sides to the back. Finally, I put another piece of clear contact paper on the back of the construction paper to help seal it up.

I don’t expect these to stick around too long before taking a trip to the garbage in the near future. However, the girls seemed to really enjoy making these (for at least 10 minutes) and I am sure they would enjoy making a replacement set soon.

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Hanging Up the Pump

We made it!

I did it, a full year of providing my son with breastmilk, even as a working mother, and I’ve officially weaned from the pump. Well, I weaned a couple months ago but I’m just now writing about it. O is over a year now and we’re nursing on demand while I’m at home. I’m sending the remainder of my frozen stash with him during the day. Some days, he doesn’t take any milk at all. He’s a busy boy now. I thought I would do a little update to my post on pumping numbers that I wrote for World Breastfeeding Week last year.

So, here’s my update in all its geekish glory.

167 pumping days from April 1, 2015 to January 6th, 2016.

Total time spent: 181 hours and 55 minutesMinutes Spent Pumping Per Month

Total ounces pumped: 1,951.5

Total number of sessions: 395Total Sessions per Month

I have a spreadsheet; I also have graphs. Pumping was something I took very seriously. It was very strange to not pack my pump, wash the bottles, the parts, take those breaks at work every day. It was hard to not record the ounces, to see the work I was putting in for my baby toddler while I was away from him. It was a really emotionally charged few weeks. On one hand I was glad to not be chained to the pump; on the other…I was releasing some of the control. I was no longer monitoring what he was getting every day. I loved having something tangible to assure me I was doing enough.

I really liked looking at how my supply changed to meet the demand. As I pumped less often, I got more per session but not really more per day. I have a small storage capacity. Pumping (and nursing) often is the best recipe for me. Sure, there are pills I can take, cookies I can eat, but no amount of galactogogues can make up for creating the demand.

I had to break out my pump again for a bout of mastitis (which is another post all together), and it was really hard for me to not panic at the measly 2 oz I pumped in place of the 4 oz, 5 oz, or even 6 oz I was used to getting before. But I had to remember, my body is changing. O is changing, and his needs are changing, so the numbers don’t matter as much as feeding him does.

And feed him, I do. I would say he still nurses as much as he always has. The minute I pick him up, he furiously signs “milk” and tugs at my shirt. It’s our time to reconnect after being apart all day. He nurses before dinner, before bed, while we fall asleep, several times overnight, and again in the morning. I was so worried we wouldn’t make it this far, but now there’s no end in sight. We’ll wean when we’re ready. For now, we nurse.

Daycare Decisions

This morning, I turned in the paperwork to register my son, K, for full-time daycare starting in August. As I passed the registration sheet to the director, my heart broke while I simultaneously felt a sense of relief.

Come August, my son will be two years old. I’m lucky that I was allowed to bring him to work with me for the first year of his life. As he grew during that year, his newfound mobility made it difficult to keep him entertained. At around 10 months, we hired a part-time nanny who watched him two days a week and allowed me a few hours to work baby-free. When he turned a year old, I decided two days a week wasn’t enough, so we put him in part-time preschool on the days opposite those he was with his nanny. K thrived in both situations, and while I was sad that he wasn’t with me as much, I felt comfortable that he was safe and loved in both childcare arrangements. I had two full days and two partial days of baby-free work that allowed me to get what I needed done, but also allowed me to spend time with K. The best of both worlds, I thought.

But as K becomes more mobile and more interested in exploring his surroundings, it becomes increasingly difficult to have him at work with me. Two weeks ago, we received registration forms from his preschool for the 2016–2017 school year. Sitting at home, I automatically filled out the form for part-time preschool, only looking at the form for full-time daycare to note the cost of the “young twos,” the class K would be in. I told my husband the price, which was cheaper that the arrangement we had at the time, and he suggested we think about signing him up.

My immediate response was that I was against full-time daycare. I didn’t struggle to get pregnant for all those years to allow someone else to raise my baby! But after talking to my mom (a daycare teacher), friends who had their children in daycare, K’s current preschool teacher, and debating it over and over in my head, we decided to go ahead and sign him up.

