I am still in awe that you have made your first trip around the sun. Happiest of birthdays to you! I know you have no idea what this day means—or even what a birthday is—but just know that it will always be a big deal to turn a year older. I will always treat your birthday as the special day that it is.
But I’ll be honest. Today is bittersweet for me. We didn’t know it then, but when you were born, the virus was quietly making its way around the globe. I’m so grateful that we didn’t know it. It would have made the weeks leading up to your birth even more stressful and anxiety-ridden. Today is bittersweet for me because I still cannot fathom that your first year of life has been spent in a pandemic.
I’ve mourned so much during this first year of your life. All the plans I had for you have been shattered. While I was pregnant with you, I would daydream about taking trips with you to the library for baby story time, or doing all the Mommy and Me classes that I could find. I would smile at the thought of all the little friends you would make, and all the birthday parties that I groan at but secretly love attending. I imagined that our calendar would be full with playdates (AKA excuses for me and my mom friends to get together to hang out)—in fact, that’s how I met one of your godmoma, at an event for moms. We became fast friends over several playdates, and by the time your brother and godbrother turned 1, we were helping each other get ready for their parties.
I already had plans to be at home this year, finishing up grad school and writing my dissertation. I imagined that it would be the perfect combination of lots of cuddles with you, and writing while you slept (although if I’m honest, that one was probably a bit naive of me, even in pre-pandemic days). Daddy had a really generous paternity leave, so we looked forward to dropping your brother off at school and then hanging out and getting to know you as our welcome third wheel.
Not even two months after you were born, chaos ensued. Never in a million years could I have prepared myself for what this year has been like. The anxiety that I have felt over keeping your brother and especially you safe has been too much to handle at times. New moms worry about their babies’ safety in normal times. In a pandemic, multiply that by 1,000. I worry so much about not just keeping you physically safe, but I also worry about the impacts of the pandemic.
I worry about how you will be whenever you do start consistently being around other babies. I worry that seeing people wearing masks has become normal to you. I worry that you will struggle when you’re in crowds of people. I worry whether you’ll ever actually get to go to school. (I know eventually you will, but sometimes it feels like things will always be this way.) I worry that you won’t have as close of a connection with family because you’ve only met a handful of them.
But in the midst of a whole year of pandemic, there have been bright spots. We’ve become a lot more intentional about spending time together as a family, which is something that I hope continues past the pandemic. Having both Mommy and Daddy at home means lots of time with both of us, which would have been much more difficult if we were still leaving the house every day for work. Lots of time together has allowed me to get to know you and to see you change so much right before my eyes.
You have been the bright spot for me this year. Living in a pandemic feels like time has forever stopped. Days are longer and filled with the same monotonous, mundane activities. But you are like a ray of sunshine. Over this year, you have changed so much. You went from this tiny newborn who slept nonstop to this adventurous, curious new toddler. Just as we had to get used to you, you were getting used to us. You came into a family that for so long, consisted of three people. You completely changed that and became the thing we desperately needed. You fit right in. You were meant to be here with us.
You are a year old now. Officially a toddler. You have that down pat already. You want to get into so much now. You’re so daring, always trying new things. But when you look back to make sure I’m right there as you step out to learning something new, it warms my heart. For now, I am your anchor, and that means the world to me. In the middle of a pandemic, when the world feels like it’s on fire, you have made our home an exciting place as we have watched you change and develop so rapidly. We needed you this year. You have lifted our spirits in ways you cannot even imagine.
So happiest of birthday to you, my love. You came and changed my world for the absolute better. I am sad that infant days are rapidly disappearing, but excited that they are being replaced with a bouncing toddler. Your face is changing. You’re discovering your voice, and that you can make it go as loud as you want. I hope you never, ever forget that.
I pray that you remember none of this pandemic. It would be naive of me to believe that things will go “back to normal.” There will be aspects of this Covid-world that will remain, and will be normal to you. But my hope is that when the world opens up, you only remember how loved you were and how we worked to keep you happy, healthy, and safe.
Happy birthday, daughter. We love you beyond all the words in all the books.