My sweet Alyssa,
I hardly even know where to begin. I cannot believe you are three today. On one hand it is a struggle to recall a time you were not in our lives, and on the other it seems like only yesterday we were prepared to welcome you into them. Two young parents anxious and excited to meet you, love you, and embrace you for exactly who you would become. I remember the moment you cried for the first time and the feeling of my own tears on my cheeks. I remember staring at you from a few feet away in complete awe that you were “ours.” As they wheeled me back to the room, and you went with your daddy, I called Grandma Renee to proclaim “She’s so beautiful.” It was so very very true. From the first moment I saw you… you were my perfect, beautiful, little girl.
That evening feels like only yesterday… and yet… it has been three years almost to the hour since you were born. Of course the days and weeks that followed that first day were nothing short of the hardest any of us has ever lived. However, you started out early showing us exactly what it meant to be strong, to prove people wrong, and to be exactly who you needed to be. You taught me more in your first weeks of life than I could have learned in years of studying. You showed me the good in people in a world that we all to often get to see nothing but the bad. From the moment you were born my whole life changed for the better… even in the moments it seemed like a nightmare. You drew me closer to my friends and led me to God. I will forever be grateful for that. Some parts of it have been a challenge but somehow at the end of the day you make the world make sense… you make it a better place.
Alyssa as you enter your third year I cannot help but reflect on your second. It seems like only yesterday you were picking out a cupcake from the case to demolish upon returning home. I can still smell the chocolate icing and remember how fast you turned that perfect puppy cupcake into nothing but chocolate crumbs. I’ll also always remember that getting buttercream off of a toddler is akin to mixing oil and water… nearly impossible. LOL. As you entered you second year you were strong, full of life, and ready for everything the world had to bring. However, the first months were filled with battle. You and I struggled will against will for months. All I wanted was for you to be nourished and all you wanted was to never eat. After finding out that you were suffering from eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) we thought we had finally found the answer to our feeding issues. We were, as we usually are when it comes to predicting what you will do, wrong! Even after correcting what seemed to be ailing you your strong will still proved to be equally matched with mine. Finally, you won. Your daddy and I made the hardest decision of our lives. We got you a g-tube. I prayed for weeks, asked everyone who had experience that would talk to me what to do, and finally we came to the conclusion that the decision had to be made. It was petrifying, because it wasn’t “necessary.” It could have waited. However, we all knew that although not necessary… it would be life changing. Boy, we were right on that one.
I’ll never forget watching you become nearly instantaneously clearer. It was as if you were finally getting everything you needed to be the person you had wanted to be for the months prior. I remember telling someone “She’s still her, but it’s like all the ‘hard’ parts are gone.” Your best attitude was on the table. You and I no longer had to battle wills daily because you would sit happily to play while being fed. I don’t know who it healed more… you or me. Your hair brightened, your seizures diminished, you learned to clap, you were just… nourished. Just what we had wanted from the beginning! To give you the opportunity to thrive every day. I cannot believe that it has been seven months since the tube was placed. In the seven months prior to it being placed you maintained the exact.same.weight. In the seven months since you have gained five pounds and four ounces!! That is HUGE. Couple that with growing a few inches and shoe sizes. Alyssa…it is amazing to watch you thrive.
It is not just your size that has changed. When I think about all that you conquered this last year… you have come so far. I remember a time when we struggled to get you to sit for even a moment and now there are times you will sit for nearly a half an hour. I remember a time when you didn’t understand the world around you and now you can pick your daddy out of a crowded room. I remember a time when you wanted to go play with other kids but had no way to get there and now you crawl nearly as fast as most kids walk. I remember a time when the second you realized someone wasn’t holding on you’d fall over and now you will stand against something to play. You are growing and changing every day and I don’t ever want to forget how far you have come.
You amaze me. You walk through every day with a grace I can only pray to have one day. You conquer your difference with a smile on your face and in your heart. You teach me every day what it is to love unconditionally. There are days when I simply don’t feel that I have the energy to make it through. Those are the days you cling to me, you make me slow down, and you snuggle into me in a way that only you can. You? bring balance to my life.
Three years ago today if someone had told me of the path we were going to walk… I would have never believed them. Three years ago today… your father and I would have never had the strength to make it to this day. I will forever be grateful that your tiny little body was filled with one of the strongest souls I have ever encountered. You show me every day what it is to work hard for what you desire. You show me every.single.day what it is to be happy to be exactly who you are. There was so much I had in my mind that I wanted to teach my future daughter and instead I am the one who is educated every day. In three years you have taught me things that I would have never learned without you.
Parts of our journey together have been hard. Your third year was no exception. However, when I stop to think of all the people who are a part of our lives that would not be if you were “typical” it becomes a bit easier. You have brought people into our lives that fill our cup every time we see them. People that we would have never met without you in our lives. You have shown people that when they set the bar high… you will find a way to reach it. You stop at nothing to prove everyone wrong for all the right reasons. You don’t have many words but I love to watch strangers interact with you. I love to watch a cashier who is just going about her day brighten up at the sight of your smile. I love to watch you clap proudly when another child succeeds. Seriously, I cannot tell you how proud I am to call you my daughter.
