Dear Ariadne* –
Later, when you’re older, when you know me better as a person and not just as a spirit, your first home as you do now – you’re gonna hear that I had a hard time talking about you at first, and you’re going to think that’s insane. You’re going to think, Mama never shuts up. Mama never stops talking. Mama has advice and a story for every situation, there’s no way she could possibly have ever felt tongue-tied or at a loss for words. Hopefully, by the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ll know that you, above all other things that exist in this universe, I could go on and on and on about you, that I will never ever stop talking about how wonderful you are – and so you’ll find it strange that before you arrived earthside, I struggled to talk about you.
It’s baffled me too. You, whom I wanted for so long. You, whom I have dreamed about for years. You, who every day grows stronger and bigger and more of a real person, a real little human, and less of a dream in the corner of my heart. Why is it that I clam up when it comes to expressing how I feel about you? Why is it that I want and I want and I want to write to you, and I barely can? Rarely, and even then, only with great effort and gentle cajoling.
I thought about it some, this past week or two. I thought about why. The truth is, all along, since your daddy and I found out we were expecting you – when I tried to think about writing to you, I felt this great, immeasurable, flood of nameless emotion. I call it nameless because it was too many things at once. Too many feelings to name, too much intensity to bear witness to for more than the few seconds I considered expressing all that, and then rejected it because it seemed too hard.
Me, who never has a problem expressing my feelings. This is me — and maybe I don’t have a ton of practical talents, but one of the few is definitely giving voice to emotion, to expressing not just how I feel but how other people feel. Capturing the intangible and leashing it down with specific phrases and examples. This is what I do, this is who I am – I talk about life and love and sorrow and joy and I find a way to express that which others struggle to.
And yet – when it comes to you, my darling, I often find myself at a loss for words. Because how do I express even the idea of you? I anticipated you and wanted you for so long, and then for so long I feared I wouldn’t ever get you. I still fear it, sometimes. I still sometimes think that you aren’t real, that this is a joke. That someone, at some point – the instant I really believe in you – will tell me I’m mistaken. Despite this big belly, the way you dance and wiggle all day long, making my stomach jump and twitch; despite hearing your strong, steady heartbeat week after week at the midwife’s, seeing your little face on a sonogram screen – I’m still scared someone will take you away from me. I’m scared to love you, because I’m afraid the instant I truly believe I am being gifted this opportunity to be a mother, that I am being trusted to bring you into this world – you will be taken away from me.
But week after week, we carry on. We are steady together, you and I. I jump at every chance to freak out. Little worries flit into my brain and dig themselves deep there, and blossom as little sprouts of anxiety. Yet we have been so lucky, so healthy, as I said – so steady. We have had almost nothing to worry about, really and truly. I can come up with one hundred thousand remote possibilities to worry about; if and it could happen – just ask your daddy and your Auntie Emi and your Auntie Laureny, bless them, who have had to talk me down off the ledge more than once. But those fears never ripen, they never come to fruition.
And so here we are, sitting pretty at 35 weeks. You have made my belly round and taut, and it pokes out of my tank tops and shorts at night. You kick and wiggle all day long, today you squirmed so much that I had difficulty eating my lunch, I could barely lean over to dip the spoon in the bowl because you wouldn’t stop moving.
Last week, at our midwife appointment, Candie said, we just want to keep her in there for at least two more weeks, but after that – if she does come, the efforts to stop labor are more invasive than the risks of letting her coming. Meaning – although we plan to let you cook up until 42 weeks if you’re happy and content and Candie’s fine with it – that in as few as two weeks (now one) – you could feasibly be with us.
Every day that passes, you are stronger and your brain is bigger and your lungs are heartier. Every day and week that passes from this point, you are more and more likely to be just fine, no issues, if you were born. Two weeks from when I’m writing this, you’re considered full term.
More often these days, my focus is on the reality of you. For all I have ordered you nursery furniture and washed all your little clothes and folded them, for all your baskets packed with socks and headbands and wash cloths – for all that work I have done, you have not seemed real. And now, with as few as two and at most, eh, sevenish weeks left – I must accept – you are real. You are happening. You are coming, and you are going to be our daughter.
There are a hundred million things I’d like you to know. There are a hundred million truths and lessons and kindnesses I’d like you to learn and experience. Sometimes, I worry more about how I am going to teach you about the goodness of the world despite its harshness than I worry about any other practical matter.
A couple weekends ago, I went to lunch with your Auntie Laureny and your Auntie BB, and one of your best friends, Baby Lucy. We sat on the patio under the awning and JP’s, and when Lucy woke up, Becky took to snuggling her.
Kind and brave, she murmured to her, smoothing her hair, kissing her, and I have a new word too – honest. That’s all you have to be, Lucy. Those are my words for you.
Your Auntie BB got me thinking – what would my words for you be? What do I most want you to be? Who do I wish you to be most? Of all the cosmic combinations of traits and flaws and strengths and weaknesses, what do I most want for you?
The first thing that came to my mind is I want you to be anything.
I want you to know that you can be anything. Anyone.
I know most people probably expect that I want you to be a dancer, maybe a theatre kid or a choir nerd. I mean, sure, part of me would love that. You’re going to endure at least one year in tights and a leo, little tap shoes and ballet shoes. At least one recital. I hope that you like it, I hope you do more than endure it, I hope you adore it.
But – you don’t have to be a dancer. You don’t have to be a musician, or a thespian. You don’t even have to be a chef or an artist like your daddy.
