My dear Madelyn,
Your due date is quickly approaching, and Mom and Dad can’t wait to meet you.
For nine months, you’ve rested under and in my heart. You’ve been my source of inner strength, my motivator for eating healthy and treating my body with respect. I find myself rubbing my belly all the time; it makes me feel closer to you and reminds me that the mother/daughter bond is already very much formed. Lately, when I’m sitting on the couch at night, I’ve been able to feel your little hands (or are they feet?) pressed against my skin. I grab dad’s hand and hold it against my belly so he can bond with you too. Every morning before he goes to work, he talks to you.
“Hello cutie,” he says, kissing my belly. “You and mom have a good day, ok? I love you.”
You wriggle at the sound of his voice.
As the days pass, it’s getting harder to sleep and stay active. I finally stopped going to prenatal yoga this week at the 36-week mark. But I still go for walks along the water every day. I’m preparing for when we’ll get to go for walks together — you in your stroller, me pushing you and introducing you to dolphins, ducks, and flying fish in Tampa Bay. For now, I’m focused on pushing through all the stretching, pulling, and squeezing taking place inside my belly. I like to think that the aches and pains are the result of you tugging at my heartstrings, making me fall more in love with you each day.
Sometimes you move around so much that my belly turns into a mini roller coaster, moving up and down and all around. You’re preparing me for the ride of motherhood — and all the ups, downs, fears, and thrills that will accompany it. As I toss and turn in bed at night, you move with me. A lot of moms-to-be say that their babies kick when they’re resting or sleeping. You tend to sleep through the night, then begin kicking and moving once you hear mom and dad’s voices in the morning. (We’re secretly hoping you keep a similar schedule after you’re born!)
I feel like I know you so well already, and yet I still have so many questions. What will you look like? Will you have hair? Blue eyes? A button nose? What will your cry sound like? Will you recognize my voice and your dad’s? What will it feel like to finally hold you in my arms?
You’ve already given me so much — most importantly the gift of motherhood and a greater sense of gratitude. As much as I’ve struggled with the expectations that come with being a woman — especially when it comes to body image — you’ve given me a newfound sense of confidence and a renewed appreciation for womanhood. It’s remarkable that my body has enabled me to carry you, nourish you, and get you to the point where you’re healthy enough to enter this world.
“To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and distressingly inhabited,” Anne Christian Buchanan once said. “Soul and spirit are stretched, along with body — making pregnancy a time of transition, growth, and profound beginnings.”
Your dad and I are ready for this new beginning. You may be here in one week, or two, or three, or four, depending on when you decide to make your debut appearance. As the nurse in one of my childbirth classes said, “Only your baby knows her birthday.” I’ve taken birthing classes and have read lots of books about pregnancy and baby care over the past several months. I’ve learned plenty from the experts, but I know you will be my best teacher — showering me with new lessons that I can’t find in books.
You, me, and dad will learn together, as a family. We will give you all the love we have in hopes that you will grow up to be a strong, confident woman with a generous spirit and a desire to always keep growing and stretching in new ways. I hope you’ll sing in the sun and run in the rain. I hope you’ll appreciate the satisfaction of solitude and the comforts of company. I hope you’ll inherit your dad’s affinity for taking risks, and that you’ll embrace failure as an important ingredient for success.
One of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, writes: “Failure is terrifying to the young. So is unpredictability. They’re afraid they’ll get it wrong. You have to use cookbooks for a long time before you realize that you can leave out the beans, throw in some tomatoes, substitute rosemary for basil, jettison the formula, try something different. Sometimes the improvisation is better than the original recipe, sometimes just as good, and sometimes you pour it down the disposal and make a nice fettuccine Alfredo, which never hurt anyone.”
My dear Madelyn, may you stray from the original recipe when creativity calls for it, and may you grow to love life as much as mom and dad love you.
See you soon, sweet pea.