That era of two is over and now we are on to the big three. The last few weeks have been a challenge for so many reasons. I would have never expected you to be the person you are today when I envisioned your third birthday. However, I would never change exactly who you are. You are more amazing than I could have ever anticipated when I envisioned “normal.” As we sat around the table last week planning out your year to come all I could do was nod to everything they said about what your goals and outcomes were. I know full well no matter what they write on a piece of paper… you are going to do exactly what you need to do every day. It may not be what the rest of us want you to do… but it will be exactly what you need to do. I can’t help but chuckle to myself as they so “knowingly” plan out where you will go over the course of the next twelve months. All I can think is “Ha! You’ve obviously not dealt with my child much yet.” They will learn soon enough.
I am excited about your birthday but admittedly more excited about you starting school. I was sad for a few minutes about the fact that we had to wrap up things with early intervention and head to a new group of people for school. Then, the other day, it hit me… it needs to happen. You, my sweet little girl, need to show these people what determination is. It floored me a little to hear a speech therapist who had only seen you for an hour say “she tries SO hard.” For someone who had only seen a glimpse of you to see so much of you… it will forever amaze me how you wiggle your way into people’s lives. School is going to be a whole new setting for you but I know it is is going to be one in which you thrive. It is going to give you so much that we simply cannot give you by keeping you home. You need the room to roam. You need the space to carve your place. I have watched you make your place in playgroup with amazement. It is such a humbling experience to watch you etch out your place in a group without speaking a word or taking a step. It is such an empowering experience to watch you be confident that you are worth their time, that you will be a good friend, and that you are exactly who you are and that is all you need to be!
Alyssa, I know this is not the most concise letter I have ever written. I think I could fill the pages of a book with all that I would like to tell you about your first three years. I could have never envisioned this path but I am so grateful that you placed us on it. You are my light, my strength, my educator, and my hope. You give me belief that one person can change the world. You have surely changed mine. This year will be your year. This year is the year that you get to be independent. This year will be great because YOU will make it that way. There will be days when you need a break and feel like the bar is just too high to reach. Those will be the days daddy and I are still around to lift you up to that bar. There will be days that you just want to break down and do nothing. Those will be the days daddy and I help to do it for you. We are still here and still willing to help when you need us, but this year? Is your time to shine a light all your own for a whole new group of people. This year? You will show a whole new set of people exactly who you are. This year? You will be exactly who you have been all along… every.single.day. There will be days when we are worn thin and things seem unmanageable, but I know the three of us will finish out each day as a family with peace in our hearts knowing we are exactly who we need to be. Thank you for taking the time to teach us that. Seriously.
I suppose just like every year… every letter needs to come to an end. However, I know full well that although another year has ended… your journey is just beginning. Thank you for letting your father and me walk it with you every day. I promise you now that I will do my best every day to be exactly the mother you need me to be… even if some days it isn’t the mother you want me to be 😉 . I love you little lady and I could not have dreamed up a more perfect person to be our daughter if I slept for an eternity. I will forever be thankful for God knowing us better than we knew ourselves. He’s got big plans for you and I feel truly blessed that he chose us to walk this journey with you… even on the hardest of days that feeling will never change. Thank you for being exactly who you are every day. Thank you for being who you are and for being patient and loving while I learned to love you for exactly who you are. I will forever be grateful for the ways that you changed my heart, my priorities, and my life. You are my light. Thank you for shining on even the darkest of days. I love you. Forever.
The concept of balance. I did not want to publish the other letter without having this one up as well. I wrote most of this one today. As you can tell… God answers prayers. My heart is slowly refilling with peace. I have not shed a tear today. That is a first for many days. My little girl is who she needs to be …and to be honest? Who we need her to be. I could have never ever imagined that this would be the journey we would go on together. However, at the end of the day I would not give back a moment of it. I have had my life changed by the people who have come into my life through the course of this last three years. I have drawn closer to people who have been in my life for years prior. The reality is… IP is a part of Alyssa… and Alyssa is an amazing part of the world. I know that through Alyssa the education about IP will grow. I know that through Alyssa more and more doctors know what IP is. I know that this little girl has a huge purpose. I also know that this was the first year I worked THROUGH my issues with IP instead of around them. I feel a sense of peace in this moment that I haven’t in a very long time. Thank you Lord for giving me the strength I need to make it to the end of each day… even if I have to borrow it from the people in my life some days… thank you to those who lend it out when it is needed. You may never know how much it helps.
Finally, I have had a few people request info about IP over the last couple weeks. I will take the time to put up a post just about IP in the coming weeks. Google is a scary scary land of overblown stories and terrifying recounts. The doctor that diagnosed Alyssa told me that I was welcome to Google… but all I would get would be worst case scenarios 😉 LOL! So, give me a bit to get her settled in school, birthday partied up, and I will write about IP 🙂 . Thank you so much for being a part of our lives 🙂
P.S. Pics will be around in a few days. I accidentally sent the camera charger cord home with early intervention instead of the light box cord LOL!! Oh…and the grammar on this probably sucks a little more than usual 😉 I will probably go reread it when things calm a bit! HA!