A year ago, two weeks before you were born, I opened up a fortune cookie. The fortune inside read “a small gift can bring joy to the whole family.” That little fortune is displayed on our refrigerator at home, right next to one of the first pictures I took of you and Uncle Spanky. I’ve never thought much of fortune cookie fortunes, usually throwing them in the trash right after looking at the “Speak Chinese” portion on the back, but that fortune was a life changer. You arrived two weeks after I opened that little cookie; you were my small gift. You couldn’t possibly begin to understand the joy you have brought to this family. There aren’t words big enough or strong enough to describe it.
Your mama has a terrible memory. But I remember every second of the day you were born. I was terrified of labor and delivery for the entire 9 months I carried you, but when you decided you were ready to make your debut, I knew I could do it. After an hour of pushing and using more strength than I thought I could ever have, there you were. Your scrunched up little face and head full of dark hair that I just knew you would have. You cried out, but not for long, and then you looked around the room as if to say, “well I guess this is what I’ve been waiting for.” And then I got to hold you. And I got to look into those eyes for the first time, the eyes that still take my breath away, and I felt a love for you so strong that I was certain my bones would break. You were everything I could have possibly wished for and more. It is one of the most surreal moments, to hold the child that has been growing inside of you for almost a year for the first time. I promise you for as long as I live I will never forget it.
And now we have spent 364 days together and tomorrow you will be one. This past year has been the fastest and most significant year of my life. I have watched you grow from a tiny newborn that projectile vomited every other second into a chubby toddler (!) who says a multitude of words and has the greatest personality and is learning to walk. How quickly the days have gone, even those days that felt endless and drove me to the brink. Every single one of our days together has taught me and changed me. I have accomplished many things and am proud of the life I have made for myself, but you, my Charlie girl, are the greatest thing I have ever made. You are my greatest small gift.
Your year on this Earth turned me and your daddy into more than just a couple, you turned us into a family. You made me see him in a new light, and even though this year has given us bumps in our road, you have made me love him like I haven’t been able to love him before. You made him a daddy, a new version of himself that fits him like a glove. You have taught us to be a team and work together for the benefit of you. Do you see what a great gift you are?
You healed our family coming so quickly after we lost your Papa Duke. You are the glue that helped to mend our broken hearts. Your smiles and laughter always came at just the right time. You are perfect to all of us and the love everyone has for you is overwhelming. What a gift you are!
My Charlie girl, this last year you have made me laugh countless times, you have made me cry, you have made me wonder if I’m doing anything right at all. I’ve spent more time with you in the middle of the night than I’ve ever spent with any another human. You’ve successfully not slept through a whole night for your entire life. What an amazing feat! But even the middle of the night with you is special. YOU are special. Everything about you is special. You are such a gift.
On this day, your last day as an 11 month old and not a 12 month old, I want to remember the good and the bad. The laughter and the tears. I want to savor the fact that I have not only carried you, delivered you into this world, but I also have fed you and comforted you from my own body. You are still a part of me in that way. You don’t understand it now, but one day you will know how proud your mama is of this fact. My body has not been my own since 2014, and I would not change that for the world. It has made our bond so, so strong. That is a gift in and of itself.
So, my sweet Charlotte, happy birthday to you. I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store for us. I cannot wait to see you grow every day. I cannot wait to see your personality continue to develop, for you to experience new things and for me to experience them through your eyes. This year with you has been the most tremendous year of my life and I believe the best is yet to come. But just know that no matter how many days and weeks and years go by, no matter how many birthday’s we celebrate together, no matter what; you will always and forever be my small gift. The greatest small gift I could ever receive. I love you more than all the stars in the sky and all the fish and the sea.