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A letter to my daughter on the eve* of your birth

*I’m using the word “eve” very lightly here as I don’t actually know when you will show up.

I’ve started this letter on the computer and in my head too many times to count. I don’t know the right way to start a letter to your child as you wait for her to be born. You’re three days past your due date today and I expected this letter finished long before now. I don’t even know exactly what I want to say, except that I want to say something. I don’t know how to fully wrap my brain around the fact that right now you are so small and snug inside me, but someday you will be able to read these words that I wrote down for you so many years before.

The first thing you need to know is that there are rules in this house. They’re currently posted up in the living room so if you ever forget them, you don’t have to look far for a reminder.

  • Be compassionate
  • Be kind
  • Be silly
  • Don’t be a dick

Those four rules identify what’s important in this house and this family. You don’t need to be the smartest kid in your class or the best athlete. You don’t need to be perfect or wonderful all of the time. But you do need to be compassionate, kind, and silly.

Help others when you have the chance to do so. Be kind to your family, friends, and to strangers. Laugh as much as you possibly can. You can be kind without being a pushover. You can be compassionate without forgetting yourself. You can be silly when no one else is. Your parents are weird. Sometimes you’ll like that, sometimes you might be embarrassed by it. We’re happy being silly and weird. We want you to be too, if that’s your thing.

And don’t be a dick. There will be times in your life where you will need to stand up for yourself or others. Do that. Speak up for those that need it. Defend yourself. Have confidence in who you are and what you stand for. But don’t be a shitty person. Bullies will not be tolerated in this house, nor will shitty attitudes, arrogance, or selfishness. We all have bad days and sometimes you might break this rule. In fact, sometimes your mom and dad might break this rule too. We promise to forgive you as long as you will forgive us. And after we’ve recovered from those moments, we can all hug it out and remind ourselves of the family rules again.

I don’t know what you look like, which makes it hard to think of you out here, existing in the world. Since you are a little girl and since I look so much like my mother, I imagine you’ll look a lot like me. Although I also imagine you’ll have your father’s blue eyes, fair skin, and freckles. And sometimes I imagine that you’ll have my brown eyes and some mix of reddish blonde hair that exists in both our families. There’s science that backs up the old wives’ tale that heartburn during pregnancy can be linked to the growth of baby’s hair in utero. I haven’t had much heartburn so maybe you’ll come out delightfully bald. I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.

  • I’m excited to meet you and to share my life with you.
  • I’m excited to play with you in your monster-themed nursery and dress you up in adorable clothes.
  • I’m excited to watch scary movies with you and your dad and to watch more cartoon movies with you than your dad could ever possibly handle.
  • I’m excited to introduce you to your family. The ones we like; not the other ones. So many of them are also very excited to meet you.
  • I’m excited to watch you grow and change. And then to watch you change the world around you.
  • I’m excited for all the things you’ll say or do or be a part of that I can’t even really be excited for yet because I can’t even fathom your beautiful little life.
  • I’ve wanted to be a mom for most of my life (there was some time in my 20’s where it was debatable) and I am so excited I am lucky enough to do that.

But I’m also scared. Really scared. I’m scared for us both.

I’m scared for me and how my life will change. It may not make sense to you when you read this, but I know it will someday.

  • I’m scared that I will lose sight of myself, that I’ll forget to take care of myself and be kind to myself. I’ve already gotten pretty lax about self-care during maternity leave but I’m trying to turn that around.
  • I’m scared that your father and I will struggle to parent cohesively, that this will change our marriage forever, possibly not for the better. We’re letting go of “just the two of us” and I worry that I will miss this quiet time of staying up late, frivolously spending money, and doing absolutely nothing more than I can imagine.
  • I’m scared that even though I’ve wanted this for so long that I won’t be any good at it. I’m scared I won’t be a “good” mom, and that I will let you down more than I lift you up.

I’m scared for the world you face.

  • I’m scared because you are a girl, and as a woman I know that you will face sexism in ways both passive and aggressive, conscious and subconscious, for likely most of your life. And should you share with us one day that you don’t identify as cis-gender and/or straight, I’m scared of how the rest of the world will treat you.
  • I’m scared because today our country is inaugurating an ill-educated narcissist to the highest office in the nation and it has already disturbed our society in so many ways. I worry what comes next here. I worry that the oppressed will not only remain so but that the oppression will worsen, which doesn’t bode well for your future or the future of your friends.

Thankfully, I know so many good and kind people that I haven’t completely given up hope on those last two bullets. Some experts say that this presidency will usher in a new wave of empathy for those of us feeling disheartened. I hope that’s true. I hope that by the time you’re old enough to learn about all of this in high school that you can ask me about what it was like living in a time when people were much less equal than they are in yours.

I hope that you can see that there were people that came before you that stood on the right side of history, that stood on the side of love, and because of them your life is better. I hope that you have more opportunities than I did and that you live in a society that is more welcoming than the one I am in. I see the people around me and I know it’s possible. You deserve more than the world I am bringing you into and I hope that it will become more like the world you deserve as you grow up. And I hope that you will do your very best to continue to make the world a better place.

I know that I am not a special snowflake. The fears I carry are not unique to me, nor are they rare. Expecting parents since the dawn of time have shared my worries (adjusting for cultural and technological advances, of course), but it’s hard to let them out. It’s hard to admit that I am scared because I want so badly to only be excited. I want to be as cool and confident as I was earlier in pregnancy, when your birth wasn’t so imminent.

I want to be a free spirit floating into parenthood with grace, joy, and nothing but the warmest and fuzziest of emotions. But that’s not real life. Real life is a little more confusing than that. Humans and human emotions are more complex than that. I wish I could be fearless, but I’m not, and I’m hoping that being honest about my fear as much as my joy will help me feel just a little more prepared to be your mom. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I have the whole mom thing figured out, so do me a favor and give me (and your father) some grace. I’m trying. I’m learning as I go. I’m imperfect. And I love you dearly.

On Mother’s Day, last year, after eight months trying to conceive, I was feeling a little down and a little overwhelmed. Your dad woke up early, went to the store to grab milk, and brought me home flowers. He said “Happy Mother’s Day to a someday mom. You may not be one now but you will be.”  To which I responded that it would be happening sooner than he thought, because I took a pregnancy test while he was out at the store and was elated to see two pink lines, one strong one and one faintest glimmer of a line. He stared at me confused for a second, but then came around after some more questioning. He was wary that morning because the line was so faint but with a digital test proclaiming “Pregnant” later that night, he finally came around. And I made him laugh as I danced around the house laughing and yelling that we were having a baby.

I want you to know that I have loved you since you were just two little pink lines, one faint as could be. We wished and waited for you and despite all of the fear and unknown, we’re very much looking forward to meeting you. We’re looking forward to holding your little hands, dancing around the room with you, and helping you grow into the person you are meant to be. It’s going to be tough for all of us at times, even scary, but I know in my heart that it will all be worth it.

We cannot wait to bring you home.

And I still have the flowers your father brought home to me on Mother’s Day. I think we might hang them in your nursery.

With all of my love,