Dearest L,

On your thirteenth birthday, I will tell you a story I’ve not really told you before. I didn’t share it on your eighth, your ninth, your tenth, your eleventh, or your twelfth.

But given the mountain of books and writing implements you’ve asked for, it would seem that this is the birthday of reading, writing, and reveling, and you do love stories. So here we go.

You were born two weeks late. (That was the last time you were late for anything. You saw how worried it made us and learned well never to be late again. Thanks for that.)

As you lounged in my body for the extra two weeks, you got good and big. So good and big in fact, that when you were born and the doctor proclaimed “It’s a girl! And WHAT a girl!” and I saw the look on your Dad’s and the nurses faces before I laid eyes on you. I will confess, I was worried.

And then I saw you.  All remarkable 11 pounds and 5 ounces of you. My heart just about exploded.

But you were turning purple and they took you away. Being born in the way you were, by C-section, meant that you didn’t get all the liquid squeezed out of your lungs through the birth canal.

I found this über dramatic piece I wrote for my writing group and knew you would love to read it. You, the budding writer with a galaxy of wild thoughts in your gorgeous brain.

I don’t know about her first breath. Her second breath was laboured. Her third was worse. It was clear to the surgical team that there was something wrong. She was whisked away.

I passed out. His worried eyes were the last thing I saw before my eyelids closed. And the first thing I saw when they opened.

He brought me to her. She lay asleep in her isolette, worlds away, her grimace revealing her distress. I reached my hand in, navigating the probes and tubes and found a small patch of pink skin not covered by tape. Closing my eyes to the bright lights, I leaned my forehead against her plastic prison, breathed in the acrid smell of fresh tubing, and willed my breath to slow down. Willed hers to do the same. I prayed silently, while they whispered assurances that she would be okay.

After seven harrowing days and seven sleepless nights, she was.

I started a new job one year and one week after she came home. They gave me a new laptop. Worlds away, I sat at my desk, breathed in that familiar plastic smell, felt my breasts fill with milk and cried.

Holy gravitas, right? Yeah. I knew you’d love to read it. And I can’t wait to hear your critique of it. Because that right there is becoming one of my newest favourite things about you - your budding confidence in your opinion.

And so I invite you to speak up. Even more.

Not everyone will agree with you. (And that’s good.)
Not everyone will appreciate you. (This creates clarity of focus. Also good.)
You will disappoint some people. (They will live.)
You will turn some people away. (All the more popcorn for us.)

But in speaking up, you will HEAR who you are.
What you stand in. What you stand for.

Don’t worry about acting older for your friends.
Don’t worry about acting younger for us.
Don’t worry about hitting our every last expectation of you. That’s on us.

Meet your own expectations of yourself.

And I know you know this:

Being who you are is more than enough.

Because, just as you are, you are.
You are surrounded by love.
You are of love.
You are love.