I still have some reservations and guilt, mostly around the fact that I don’t have to work; I work because I enjoy what I do, and it gives me a sense of self (and a few times to pee without being watched). I’m afraid that K will resent me later in life for choosing work over him. I’m afraid that it’ll be more difficult to parent him on the weekends because he’s more used to his teacher’s rules and discipline than mine. I’m worried about a lot of things.

But I’m also excited for him. I’m excited that he’ll make new friends and play with toys we don’t have at home. He’ll go on field trips and play on the playground when the weather’s nice, things I’m not able to do while working. The school he’s going to is also big on teaching, so he’ll learn his letters, numbers, colors, and more before stepping foot in a kindergarten classroom.

There are still 5 months before this big transition happens, so I’m sure I’ll find other things to fret over. For now, I’m going to focus on loving my boy and enjoying his company.

Mommy’s Imaginary Friend

It was only days after my second beautiful boy was born. He was so tiny, quiet, beautiful, everything the “perfect” baby should be…and yet I didn’t want to hold him. Having him in my arms felt so foreign. I wasn’t connecting. I felt sick. How can this be happening? What kind of mother am I? It had taken me so long to get pregnant, the pregnancy itself had been pretty torturous, and now it was over. I had the baby I had hoped and prayed for. Why couldn’t I be happy?

Unfortunately, mine is just one of many stories of new moms suffering with postpartum depression.

My mom was there after the baby was born and saw my struggle from the outside. She quickly recognized the signs because she has struggled off and on with depression. My father was also challenged significantly by  bipolar disorder during my youth. I knew what depression was, but experiencing it myself was completely different. It was hard to know I “should be happy,” as all of my dreams had come true, but instead putting on a fake smile for visitors and family and always toeing the line of breaking down and sobbing. I just wanted to sleep through my life and forget I had a new baby. It was a truly horrible, gut-wrenching experience.

To make things worse, my depression was affecting my oldest son, who was almost three at the time. I wanted to explain it had nothing to do with him, that I was okay, that this would pass. But how do you explain something as complicated as depression and feeling sad for no reason to such a young child? This was the question that inspired me to write a children’s book.

After I was able to get help for my depression—thanks to my amazing mother, wonderful husband, and a talented doctor—I channeled my inspiration. When I was growing up, I had always considered writing a children’s book about parents with depression, or anger, or bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t until I had experienced it fully myself that I knew what to say and how to say it. Thus, Mommy’s Imaginary Friend was born.

Mommy’s Imaginary Friend is a story told by a five-year-old boy. He tells us about his imaginary friend, Leon, with whom he often plays…and his mother’s imaginary friend, Marvin, who makes his mommy sad. The boy explains that when Marvin is around, his mom only wants to sleep or watch movies. He says he is sad that his mommy doesn’t want to play with him as much when Marvin is around, and explains that his mommy visits a doctor who teaches her how to ask Marvin to leave.

It is a sweet short story for 3–6 year olds meant to start the conversation about depression in a context that such young children may better understand. It’s a little fantastical, full of imagination, and holds a lot of truth for many of us.

I completed the manuscript for this book only a few short months ago and am currently in the process of getting it illustrated by talented artist Melissa Mae of The Cheeky Whale. My goal now is to get it published and distributed to anyone who suffers from mental illness, not just postpartum depression. I need to raise some funds to be able to do this, so I will be creating a Kickstarter campaign.

If you would like to support this project, please like and share my Facebook page to spread the word. Visit the Mommy’s Imaginary Friend website to receive updates, find information about the Kickstarter campaign, and preorder the book!

Jessika and Sons
(c) Jessika Allsop



Pregnancy Announcements Still Hurt

On the second anniversary of the BFP that signalled the beginnings of my daughter, my sister-in-law shared that she was pregnant. I’ve been feeling all sorts of mixed up. I’m really happy for her, and for our extended family. I’m excited to become an aunt again now that I’m a mom myself. I am grateful that she shared the news sensitively. I also feel sad and guilty that hers was cautious happiness—not unbridled joy—no doubt tempered by my experience.

Separate to the feelings I have towards my sister-in-law is the lingering grief of my personal journey to parenthood. In moments like these, I’m sad that other people get to have a genetic baby—because parenting a child who doesn’t share your DNA is just a lot more complicated, there are a lot of fucking triggers, and there are added layers to parenting that genetic parents don’t have to think about.

