Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love Letter to Rafa

What has recently occurred to me, that is hitting me like a Jersey Strong fist pump to the face is that with Mr. Baby Santiago joining the clan, I am no longer just the mother of one. Having one child almost seemed like a novelty, but two... that's a taller order.

In the last few days with just Rafa I had been preparing myself for her not being our only child. Our "baby." She will look so much bigger, she will share our love with another, she will be part of a two pack. A sister. The older sister.

But I didn't prepare for this...

I already knew I loved her. I just didn't know how much. And after yesterday's horrible tragedy in Boston, I find it appropriate to gush over my first born in her first love letter.

 Dear Rafa,

Before we knew you were a girl, I had a dream. I dreamt of this little face and a pair of soulful eyes staring at me, puckering her little mouth. I was looking at you, looking at me. It was a familiar image. Years before, when your Tia was pregnant with her first child, I dreamt of that same little face, soulful eyes, and puckering mouth. What I didn't know then was that I wasn't looking at her child, I was looking at mine.

And then you arrived. Perfect. You were perfect. 10 fingers. 10 toes. Healthy appetite. Strong willed. Strong. A beautiful little creature that God placed in my hands Friday night, October 7. (Do you think that was God's way of being funny - sending you on a Friday night after a lifetime of very different kinds of Friday nights?) 

When I looked at you in those first few moments I knew that you were mine. It was the first of many times that your Abuelita would ask me Did you know that you would have such a beautiful daughter? And I always answer Yes. No need to tell anyone else that we had already met, you & I.

And with all of that certainty snuck in a bit of doubt...

I was not sure about you. We didn't have the easiest first few weeks and I wasn't sure about you. It was as if 20 pounds of pregnant belly got taken over by 20 pounds of doubt. Sometimes the doubt was so thick that I would cry. Cry quietly. Cry to myself. I wasn't sure that I knew how to be a mother, that I had made a smart decision about having children. Was I cut out for this? Was I strong enough for this? What was I thinking? I didn't know how to be a mother. And then it came to me...
It wasn't you that I wasn't sure about. It was me. 
I tell you that I had doubts so that I could tell you that those doubts no longer exist. That everyday I look at you at some point and am transported to a place of thankfulness and gratitude. My very heart fills and lifts and flies through the clouds and wants to give God a great big hug for allowing you to exist. And then for allowing you to exist in my life. I see now what true love creates. And when I look at you, I realize how truly your father and I must love each other.

I can't stand to watch you dancing with your father because your cuteness is too much. Carefree and full of nothing but elation, you throw your head back and allow him to spin you and dip you and enjoy every single moment in his arms. And when the music ends you ask for Mas (More). Music seems to fill your eyes with joy,  like you were born in between the notes. Asking us to sing mas (more). Telling the radio to play mas (more). Dancing feet, bobbing head, bending knees, hands clapping.

You are exactly the girl for me. Sweet and affectionate the way you love your brother and give him kisses like you have been waiting for him to get here. You have a million flirty faces and pretty girl smiles but are tough as concrete walls. You bang your head, fall and skid your knee and keep moving. You could cry if you want and I'd pick you up and kiss your knee and hold you tight but you don't. You pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I love that about you.

Even more than your toughness is your sillyness. You make me laugh daily even when you're not trying. And when you laugh that big laugh with those pearly teeth it makes me melt. And I love making you laugh. You wear so many different hats... no literally. You love wearing hats which makes me laugh because they're too big for you but you look absolutely adorable.

And smart. Like genius smart. You pick things up so quickly. Words, concepts, actions. I love the way you lick your finger to turn the page of a book because you've seen us do that. I love the way you open a book and carefully look through it like you're reading it because you've seen us do that. I love that you run your naked self to the bedroom to say goodnight to me and then to the bathroom because you know it's bath time. I love the way you say I love you. I dub do.  We'll have to be careful of what else you pick up from us.

Even your tantrums have become endearing. Don't get me wrong, they suck when they're happening, but after you're done you come to us wanting hugs and to be held like your way of saying sorry. And I take the apologies openly. I get a small enjoyment from these hugs through your tears, from knowing you want me to hold you and make you safe and tell you its ok. When you climb "up" on my lap and want to watch "photos" (which are actually videos), I sneak smells of your hair and give your neck mini kisses. I can't help it.

Your easygoing nature is not lost on me. I am aware that as babies go, you don't have to be this easy. I'm reminded of this by friends who inform me that our choice of having a second baby so soon was made possible by the fact that you are as easy as you are. You sleep like a bear. And to make matters better, it's like you know that with Baby Santiago here your family needs more rest and have decided to sleep more than ever. You eat like a champion. We don't have to tell you when to eat. We don't even have to force what you eat. I don't have to make choo choo train sounds with the fork or fly the spoon like an airplane for you. You beam and jump for Christmas morning joy at even the mention of eating.

I have never thanked anyone for showing me that I was wrong but I thank you for showing me that I was. I do know how to be a mom. Your mom.

I am guilty of imagining everything the world will offer you because of everything you have to offer the world. Will you be a baker? A photographer? An athlete? A change maker? A humanitarian? It doens't even matter. I will love you every moment of everyday for ever and even more than that no matter what you are because at the very core you will always be my daughter and that will always be enough.

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