I hope you always know it’s OK if you want to play soccer or do archery or ride horses. I hope you know I will try my hardest to learn all the rules of softball or all about astronomy or stamp-collecting. That whatever makes your heart sing and makes you feel alive and full of joy – that is what I want you to do.
I have faith that you can be a lawyer or a pastor or a nurse or a teacher or a lieutenant or a librarian or a triathlete. I hope you always know that your daddy and I support you in pursuing whatever career and whatever hobbies you want. I hope you know that we want you to discover yourself, find out who you know yourself to be. That we can’t wait for you to figure that out and tell the rest of the world who you are. That we can’t wait to be right next to you, watching this self-discovery.
I also hope that you know – you don’t have to be anything. You don’t have to go to an Ivy League College, you don’t have to get a full scholarship. You don’t have to be Speaker of the House, or the Nobel Prize winning scientist, or even the class president or the valedictorian. We are not here to judge you solely on your accomplishments. I do hope and I pray that you have the same thirst and drive for experiences and tasting life that your daddy and I have – but we don’t believe you have to be front page news with a long list of accolades in order to matter.
We want you to know that you matter, just as you are. We want you to know that your words and your thoughts and your ideas and your dreams are important. Your voice – as a woman, as an American, a Kentuckian, as whatever you choose to be – deserves to be heard. That what you want and what you want to achieve are important. You are significant – not just because you are our daughter, but because you are a person, and all people on this earth matter.
Your daddy and I want you to know and understand that, too. All people matter. All voices matter, all stories matter. I can’t imagine that you won’t have a big heart, coming from your daddy and me – and part of me has to say now, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how hard it’s going to be to have a big heart in an often cruel world. Your parents know this too well, what it means to be sensitive and loving in a culture that prizes toughness and sleekness over anything else.
One of the main things I hope we can teach you – besides the fact that you are important and you should never be afraid to be yourself and speak your mind – is that others matter. Kindness matters. Politeness matters – even in the face of rudeness. Patience matters, empathy matters. We hope you will understand that we are all connected, and that even though someone is different than you – they’re not that different. We hope you can see a tiny sliver of yourself in everyone you meet, and treat that person – friend, family, classmate, coworker, stranger across the room or across the world – with the respect and dignity that every person deserves.
I know that you will learn that life is hard. Like any other mama, I wish that weren’t true. I wish it weren’t such a surety. I wish I had all the Harry Potter magic in the Universe to prevent bad things from happening to you. I wish I could make it so you never have hurt feelings, that you never hurt at all, period.
But I have learned, my darling, that that’s impossible. And so, I want you to learn that, yes, life is hard. But also – there’s so much good in the world. So much kindness, so much joy. That in times of strife and adversity, there are always, always those working for good. There are always those brave few – and yes, perhaps they are very few indeed – who are trying to fix things. I hope you know you are one of the good guys, that your efforts – however humble and small they may feel – are making a difference. I hope you never doubt the power of a well-timed kindness, the value of taking the higher road and acting with humility and nobility.
I hope that you never feel dark or alone, like you have no one to turn to. I hope that you grow up knowing, more than almost anything else, that there are people who love you and care about you. People who will listen to you, and try their best to help you. I hope you never, ever feel alone in the darkness, and I want you to know – your daddy and I aim to be the very top of the list of people who are going to do our best to listen, and help. We may not be perfect, but we love you more than anything else. We will do the best we know how, the best we can in that moment, to treat you with respect and dignity and love, and to make sure you know any action we take, any word we speak is because we love you, and we want the best for you.
I hope you know love. Pure and simple. I hope you never doubt for a single split second how much Mommy and Daddy love you. Us, most of all – but I hope you know the power of love. I hope you know that before you even came into this world, you were so loved by so many. That no matter how you may trip and fall, what mistakes you may make – there are people who will love you anyway. I hope you know that to err is human, and that your daddy and I, and so many other people, are waiting to catch you when you fall. Waiting to grab your hand when you’ve tripped and skidded, and help you find your own way back to your feet.
I hope you feel that love so deeply and so palpably, every day of your life. I hope you water love like a garden in your heart, and spread it wherever you go. I hope you know you are free to love whomever you wish, whatever race and gender, so long as they are kind to you and take good care of you, and see you as the darling, irreplaceable treasure that your daddy and I know you to be.
I hope you always feel cherished and precious. I hope you always know that you are dear and perfect, just as you are. I hope you know whatever mistakes I make as a mother, I have always done and will always do my best to be the best for you.
I hope you know that even when you were just a little starseed in my womb, I loved you so much I was afraid to say it out loud.
I’m saying it now. I love you, daughter, and as scared as I am, as terrified as I am about how my life as I know it is about to change – I am counting the hours and the minutes and the breaths until I meet you, until I can hold you in my arms and tell you in person: I love you, I love you, I love you.
Until we meet earthside – yours, always,
*Ariadne is the name your daddy and I love now, and have for months. As of right now, it’s the name we’ve chosen for you, and I’m fairly certain it’s the name you’re going to end up with. I haven’t written or published it openly anywhere before now, because I wanted to wait until you were here, until we were certain and we saw your face. But I like using it here, in this first official letter to you, and even if we do change our minds – I don’t think we will – and you look back on this letter someday, and wonder, who the hell is Ariadne? – know she is your almost-self, your alter ego, and we’ll all have a good laugh about it.