It is Thursday the 28th if July, and you are eleven months and 364 days old. In just a few hours the clock will tick over, and you will be one. A big girl. Not a baby anymore, but always my baby.
You have been sick this week. You have had an ear infection, and a sore, yucky throat. You have been cranky, and miserable, and I have considered taking you to the hospital more than once. You hate taking your medicine. If you even see the syringe, you start blowing raspberries, trying to spit it out. You’re a determined little person, but then again, you always have been.
I thought you were going to be my quiet one. The little blessing who would complete our family, with a soft, gentle nature, and a calm demeanour. But from the start, you have been determined to defy my preconceptions.
You tried to come early. So many times I prayed and cried, scared that you would be born before your time. Sick, and vulnerable, and unable to feel my arms around you.
But I always knew you would make it. I never truly feared for your life. I knew God would sustain you and keep you safe. I knew that from the very first, He had His hand upon you.
Now I know you, I know that even if you had come early, you would have been fine. You love life so much, and you are so strong willed! You persevere even when things are tough, and if turned around, you turn back and keep going. There is not much that stops you.
I remember that first moment I saw you. The midwife told me, ‘look, you’re baby is looking at you.’ You were half in, and half out of me, coming out facing the wrong way. Your head was swollen, and your colour was not a nice shade of grey. You needed oxygen to help you breath, but only for a minute. Once you tasted life, you embraced it.
I will never forget when you first looked at me. You were such a wise soul already. You didn’t look confused, or unsure; you didn’t seem perplexed by trying to place my face with my voice. You looked at me as if you already knew me. If you could speak, I’m sure you would have said, ‘oh there you are. I’ve been looking for you.’
When your daddy held you, you gazed into his eyes and cooed. Only twenty minutes old, and already you had so much to say.
You haven’t changed. You love to ‘talk.’ At five, six weeks old, you would pull off my breast, look at me, and start a conversation. Cooing, and gaaing, like you had the most important things to say. And now, at almost one, you ‘answer’ when your spoken to. You crane your neck around to meet my eyes, then you point at things and tell me all about them. Your vocabulary is amazing! You learn a word, say it over again, and then learn a new one. So far you have said, daddy, Bailey, Taylah, Bridie, cat, dog, fish, look, ta, thank you, Daisy, oh o, ow, baby, and done. You have said mum too, but you hardly ever use it. I know you love me, but do you think you could try expressing it a bit?
You don’t walk yet. You have taken steps; you take them everyday. Usually when you’re not thinking about it. You love dolls, and little pet shop toys, and pretty much anything Bridie plays with. You are such a girly girl.
You adore shoes. Today you were miserable so I let you wear your shoes, and you were happy. You used to be like that about hats, but not so much anymore.
You love to climb. You can climb on and off the couch, and on and off the bottom bunk.
You love pancakes. I think you would eat them all the time. And custard. Maybe I’ll make you pancakes and custard for your birthday.
You think In the Night Garden is hilarious, but only if it’s Upsy Daisy or Igglepiggle on the screen. You can get angry if it’s Makkah Pakkah.
You are trying so hard to grow up. You are in such a hurry to catch up to your brother and your sisters. You play with them outside, trying to climb on the skateboards, dig in the sandpit, or play in the cubby house. The other day you and Bailey found a green tree frog, and Bailey tried to catch it. It jumped and you thought that was so funny, Bailey kept trying to make him do it again.
You’re not that keen on water. You don’t really like to swim, particularly if it’s cold. You hate the water being on your face. You’re not a fan of pasta, or eggs, but you would eat a whole loaf of garlic bread if you had the chance. You refuse to wear sunglasses.
Dear Ava, the point of this letter is to tell you I love you. But also to let you know I know you. I haven’t been a happy mummy the whole time you have been here. When you were born it was hard for me. When you were in my tummy it was hard for me.
But I do not regret even one minute of it. You were, and are, worth every hard minute.
When we named you, we looked at the meaning. Ava means ‘an eagle,’ and Clare, ‘a bright shining star.’ I loved the image of you as a graceful bird, not dragged down by life’s circumstances, but soaring above them. Just recently I found another meaning for Ava. ‘A breath of Life.’ This sums you up so perfectly. You are effervescent, and bubbly, and so outgoing. You have the spunk of Taylah, with the determination of Bridie, and the gorgeous endearing quality of Bailey. But you are you. Perfect, and glorious, and exceptionally Beautiful.
Dear Ava, it has taken me time, but you have captured my heart, and wrapped it around your own. These words are not able to even adequately express half of what it is you do to me. You are my baby. My last one, and the perfect way to finish having kids. There really is absolutely no way we could improve on you.
Your birth set me free from one of the hardest times of my life. Your birthday is not just a celebration of you, it is a celebration of God. Who held us both together, and carried us through.
‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I will praise you because I am fearfully, and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.’ (psalm 139).
You are his craftsmanship, sweet girl. The fruit of His labours, and the apple of His eye. It is not just daddy and I who celebrate this birthday, but the whole of heaven. He who dreamed you before the earth was but a whisper, who named you, and called the day of your birth, He sees you and knows you. He loves you and holds you. He waits with absolute anticipation for your birthday tomorrow, the first of many to come.
And he sees who you are yet to become. The little girl with pigtails, and the woman with a heat of gold. A passion to live life, and change her world. To see light shine in all the dark places.
The 29th of July, 2010, was the day the world changed. And almost a year later, it is so much better for it.
Happy Birthday my sweet girl.
Mummy loves you so much.