Dear Lily June,
At this time last year, I was still in the hospital, still waiting for you to make your grand entrance and dazzle us all with your appearance. I now know how every teenage prom date waiting for their partner to finish getting ready feels. You took your sweet time adjusting your in utero tiara, putting the finishing touches on your neonatal makeup regimen, and smoothing the wrinkles out of your birthday gown.
In fact, you took so long (and I got so sick) that your audience grew and grew in your absence. At first, it was just your dad and I waiting for you alongside your Granny Grandma Alison who’d driven from Sidney, Ohio to Muncie, Indiana get a first glimpse of her first son’s first daughter (and her first granddaughter).
By day two, my sister, your Aunt Loren, had started here from Cleveland, on the other side of Ohio while my dad, your Grandpap Edward, had departed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Fun word problem: If one family member from Cleveland leaves at 1:15pm traveling by hoopty at 65 miles an hour while another leaves from Pittsburgh at 12:20pm traveling at 80 miles an hour in a designer sports car, how long can you still make both of them wait because life is officially YOUR show?)
Meanwhile, your Gram-Gram Raelyn, who’d just undergone major surgery in her eyes and was half-blind was still half-crazy enough to also leap into a car in Pittsburgh and race herself out here (parting the highway the whole time, I like to imagine, like the Red Sea) to get to you.
When I think about what Mrs. Minion of MinionMayhem514 went through to have her bundle of joy, I’m immediately reminded of a quotation that I always get wrong. Though in the actual wording (likely from Reverend John Watson, also known by his pseudonym Ian MacLaren), it just says “hard,” I always remember the quotation like this:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
Because I like the mistake, I keep it, Lily, as I like to think it keeps me more honest and more compassionate. I have a tendency (inherited, and sure to be passed down) to get a little over dramatic when I talk. It was hard–incredibly hard–to have my first pregnancy end early in a C-section as a result of preeclampsia. (I wanted so badly for my body to do everything right for you, my little lovely!) But it is unimaginably harder (or maybe, while I could imagine it, I just don’t want to) to consider what it would have been like if I couldn’t hold you for as long as I wanted (forever!) as soon as I was stitched back up.
Mrs. Minion wasn’t able to hold her child, referred to on her blog as Little Miss Minion (LMM) and born at 28 weeks gestation, in her arms more than once a day, and even then, she had to ask the permission of the NICU team beforehand. Instead, she held her child in her heart every second of every minute of every day she and her family were trapped in the hospital, healing and waiting. Though LMM was under two pounds upon her delivery, I can imagine the weight on the Minion family as being like two tons of pain and anxiety.
And yet, Mrs. Minion reached down into the reserves of strength every mother has somewhere inside but hopes won’t need be tested. Her letter below states, “without the darkness, there can be no light.” From the love, patience, kindness, sassiness, fierceness, brilliance and beauty of her blog, it’s clear that Mrs. Minion fought the darkness, and the light won. This is why, little Lily, despite its cliche, we often say that our child is “the light of our life.”
And light represents more than just hope, Lily. It represents knowledge. Mrs. Minion and I learn from daughters like you and LMM how to be mothers. We learn to plumb the depths of love from its darkest wells. We learn to listen to the signs of the universe. For me, the sign was the sunrises I saw, richer and more exquisite (I swear there were colors I couldn’t name in them) than any before my pregnancy, before I was told you likely wouldn’t make it. (Thanks, by the way, for making that nurse into a liar!) For Mrs. & Mr. Minion, it was the sound of the song, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.
There is knowledge Mrs. Minion has that I cannot fathom bearing: What it’s like to have a newborn who has to spend 84 days in the NICU before she can come home, for instance, or who must endure four brain surgeries before six months of age. But with that knowledge comes a wisdom about overcoming darkness that I hope you will listen to, as I do, with reverence, respect and gratitude.
Dear Lily June,
You are exactly one day older than my own daughter, so this letter hits close to home for me. I wish for you all the same things that I wish for my little girl: happiness, love, health, and no giving your parents heart attacks when you start climbing trees and going on dates. I’m sure your parents are feeling the same things I’m feeling tonight, as that big ONE YEAR mark approaches. The memory of your birth, the feelings from that day, the worries, the joys, and the notion that there was now a child in the world that would eventually call me Mom.
When you are old enough to read these letters and this blog, I hope you appreciate what an incredible gift your mom has given you. I hope you can see how brave and smart and amazing she is, and I hope she has rubbed off on you.
Lily June, you are one of a kind. You have so much to offer the world and so much to experience. Not all of it will be good, unfortunately, but without the darkness, there can be no light. I hope that your dark times serve to more brightly illuminate the good times, and that the good times are plenty.
Happy birthday, Lily June!
Super Serious Side Note: If you’re a pregnant mother who found this blog in searching for preeclampsia, while I am not a doctor, I am someone who went through it. I can’t offer medical advice, but I would be more than happy just to lend a sympathetic ear to your fears and frustrations. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
You should also know that Mrs. Minion’s blog is an incredible resource, including a glossary of medical terminology you might encounter if, like she did, you deliver a preemie with complications. Again, we’re not doctors, just fellow momrades. Whatever you do, don’t panic over everything you read on the internet! Just like every child, every pregnancy is unique. Keep breathing; you got this.
- By asenat29 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/72153088@N08/6510934443, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org