My Sweet Hendrix On Your First Birthday...

Your first birthday was a just a few days ago and I’m just getting around to writing what will be the first of many birthday letters to come. I started doing this when your brother was three and it has become one of my favorite things to do each year. Now it's your turn.

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Every morning you greet me with a smile followed by a giggle as I make my way towards your crib. When I’m close enough to reach out and hold you, I stop and pause as I stare into your baby face swept away by this tiny person who has stolen my heart.

I lift you up and hold you close as you nuzzle into my neck. As I sit down in the rocking chair, I place you on my lap to look at you one more time before I feed you. Afterwards, I change you then head downstairs to make your brother’s lunch and get breakfast for you and i on the table.

Eventually we go about our day, running errands, nap time, picking up your brother or just some other random activity needing to be checked off a never ending list.

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We’ve gradually settled into this rhythm that is ours but my God, it took many sleepless nights, cries of frustration and anger and somewhat losing myself to arrive at this point. It really is true that no two babies are the same. But I guess I knew that from the moment you entered this world. Well actually before, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. While getting ready on the day before you were born, a thought about your impending birth entered my mind just long enough for me to acknowledge it, be at peace with it and move on to the next. The thought was that I was going to have a c-section with you. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t try to brush it off. I simply stated to myself, ok and that was that. Little did I know that just a little over 24 hours later, that’s exactly what was going to happen. After going in for what I thought was going to be an ultra detailed yet fairly routine ultrasound scan with a fetal medicine specialist, things spiraled out of control pretty fast and that’s when I begin to freak the f*** out!

When a doctor tells you that due to some unexplained circumstances (nonexistent amniotic fluid and cord that was believed to be wrapped twice on your neck) that if she were to send you home your baby would die tonight. Well sh**, what do you do with that!? You fall apart as you frantically try to call your husband who has been in meetings all day and happens to be in one at that moment. So I call a sister friend and explain to her what’s happening. Woosaaaa….woosaaa….After speaking with her, I get a hold of my husband and explain to him what’s happening. He’s on his way all while taking care of the details regarding our son who is in drop in daycare.

By the time they’re taking me upstairs for more monitoring, prodding, questions and explanations, I’m calm but probably more numb than anything. The staff is kind from the admitting staff to the nurses even though their attempts at getting an IV were not the best.

This was after a few days of being home. It was a bit worse in the hospital.

This was after a few days of being home. It was a bit worse in the hospital.

The student midwife who has been at all our appointments for our birthing group arrives shortly after followed by my husband. We talk. We laugh all while nurses are coming in and out of the room. They’re monitoring you and things aren’t looking that great for a regular delivery but its still an option at this point. Your heart rate keeps accelerating during what feels like Braxton Hicks contractions. I have no pain. No discomfort. Physically I feel like any other day. The doctor attempts to talk to me a few times but he wants to give the nurses and opportunity to still get this damn IV placed so he can talk and we can listen without distractions.

Suddenly the room is filled with a lot more people and a lot more commotion.  The doctor comes in and says “I’m sorry but we have no more options. Her heart rate is decelerating AFTER a contraction and not during which is more normal. We can’t wait any longer. We have to take her now.”

I immediately began to cry silently as the last hope of a non medicated birth went out the window. You were going to be my redemption birth after coming so close to one with your brother. But apparently that’s not what you had in mind.

In the operating room as they were getting everything together and getting me situated, I stared around the room at all the bright lights and machinery thinking how sterile and cold it all was. No beautifully tiled birthing tub. No scents of lavender essential oils. Nor the sounds of a birthing playlist I had just begun to craft while waiting for my ultrasound just hours before. This was not my picture of birth.

As they began to administer the anesthesia, my mind was filled with a mix of thoughts including "y'all better not f*** this up for me", followed by "is this sh** going to hurt?" but also, "I finally get to meet my baby girl."

Once they had me situated and the overwhelming nausea that hit damn near immediately due to the anesthesia had been remedied by the anesthesiologist, your father was allowed to come into the room. As the medical team explained to me the procedure, I asked my questions and they made sure I was numb, surgery was underway.

As I’m lying there, listening to the medical team chat, I hear the doctor say, there’s no fluid in there (which was one of the causes for the specialist’s grave assessment earlier) but it was what he said next that shocked everyone in the room. “Wow! I’ve never this before. The cord is wrapped her neck FOUR times!” More or less he said you wouldn’t have survived labor. As you descended down the birth canal, you would have just been strangled as the cord pulled tighter from being stretched and of course still being attached internally. So when I heard your cry, it was the sweetest sound.

The nurses quickly got wrapped up and brought you over to your dad. I tried reaching for you but seeing as how I wasn’t exactly in the best position to do so, your dad brought you close to me so I could peer into your tiny little face. I was instantly in love.

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Weighing in at just 6 pounds, you were the tiny gift that everyone had been so anxiously waiting to see and meet. Grandma missed meeting you by a few days as she had departed for Thailand 4 days prior, but she had her chance later in the year.

As I held you in recovery and nursed you for the first time, I stared in awe of the newest and last addition to our little family. You were finally here. None of what transpired just minutes and hours before was what I had envisioned but the outcome was still the same. You were healthy and your were alive. At the end of the day, that’s all we really want.

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Today, all of that seems to be a distant memory compared to our first year with you.

Everyone has fallen head over heels in love with you especially the men in your life. Your dad becomes a bowl of mush around you. His face lights up like a kid on Christmas looking at a pile of gifts every time he is in your presence. He constantly comments, “Look at her sir.” followed by “I just love her.”

I miss her little baby rolls. She was so squishy!!!

I miss her little baby rolls. She was so squishy!!!

Your brother adores you and has the ability to make you laugh just by being him. I can always hear squeals of laughter as you and your dad chase him around the house or fake squares you while playing on the floor. But you also have the ability to annoy him by somehow being in arms reach to pull his hair unsuspectedly. I’m sure there will be more ways to grind his gears over the coming years.

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Your uncle is almost as much of a mush ball as your dad when it comes to you. Whenever he comes over and you’re still awake, he makes sure to get a little time with you before bedtime. If your father and I were to unfortunately meet and untimely end, I know that you and your brother would be so loved and cared for by him and your aunt.

Now your grandpa (your father’s dad), though he met you in the hospital, during the first or second visit to his home, he couldn’t put you down. He just held you so gingerly, staring intently at the first girl grandchild born in years. But even sweeter, on another visit a few months later, he attempted to eat a peach in front of you but stopped because you couldn’t have any since you weren’t quite ready for solids yet.

These men love you something fierce but don’t get it twisted us women do too. You are loved and we will do our best to make sure you doubt it.

Sweet pea, over this past year we’ve watched you grow from a tiny she babe into an observant, feisty and loud little girl, who will no doubt leave her mark on this world. My heart is full and our family is complete.

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My dear sweet Hendrix, this is only the beginning. Cheers to year two!

FamilyAmber Washington