I look at my sweet daughter and cannot imagine having any other child. But my feelings (though in the minority of emotions they may be most of the time) have taken me by surprise because I thought I was totally cool with having done DEIVF. I’m totally out with everyone in my life and beyond. You know—like “Facebook open” about it.

But a simple phone call can change my mood. Just like that.

Philosophical Hurt

Egg donation—like IVF or adoption—isn’t for everyone, but it’s not a terrible choice.

It hurts that there is so much stigma surrounding egg donation—and it’s because the media either doesn’t understand the science, or ignores it to create a more “compelling” story, or generates a stupid click-bait headline. You rarely read stories about normal families, like mine, who happened to have been created thanks to the generosity of an altruistic woman.

It hurts that there’s this vicious circle between sensationalist media and horror stories (which, let’s face it, is every industry’s bugbear), which leads to misinformation, which leads to secrecy, which leads to only the most dramatic stories being shared.

It hurts that there is so much misinformation out there. That there are people (albeit it in a tiny minority) who would give more credence to our donor’s brief contribution than my own. These folks are in the minority and usually ignore the science in favour of their own skewed personal and/or religious beliefs. They can shove those willfully ignorant beliefs where the sun doesn’t shine. They might not make me doubt myself or the importance of my role, but it pisses off this Mama Bear nonetheless.

It hurts that a lot of DEIVF parents keep the stigma alive by not being open about how they created their families. Our culture is so woefully ignorant that other DEIVF parents feel like they have to choose protecting their families’ privacy over celebrating how their kiddos came into the world. I know they’re protecting themselves and their families from being hurt…

Personal Hurt

Egg donation has been a wonderful choice for our family, but it’s not a panacea for the grief that accompanies pregnancy loss and infertility.

It hurts when I’m asked (which is usually three times every time we leave the house) where my daughter gets her beautiful red hair from. If she were my genetic child, I’d have a straightforward answer. I’ve had to come up with my own disingenuous terminology to answer that question with, “It was a total surprise!” or, “Red hair is a recessive gene so both genetic sides have to have it.”

It hurts that my kiddo looks nothing like me. It’s so common for people to comment on a child’s appearance and trace their physical features to one parent or the other, and that is something I will never experience. I feel like I’m missing out. And that is so dumb and superficial it makes me growl at myself, but then I remember that my feelings are more about dealing with the journey than they are passing on a particular physical attribute.

It hurts that I’ve had to dig deep to turn many a conversation into a teaching moment. Because our culture doesn’t openly talk about egg donation, people borrow language from adoption. Nope, she’s not the “birth mother”—I’m the person who gave birth to my daughter. Don’t know how to refer to our donor? You can refer to her by her name, if I’ve shared it with you, or you can just call her “your donor.” (Actually, call her whatever you want, just avoid the word “mother.” It’s confusing for my child and disrespectful to me and my family.)

It hurts that I must constantly think about my path to parenthood. When you do regular IVF, you have the choice to one day share the circumstances of your children’s conception with them. When they’re 12 years old, chances are they won’t have an identity crisis or freak out that they were conceived with the help of a doctor. But when you do DEIVF (or, really, any third-party reproduction or adoption), the responsible thing to do is raise your child knowing about their genetic origins. Because if you withhold that information, you’re starting out the most important relationship of your life with a lie. (Them’s fighting words, but I will defend them to the end because they are also the plain truth.)

It. Just. Hurts.

And so when someone announces they’re pregnant, even in the most sensitive and respectful of ways, it causes a pang inside. It really is that simple for most people.

Nothing has been simple for me…

Losing my first pregnancy, my only genetic child, wasn’t simple.

My infertility diagnosis (a balanced pericentric inversion on chromosome 8) wasn’t simple.

Making the decision to skip IVF with my own eggs wasn’t simple.

Choosing a donor wasn’t simple.

My pregnancy (fraught with placenta concerns) wasn’t simple.

My delivery (planned caesarean with a massive postpartum haemorrhage) wasn’t simple.

Making the decision to have a second child wasn’t simple: my choice is either to keep my uterus or embrace the likely scenario of planned caesarean-hysterectomy.

You know, assuming our FET works, of course…

Finding $5,000 to do the FET won’t be simple.

