Today, you are three. Yesterday you were not quite three, and tomorrow you will be just a smidge more than three. You’ve been through quite a bit in the 1,096 days you’ve been alive—not many ladies your age can speak candidly of hoses-for-noses and scars where feeding tubes used to be. From a neonate whose weight was charted in grams to a beautiful curly-haired princess whose infectious giggle warms my heart and melts away even the lousiest of days, you, my dear, have had me wrapped around your tiny little finger from the very first moment I heard your tiny little cry.
And here we are, a thousand days and a thousand steps from where this story first began, and we are realizing that this story is still just beginning. Realizing that as we’d once hoped, the rocky crash-landing beginnings of your life—the unnerving beep beep beep of the NICU and the unending uncertainty of your little life—would, in fact, be just a drop in the bucket to reflect on, a drop rippling outward, shaping who you are and touching a multitude of lives along the way.
At three years old, you love adventure walks and you love Dora the Explorer and you love your “Freddie buddy”. You have a great sense of humour—your favourite joke at the moment goes a little like this: Knock knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange’s orange juice!—and you have a great sense of compassion, always quick to kiss your brother better when he tumbles, or to make sure we step around a slug on the nature trail. You have moments of complete defiance when there’s absolutely no way you’re going to let anyone tell you what to do, and you have moments of fierce independence when there’s absolutely no way anyone is going to do it but you. You love to paint and you love to read and you love to go down the big slide at the park. You tell me daily that I am Your Girl, and you remind me always that my life is rich and full of love.
You’ve had a big year, for someone so little. You became a big sister. You outgrew your nurses. You said goodbye to all of the Misters, and all of your doctors, too. You learned around four thousand new words and graduated to a big girl bed and swam in the ocean and scraped your knees more times than I can count. You splashed in fountains and hiked beside waterfalls and, by and large, morphed before my very eyes from a fragile and timid ex- 27-weeker into a strong and confident three-year old, ready and able to take on anything.
I look back on your earliest days and it feels like a lifetime ago. I remember sitting beside your solarium during the Intubation Era, watching you sleep while the machines breathed for you, wondering who you would be when you were three. Wondering if any of your prematurity would be lingering when you were three. If you’d even be with us when you were three. And now that I know who you are when you are three, I sit on the edge of your mattress and watch you sleep—you still so tiny in your huge twin bed—and I wonder who you will be when you are six. And then I wonder if I will ever stop watching you sleep and wondering who you will be.
I can’t thank you enough for the past three years. For the things you’ve taught me about life, for the reminders to stop and appreciate the small things, to find beauty in the mundane and find joy in simplicity. I love you for every squeal of delight and every middle of the night cry and every bedtime kiss. I know I’ll never stop wondering what tomorrow holds for you, but right now, I’m going to enjoy just watching you be three for a while. And reflect on who you were when you were two.
You celebrated your impending role as Big Sister.
You hammed it up for the camera.
Your had your first fast food kid’s meal.
We went on tons of nature walks.
You learned the joys of soaking in a nice, hot bath.
You found a Buddy.
You LOVED Shannon Falls and were not impressed to leave.
We ate fish tacos and raspberries at the farmers’ market.
We had a girl’s day at the lake.
And a fambly day at the ocean.
You spent a whole week with Grandma.
You learned how to play Poohsticks.
You had fun.
Happy birthday, Babygirl. Mama loves you.