My daughter’s 2nd birthday was this past Saturday. That morning, she woke up happy as a lark, bouncing around on our bed until we finally woke up ourselves. Her long blonde hair was a mess, her blue eyes were sparkling, and she insisted we “go eat” because she was hungry. As we all scuffled into the kitchen…Cody and I for our coffee and Heidi for her Froot Loops…I felt so acutely bittersweet as I watched her happy-go-lucky head bob around with that inner happiness a toddler carries around like a precious clutch. Here was my daughter…no longer a baby…picking out what she wanted for breakfast, hugging me around the legs, and asking to watch Elmo. I know it’s a far cry from driving and high school and boyfriends, but she just seemed so grown up to me.
This journey started out so rough. I didn’t think I’d ever survive (at least with my sanity in tact), and I was pretty sure I had possibly made a huge mistake thinking I could handle being a parent. I was shaky, sleep-deprived, insecure, teary-eyed, insane with hormones, and in fear I’d never have my life back again. I cried when my skinny, well-rested (and well-meaning) friends left after dropping off meals for us right after Heidi’s birth. Did they realize how free they were? And how awesome they looked? Ha. Some days I really couldn’t get my kid to stop crying, and I wondered what kind of parent I was. (Those were the days, admittedly, I couldn’t even get myself to stop crying). Other days I was awash with happy tears all day because I couldn’t believe this little blessing was really mine. The hormones took awhile to level out apparently.
Amidst the sleepless nights, blowout diapers, ice-cream-for-dinner-hormonal-mess of those first few months, however, something happened. I fell in love.
Sure, I fell in love with her that first time I laid eyes on her. I distinctly remember sucking in a surprised breath when I saw how beautiful she was. I was finally staring her in the face, after 9 long months of gaining sixty pounds (yup, you read that right…SIXTY! The scale was dangerously close to 200 lbs. the few days before I had her….do you feel better about yourself now? ‘CAUSE YOU SHOULD. I didn’t share that for nothing). The first couple days in the hospital were mesmerizing. I stared at her as she slept. I was awestruck at how easily she nursed (and then cursed when I found out how bleeping painful it was!). I kept her tucked in close to me, in the crook of my arm, as much as I possibly could. I handled her so very carefully. She was a precious gift I would never begin to deserve.
But that love began to change. It was no longer a twinkly, sappy, my-kid-is-the-cutest-one-on-the-planet love. But a deep love, one that springs from some place in myself I didn’t even realize was there. It’s a protective, loyal, committed love…the kind that makes you go days and days on little sleep…the kind that makes you turn down your favorite social functions because you simply want an evening at home with your daughter…the kind that spurs you to discipline her, even when you hate it, because you know it’s truly what is best for her.
Now, two years down the road, I am amazed both at how fast that baby stage went. I look at her, with her long blonde hair and her personality quirks and her new words and phrases, and I’m amazed by one thing. The miracle of her creation.
It leaves me awestruck now, this little person she is becoming. When she was born, I was distinctly aware God created her inside me (mystery of all mysteries…seriously! We make PEOPLE inside our BODIES! I can’t even think about it too much or my head explodes. It’s like science fiction). Yet God makes babies all the time, and while none of them are any less a miracle, there’s something completely amazing to me about watching one particular baby become a little person. If you had shown me even part of her two-year-old self to me when I was fumbling with her as a newborn, I would have said, “NO WAY. Not happening. Pretty sure I won’t be able to keep her alive until then.” I just couldn’t see it. I remember holding up 3T clothes people got for me when she was a baby and not believing she’d ever be that big. (Turns out the joke was on me…she was that big when she was 18 months).
Heidi has some of my quirks, some (ok lots) of Cody’s quirks, and some of her very own. She has a compassionate spirit, a forgiving heart, and such a fun-loving and teasing nature that sometimes I think, “Where did she learn that??” I also think that very question when she gets angry, throws a fit, talks back to me, and displays her frustration for all the world to see in the middle of a Meijer aisle while people are trying to push their carts past her and avoiding eye contact with me. She is so sad when she sees mommy crying, and she’ll tease and laugh and tickle and joke until the last possible second before bed. Then she’ll snuggle down in the covers and talk to her stuffed bunny until she falls asleep. She loves to play with her friends, and she absolutely adores being outside. It’s her happy place. If she’s overwhelmed, she sneaks off to her room to sit on her huge stuffed dog and quietly read books, sometimes for close to an hour (this melts me every time). She loves the library. She loves to swim. She loves to sit on the couch and eat potato chips with daddy while watching Monsters, Inc. We have silly conversations like:
Me: “Heidi, are you a cheeseball?”
Heidi: (with a sneaky look on her face) “Nooooooo.”
Me: “Well, who is a cheeseball, then?”
I did not teach her that.
I can only imagine how much greater the miracle will seem as we start to learn what her passions are. I can only imagine what kind of character her life will bring out…how she will handle hardships and heartache, how she will manage her victories, how she will find her path in life. God didn’t just shape this girl in the womb, giving her blonde hair and blue eyes and a tall stature and an amazing smile. He shaped her heart, and He continues to do so. And I get to watch.
If I was humbled God blessed me with a beautiful baby girl, consider me speechless as I watch Heidi grow into a girl with gifts and passions and friends and her very own stories. He may allow trials to come and go in her life in order to shape her exactly into who He needs her to be. He won’t give her anything she can’t handle, and He sees every single day of her life before any of them come to be. He sees every heartbreak, every tear, every whispered prayer, and every joyous victory, and He holds them all in His hands. I can trust that.
I could probably stand to remember that in my own life.
As time goes on, her birth is still a miracle, but I’d also say her growing up is an even greater one.
13-16 Oh God, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.”