Assuming the FET works, my third pregnancy for a second child won’t be simple.

…except the love I have for my girl.

I’m so grateful to have this amazing little girl who is sweet, funny, healthy, and (most importantly) here. And I am grateful that current research shows that telling my child early and often about her genetic origins will pave the way for other conversations and build trust.

I guess I am learning (over and over again) that joy and pain can coexist. Grief doesn’t diminish the love I have for my daughter, it exalts it.

Thank you for holding space with me today.

Why Am I Keeping You? (A Poem)

I entered the spare bedroom yesterday to check on you.
I could barely open the door.
You were still in the disheveled heap I created since I stopped using that room after night weaning.
I pretend you don’t exist so I don’t have to make any decisions regarding your future.
So many times I just opened the door and threw something at you: clothes that no longer fit the girls, a swing they never used, bouncy chairs that ceased to hold their squirmy bodies months ago.
Incorporating every new item I refuse to deal with, you grow with time.
Just like the girls, your growth exploded at first and has inversely slowed down with their increased mobility.
I wonder why I keep you.
Do I think I will use you in the future?
I am 40, soon to be 41 years old.
My body barely survived my pregnancy with the girls.
What makes me think that the two embryos vacationing in the Pacific should be used—surely they would be the only reason I would have any use for you now.
I think I should let you go.
Maybe, I should sell you to supplement the income I am not bringing in.
Staying at home with the girls.
It wouldn’t be much but it would be something.
Perhaps I should give you away.
The way parts of you were given to me.
Freely and with love.
I am not ready yet.
I am not ready to part with the hope that our family might still grow.
Even though I know it won’t.
One day I will organize you.
Clothes too small will either be made into quilts or donated.
Items fit for a child that are content and incapable of moving so freely will be untangled from the mess that you are.
One day I will part with you.
I will mourn your loss.
I will cherish your memories.
I will distance myself from the thought that “stuff” means something more like hope.
“Stuff” will just mean objects.
Objects that my girls, alive and in front of me, are too big to use.

Happy to Starve

This is a piece written for us by Adi, a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter. Adi is a 32-year-old practicing feminist and parent to O, born February 2015.

Five pounds, eleven ounces, long and skinny and ravenous. When I finally held my baby, who’d been taken straight from my uterus due to footling breech position and kept for four hours for observation (and given sugar water without my knowledge or consent), he was exhausted and obviously hungry. Thanks to my c-section and the doctor’s refusal to allow skin-to-skin, my body hadn’t caught up to the fact that I was no longer pregnant and it had an outside baby to feed. I pumped and pumped and nursed and rejoiced at even the tiniest drops of colostrum I syringe-fed my child. Before the evening was through, I was bullied into feeding formula and crying at my failure to meet his needs.

It’s become an ongoing theme in our relationship.

O is now thirteen months, and several pediatricians, a feeding team at the children’s hospital, and countless hours of online research have diagnosed him as just not into eating. “Happy to starve,” one particularly tactless pediatrician told us. At first it was supply, and a tendency to tongue-thrust right out of a latch. As his latch improved, so did my supply, with the help of “power pumping,” hand-expressing, supplements, and strictly scheduled feeds. His weight improved for a few months, then plateaued. He gained slowly, but he gained, hovering below the curve, until he was weighed at his twelve-month checkup and had lost four ounces.

My heart plummeted. We’d been working so hard to offer a variety of foods, calorie-rich and healthful, and clearly it wasn’t enough. He still nursed, but obviously that wasn’t helping enough. We were sent home with instructions to withhold nursing until after meals. If he wouldn’t eat, he couldn’t nurse.

The weeks following have been nothing short of excruciating.

He wakes in the wee hours and nurses back to sleep, but in the morning I have to refuse him his breakfast in bed, instead dragging myself downstairs to make a smoothie with full-fat yogurt, heavy cream, and a variety of fruits and vegetables with flaxseed. Sometimes I serve it in a straw cup, sometimes an open cup, sometimes I spoon-feed him. Regardless of the delivery method, every bite or sip is a negotiation, a battle, an exercise in frustration. Sometimes I give him cereal or raisins to feed himself but they invariably end up on the floor.

