Little L, my dear one: I can’t believe it’s been a whole year and a half since you crash landed in our lives, making everything so much brighter, louder and funnier.
From the moment you existed, you made your presence felt. You brought me morning sickness that lasted all day, relentless internal kickings and – as if to prove as early as possible that you are not like all the rest – a short spell of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which typically affects fewer than 1% of mothers and is most common among women of South American, Indian and Pakistani origin.
So far, so random.
After a spell of severe itching and anxiety, you arrived.
You cried a lot – in fact, you had what we’ve all jokingly come to regard as your first tantrum within about five hours of being born.
Everyone in the hospital thought you were a marvel: the biggest baby they had delivered there in some time, and the only one with such an impressive shock of hair.
You came via C-section, and made a noise within moments of escaping what I’m sure you’d begun to view as a space far too small to contain your awesomeness.
They checked you over, gave you to me, and I looked at your scrunchy little face and loved you.
Your eyes were navy, deep and dark, and I knew they’d be brown like mine.
Our first few weeks weren’t textbook. Despite giving it everything I had, breastfeeding didn’t work out for us and I was devastated.
Like all babies, you got cranky when you felt tired – but all our interventions seemed to make matters worse. Rocking, singing, cuddles, swinging and being pushed in the pram simply enraged you when you needed to sleep.
You were nine weeks old when I finally tried just putting you down in a quiet, dark room on your own when you were exhausted. It seemed I’d finally offered you what you’d been craving, and – periods of illness excepted – giving you some space has been the best way to settle you ever since.
Your independent streak has amused, frustrated, surprised and horrified us in turn. Your determination to climb into your own highchair, scale bookcases and (not quite) escape through windows has, mercifully, caused more laughter than tears thus far.
I’ll never forget the disbelief I felt when I realised you wanted to sit in your own mini armchair to have your bedtime milk, instead of on my lap. I mean, really. What one year old doesn’t want to snuggle up to her Mummy while she sips a warm drink and enjoys a story?
Despite the snub, I wouldn’t swap you.
Crawling and walking haven’t troubled you, and your first few words came early. Your big brother’s were nouns: naming words that he used, wanting to show us he understood something about the world we all share.
Your first words were ‘Ta, ta, taaaaaaa?’ and ‘Uh-oh!’. A demand for something – whatever you wanted in that moment – and then the announcement that something had, in your view, gone wrong.
Try as I do not to compare my beautiful babies, I think there’s something pretty telling about this.
Then there’s the volume you’re capable of. The screaming. The yelling.
It’s ear-splitting, but watching you race around a room – running with your arms in the air and shouting at the top of your lungs – is positively invigorating. It makes me wish I could be you, just for one minute, to see what it feels like to have such energy, such promise and such free love of life.
I think we could all cope without your biting, pushing, shoving and pinching. I speak for everyone involved when I say I hope your ‘unnecessary roughness’ (as they call it in the NFL) is just a phase.
I love that you’re as into fire engines, tool benches and Octonauts as you are interested in babies, pushchairs and dolls.
I hope you never let anyone pigeonhole you, define you by your gender or tell you what you should be. Somehow I think you’ll make matters difficult for anyone who tries, and I am abundantly grateful for that.
I worry about the world you’ve been born into; the sexist bullshit that lurks beneath so many seemingly liberal surfaces.
I worry that your teenage years, having done a version of them myself, will be tough.
I worry about how hard this culture of ours will try to smash your self confidence, obliterate your love for your own body and snuff out your spark. I will do everything in my power not to let it.
For now, you keep me busy. If you’re quiet for too long, you’re up to something.
You disappear around corners, quick as a flash, when you think there’s something exciting to see. You rarely look back, and that thrills and terrifies me.
I love you, and sometimes I’m afraid for you. But I adore that you yourself are unafraid.
Finally, I have to mention your hair: those curls that hang so long over your eyes now, you can’t see where you’re going if I don’t tie them back. The soft fluff that I stroke when you sleep (because when you’re awake, you’re too busy for such fuss).
Your brown ringlets bear no resemblance to my hair, or your dad’s. They come from somewhere further afield: aunts, grandparents, other ancestors.
It’s been said that you’ve inherited more of my family’s Irishness than your brother. The twinkle in your eyes, the lightning quickness of your temper and the heartiness of your giggles suggest that’s not far wrong.
You’re my last baby, so part of me wishes you could have stayed a baby for longer. But babyhood has already retreated so far that parts of it feel like a dream. Odd bits are remembered in sunny snatches, and vague moments fade away as you grow and change at a pace that consistently defies belief.
Stay strong as you get bigger, little L, and never stop creating the mayhem you’re already famous for.
You won’t be little for long – but in time, you really could be anything you want to be.
With so much love,