My dearest Cora Bean,
Today you turn two years old.
We've been working on teaching you to say "two" for weeks. When we ask you how old you are, you grin, hold up both your index fingers and say "boo!" And oh, it just melts my mama's heart every time.
I can hardly believe you've graced our lives for two years already. I think back to the days and weeks after you were born, a time filled with so much worry and stress and fear.
Last year I experienced so many emotions leading up to your first birthday. That anniversary brought up so many feelings that I had been trying to push away. But it was cathartic. I was able to recognize how hard all your medical problems and hospital stays were for me. I was able to revisit your difficult birth, and acknowledge and accept my subsequent feelings and fears. I was able to learn to forgive myself for being weak, for being scared, and for being ashamed. I started to let go of my guilt and feelings of unworthiness and to accept my conflicting thoughts and emotions as a true and valid part of me; a part that was critical in taking me to where I need to go. And I learned that having those experiences didn't diminish my love for you in the slightest.
This year your birthday is different. The emotions I've been feeling are less tumultuous. Somehow my memories of the first few months of stress and worry are getting hazy. Even heart surgery seems so long ago. The joys of the ordinary life we've been living have finally started to eclipse that initial taste of heartache. And I am so, so grateful.
Cora, I am so proud of you.
I am proud of each thing you do and of every thing that you so painstakingly accomplish every day.
But my pride for you extends so far beyond what you can do. My pride extends to what you cannot yet do. It extends to your attitude and your meltdowns and all the things that we work on together every day.
When you were tiny, I told myself that you'd be the smartest, most accomplished person with Down syndrome ever. I was so sure that with enough work, it would be so. And of course I do want you to experience success and accomplishment. But now I know that even if you never talk or walk I will still be proud of you. For you are succeeding in the most important thing: bringing light, love, joy and meaning to so many lives.
This life I am sharing with you is indeed special. But I know that you were not trusted to me because I am special, as so many would say. Those that tell me that you are the lucky one, to be born into our family, don't know the real truth of it. But I do. We are the lucky ones, because we get to share our lives with you.
If I could bottle up your snuggles and your beautifully blown kisses, your giggles and your enormous silly grins, I think maybe it could change the world.
Thank you for being you. For being my baby and for not growing up too fast. Thank you for inspiring me every day, for making me laugh and making me cry. For letting me slow down as I hold you close. For showing me that good things come to those who wait.
Thank you for teaching me not to take you for granted. Thank you for showing me what is truly important.
I love you, sweet girl.