An hour later, I trick him into letting me feed him pieces of cereal one-by-one, popping them into his mouth when he smiles and laughs at my frantic attempts at silliness. He can’t see the edge to it all, the desperation I feel, counting bites and begging him to keep eating.

At lunch I stare into the fridge and cupboards, trying to remember what he enjoyed last, knowing that’s no guarantee. I make pastini with butter, rice with butter, grilled cheese saturated in butter and dripping with cheese, lentil soup cut with cream, quesadillas fried in oil, egg salad with extra yolks and mayo, muffins full of flaxseed and sour cream and eggs and butter and honey.

Nothing tempts him. I painstakingly cut grapes in half while leaving them on the vine because he prefers to pluck them himself, I make graham cracker bears dance into his mouth, I cook oatmeal and rice pudding and cream of wheat and homemade waffles and brioche and oatmeal cookies. Every meal I try to remain upbeat, but I cry from frustration and either plop him in baby jail or hand him off to his father. I’m angry all the time now, and have started to resent food in general.

“He’ll eat when he’s hungry. No kid is going to starve himself.”

“Have you tried adding extra calories to his favorite foods with butter?”

“Just feed him a couple spoonfuls of ice cream.”

My fists clench and my heart drops. It’s so simple, isn’t it? He’s skinny. He just needs more calories. Feed him more often. (So he gets bored eating faster and refuses food more quickly and has less patience for his high chair.) Feed him whatever he wants, who cares if it’s healthy. (Except he doesn’t like sweets or junk food or ANYTHING and has taken to even refusing apples, his former surefire food.) Feed him whenever, not just when he’s sitting down. Just pop the food in his mouth. (So he’s taken to laughing and smiling with his mouth closed and turning his head away from my hand because he’s so used to food being snuck in.)

I was going to raise a child whose bodily autonomy I respected. I was going to allow his choices to matter. And here I am, wanting to force open his jaws and shove a spoon in, even taking advantage of a cry to sneak in bites. I don’t like doing this. I don’t like who it makes us. I don’t want to be the mom who forces her crying child to eat. But I don’t know what else to do. My depression and anxiety, so well-controlled for the last few years, feed off my stress and I start to feel worthless and scared. My OCD starts to fill my head with intrusive thoughts I can’t shut out, and I judge myself the way I’m sure others must be judging me, measuring myself against everyone else I know, their fat babies plastered everywhere I look, happily crowing about percentiles and clothing sizes, arm chub and thigh rolls.

There’s no happy note to end this post on, no glorious success on which to close satisfactorily. There’s just a parent, getting through it any way she can, trying to do right by her child.

To My Son on His First Birthday

March 6th, 2016

This morning was just like any other morning—only, maybe you woke me a little earlier than normal. (You knew it was your birthday, didn’t you?) The sunlight was coming through the window above my bed and shining in your face as you hollered at me, demanding to be picked up, over the side of your pack’n’play.

You’re a year old today, yet you still sleep in our bedroom—next to my side of the bed, close to me, as always.

I’ve been looking toward this date with mixed emotions for weeks now. The denial held me back from making plans, making progress, for your party. It’s scheduled for a month from now, because I didn’t move quick enough. (Though, in hindsight, this is probably for the better—your father has been sick all week, I’ve just started getting sick, and who knows if or when you’ll get it.) I still haven’t even sent out the invitations, though I have texted many of the invitees a cute little Save-the-Date. In fact, up until yesterday I planned on purchasing a template from an Etsy shop. Now, I am in the process of creating my own invitation—and, I finally started looking into party supplies last night, like balloons and centerpiece treats.

Yesterday, your father and I spent several hours looking back on those early months of “newbornhood”…and it was as if I could’ve closed my eyes and been right back there a year ago. There are parts of your birth, and after your birth, that I have struggled to remember for months now. There are bits and pieces I have had to fight to remember, digging through a haze of drug-induced fog from the post–c-section pain, even when I look at the photos and videos in an attempt to remind myself of what happened.

But yesterday was different. I heard your new-baby cry in a video from the early days and suddenly I could hear it in the hospital, in the operating room, when they first lifted you out. I watched your purposeless movements as a month-old newborn and remembered when you would squirm out of each and every swaddle we put you in during those first few nights. I saw the timestamps on the photos we would take at the hospital, noticed the dark lighting of the maternity suite around you, and remembered what it was like to be up at all hours of the night and how routine it quickly became.

