Eighteen years ago today, you were one week old. Your hair still very dark brown, stick straight, and so long I could curl it around my pinkie. Your signature raspy cry was still soft and always adorable. You had that perfect, brand new skin that I can recall so very clearly with all of my senses. Especially your forehead. What IS it about newborn foreheads? I’d had a week of being a mom. A week of breastfeeding, changing diapers, cuddling, figuring out how to pee after an episiotomy… TMI? Sorry. Yes, I know you’ve heard about this a few times now as you get older…but…THEY DIDN’T WARN ME, or ask, or do anything to numb the pain before quite literally taking pair of silver scissors and cutting me like a piece of card stock!
I’m so sorry you had to listen to that (again), but I had to feel it 18 years ago and it’s just one of those things you’re never going to live down because you have a giant head. Those of us who were really “blessed” to experience a generation of medical practitioners who believed all medical intervention was better than a body naturally and gently doing things the way it knows how will someday corroborate my experience and the unnecessary trauma. I digress.
We grabbed a rhythm pretty quickly. At eighteen, I was just a baby myself, but I knew how to be a mom. It came very natural to me. To love and nurture you and care for you was what I was always meant to do.
On that Thursday evening, at one week old, I had a conversation with you at around 11PM. It’s a conversation that will forever be as vivid as the day we had it because I was smart enough to write it down for once. It’s one of the few whirlwind memories I have of your first year of life. I had on my purple Eeyore pajamas. I had just fed you. I was curled up with you on the futon, Kasey was on the other side laying on my feet like always.
Obviousl,y when I say I had a conversation with you, it consisted of me whispering into your neck and face; You were sleeping with your little fists folded into my chest. You were wearing my most favorite thing, a pale yellow sleep sack, lined with super soft, fluffy stuff that kept you nice and cozy. After I whispered my thoughts to you, I typed out our “conversation” on my high school graduation present from your grandparents, a brand spankin’ new Compaq Presario. I have saved the letter and transferred it from computer to computer through the years. It’s never felt like the “right time” to give it to you, but seeing as you’re 18, and you know it all now, I thought maybe this might be a good time.
Here is what I wrote you on October 4th, 2001. I didn’t correct anything, I’m just copying and pasting.
HAPPY ONE WEEK OLD BIRTHDAY. WOWWWW. I’ve been a mom for one week. I am pretty sure I’m the only one in my graduating class that can say that. This has been like a blur week. I feel like all I do is feed you and feel uncomfortable and try to make sure we both look clean for all of the people that want to visit. You have changed me so much already. My body for sure. Thanks for that, but hey you’re here, and we’re both going to have to get used to that.
This world is different now, this month especially. Before you were born, I can’t even tell you how horrible this last few weeks has been. You are the bright spot in pretty much our whole family. There is lots of stuff I got to tell you about when you’re much older, but for now I just want to hope your innocence will stick around for a while. The world is different. I am different. Oh and remind me to tell you why I will probably always call you “my full circle baby”, you’re straight from God, thats for sure.
The really, really good news is that we are in this together. I don’t really know you. You don’t really know me either, but I’m kind of in charge of things, for a while anyway, which is REALLY scary, but I think I’ll take it a day at a time. Right now it feels like parenting will be so slow, but I am thinking it will probably go fast like all 40 something year olds tell me ALL the time. “Don’t blink” they say. Okay, fine, I won’t blink. But when I do blink and I miss something or I don’t do the right thing I hope you know that I tried really hard. Most of the time. Already this week I’m just so freaking tired and like on Sunday, I probably should have given you a bath, but instead I just wiped you down with a baby wipe, and slathered you in lotion and thought to myself “good as new!”, and I fell asleep in the parking lot at Walgreens when I just wanted to go pick up pictures I took of you your first day home because the weather was actually nice and I just wanted to leave the house by myself for 10 minutes.Of course it was more like 30 minutes and I freaked out worrying if Papa knew what to do for you when I was gone so long. No one but you knows I actually fell asleep for like 20 minutes on the steering wheel, so never tell, okay?
I kind of don’t want to give away any parenting secrets or anything so you’ll probably open this letter some day when I’m dead, if I remember to print it off and put it somewhere safe, or it doesn’t end up on a corrupt disk. Where was I again? Gosh. SO, ANYWAY, so far the only parenting secret I have is that I don’t have any secrets because its my first time doing this and I just have to learn and trust my instincts about what you need and who you are. I can’t even believe I have a kid even though I feel like a mom. I’m young, so I’m probably (already) going to get judged, and so are you if you’re a brat or whatever, so lets try to avoid that. Overall, I hope its true that I will learn as much from you as you learn from me. I feel like I have a lot to prove. I talked to Aunt Judy, she’s your great aunt, she told me that I have nothing to prove to anyone but I definitely want to prove to you that I’m going to be good at this even though I keep getting told all the time how I need to listen to everyone around me and soak up their experience and advise so I don’t make any mistakes because i’m already at a disadvantage for barely starting college. So, yeah, I DO have things to prove.
I’m going to make sure that no matter who comes in your life, that you will always have me. I don’t think I have a great relationship with your NANA. We fight ALOT. She is ALWAYS still trying to parent me. Thats why we need to move out, like yesterday. But anyway, your dad said a bunch of times this week that he’s glad I know what I’m doing because he doesn’t know what it means when you cry your different cries and when you are hungry and your umbilical cord thing seriously TERRIFIED him. He thought you would bleed to death if it got bumped or something. It was kind of funny. He’s a hard worker. He loves us. He’ll be fine after a while I think, right now, he’s really good at working hard and going to school again, and holding you when you sleep because he says you’re the “least breakable” then. Cute, right?
OH HERE IS A SECRET. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IN THE HELL I AM DOING. Fake it until you make it I guess is my motto. Also “SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS” and I’m not doing that, so I guess I should try and fall asleep for a little while until you want to nurse again because we seriously do this every two hours and half the time we both fall asleep.
One more thing my little Sydney Leigh, I LOVE YOU! And I am pretty sure that unless you do something really horrible, by the time you read this, that will still be true. And everything we go through and all of the learning that I have to do to be a good mom for you and to be a good example for you and to be a good person in general as I get older and we do all the fun things that life has to offer……………..I’m pretty sure I will just love you more and more. I don’t know how thats possible right now, but I have a feeling.
When I read that I can’t believe its been eighteen years. It’s easy to see how young I was, how simple things were. Oh, how much I thought I knew at just the age you are now. I get it. I get how people were so worried about me being a mom at eighteen, because, I was just a kid. My writing voice is still the same, but hopefully, it has matured a bit. I notice how in this letter I’m at my most vulnerable, I’m not trying to sound intelligent, or well spoken. I’m an eighteen year old talking to her new baby. I kind of love that.
I regret spending a lot of time trying to prove that I wasn’t a stereotypical teen mom, that I could do it all, that I could have the perfect grown-up life. I think I missed a lot of little things. I’m sure all parents think back to what they might have done differently, but overall I think we’ve done okay, you and me. I think you’re a pretty fantastic human, and I will take an itty bitty amount of credit for that, but mostly, I think it’s just who you are.
Your birthday is always going to be a special day for so many reasons. You made me a mom, you’ve been my “first” for everything. We’re in the stage of life where lectures are more out of concern and advice since you’re an “adult” now, our arguments are a little more intense, and the discussion topics are quite a bit heavier. There has been a lot of life in your eighteen years, all of the most significant moments in my life began with your birth. With each passing year, there are new layers added to our relationship, and somehow I do keep finding new things that I love about who you are. That naive 18 year old new mom was right about something, I do love you more and more.