I could taste the food that your father would bring me from the cafeteria, the same cafeteria we would frequent every time we went to the hospital for private LC meetings. I always ordered grilled cheese with tomatoes, and a Pepsi, and a pudding or a cake—depending on what looked good that day. I could hear the Rockabye Baby music we would play from my iPhone to get you to go back to sleep, and stay asleep, until we realized that plain white noise worked better.

We have photos—from July—of you sleeping, unswaddled, in the pack’n’play with the raised floor. I was incredulous. How was it that you were already rolling at four months old? I think back on those first few months and they seemed to last forever. I’ve realized now that time was moving at a very slow crawl back then, even though it seemed to fly when I was in it.

But I went back to work, and time truly sped up. You stopped with your newborn cry, and found your infant voice. Your movements became more intentional. You started smiling, laughing. Rolling became sitting up became crawling. You started babbling. You changed every day, but so subtly that I barely noticed until I looked back a week or a month and wondered when you became this newer, older version of you. Today, I watch you walking around in circles through the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Today, I look back on the first-ever photo I took of you and can barely comprehend how different you’ve become in just one year’s time.

If I’ve learned anything in the last few days, it’s that every parent looks back on the first year differently. I’ve had many people congratulate me on surviving the first year. (If anything, they should congratulate me on making sure you survived, am I right?) I see how it applies to others, but not as much to me. Is it because you weren’t a colicky baby (or even one that cries for no reason)? Is it because your sleeping habits weren’t terrible? (Though, at a year, you really need to step up your sleep game. I love you, I do, but waking several times per night, every night, is too much for this mama!) Is it because of the two miscarriages that happened before I had you? Is it because I’m a working parent? Is it because there was only one of you?

Maybe it’s one of those reasons. Maybe it’s all of them. Maybe it’s none.

For me, it wasn’t about survival. It was about time moving too quickly for me to soak in the special moments I’d dreamed about for years. It was grasping at your milestones as they slipped quickly through my fingers, or missing them completely as they passed by, unseen, because I wasn’t home when they happened. It was first fighting through a hormonal haze, then postpartum anxiety, long enough to enjoy just being with you, playing with you, watching you grow and letting you learn. It was trying to stop time—like trying to stand still in a fast, strong current—because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to experience any of these moments again with another child.

It was about realizing that incredible, completely unconditional and all-encompassing love can walk hand-in-hand with inescapable and debilitating grief. I spent twelve months watching the “other” dates come and go, but with you playing in front of me, and sleeping on me, safe in my arms. I had to reconcile the idea that without those losses, you wouldn’t exist. Perhaps, subconsciously, I navigated this year somewhat guarded—afraid you’d be taken from me, like the ones who came before you. But you’re here…you’re alive, you’re healthy, you’re happy. I can’t honestly say that I wish those prior two years of heartbreak never happened, because every moment I’ve spent with you I would never want to give back.

When you were born, I’m not sure I looked ahead at that first year and spoke of what I wanted for you. I think I was still a little too tangled in the past, and scared to move beyond the present, to really see this day being possible. Now that I’m more or less past that stage, maybe I can say…

I want you to continue to learn and change at your own pace (but fast enough that your future BCBA auntie doesn’t panic). I want you to explore the world, and I want you to tell me to let you explore the world. I want you to have an amazing summer, learning to swim with me and enjoying the outdoors with your amazing nanny and loving father. I want us to read books every night, and to keep giving each other hugs when we see each other at the end of the day (you really have become the best hugging baby), and never stop making each other laugh.

And I want to keep on trying to show you and tell you how much I love you (even though I’m sure you’ll never truly realize it). I want to do my best in raising you to be a good person, in showing you right from wrong, in teaching you love and compassion. Above all, I just want to be here—to tickle you in your ticklish places and laugh with you, to snuggle you close when you fall or get hurt, to take you to new places to explore and learn, to care for you when you’re sick, to clap and sing and dance with you when you’re happy, to comfort you when you’re scared or sad.

I want to move with time, not fight it. I want to live in the present and look forward to the future, not cling to what’s already passed.

I think I’m almost there.

Happy birthday, my sweet baby.