I snuck into my two-year old’s room to watch her sleep. There she was, nestled under her weighted blanket, and three other normal blankets, all of which help her sleep through the night. Her ridiculously expensive designer crib, once the centerpiece of the room, is now shoved into the corner so she can’t climb out of it. A Costco boogie board is taped awkwardly to the other side just to be safe. It’s ugly, but it works. She’s agile, and determined. A fantastic combination, except at bedtime.
I watch her sleep, and I fall into helpless reverence.
I whisper to her, For nine months, you were invisible. No one knew you were coming. Your sweet but addicted mom didn’t know she was pregnant, and didn’t believe the ER nurses until she heard a baby cry. She thought she’d gained a few pounds and was moody.
They offered to hand you to your mom but she refused, and the next morning she was gone.
And so for the next month you detoxed. You entered the NICU at the highest withdrawal measure they have. Intravenous cocktail of heroin, oxy and Xanax, several times a day. A pack of cigarettes, too. But you were lucky: she didn’t drink.
When we asked for your hospital records, we got a document that was 2,000 pages long.
We read the whole thing. It told us that drugs leaving a baby’s system injure their tender skin, and that a large portion of your diaper region was exorciated.
It also noted at the end of each of the nurses’ shifts: No visitors while I was on duty.
This was the record for Christmas Eve, and it was the record for Christmas.
You spent your first Christmas all by yourself, swaddled in a hospital bassinet, withdrawing from an addiction you didn’t choose.
You then went into foster care. A few weeks in we heard about you from our adoption lawyer and visited. What’s she like, we asked.
We’ve had seventeen babies in twenty years, your foster parents told us. And she’s the fussiest.
We held you and you cried and then you stopped. And then you smiled. That’s when we knew you were ours. Foster mom snapped a picture just as that moment. All three of us look like we won the lottery in that picture. All three of us are radiantly happy. All three of us, I like to think, knew that we were meant to be a pack.
We flew home with you two weeks later. Foster dad must have loved you, because he packed three backpacks full of supplies, and stood nervously on his tiptoes to watch us move through security, waving, until the line swallowed us up.
You were supposed to be challenging, fussy, a problem. You were supposed to be irritable and frustrating, and we were willing to accept that. Sweet girl, you’ve been everything but those things.
You’ve been delight its very self. You, my girl, are pure delight.
I watch you sleep and I can’t believe my luck. I can’t believe that three other couples turned you down, and that you are mine. You walked at ten months, ran at a year, and you haven’t stopped running at life full speed. You go nowhere without your stuffed dog so we bought five more and cycle them through a rotation based solely on how dirty they get. Grandma currently is repairing two of them: one lost a leg in tug of war, and one spontaneously sprouted an actual butthole.
You crack me up twenty times a day. You are the star of the household. We know it. Your brother knows it, doesn’t always like it, but certainly knows it.
You are the surprise the world did not see coming. No baby shower, no OBGYN visits, no prenatal vitamins. No one welcomed you properly, yet here you are.
It’s what your face says everyday: Here I Am. Alert and alive. Here I am. Big brown eyes, bouncing curls, and the most contagious smile I’ve ever seen.
I tiptoe out of your room, leaving the door ajar. Here I am, I think. The recipient of grace beyond measure. Raising you, a baby everyone said would be all problem, but who is all superhero. No ordinary baby could have lived your early days and just shaken them off, refusing to let them interfere with the great joy life offers everyday. The rides on a swing, the taste of cherry Noosa yogurt, the first sight of your brother each morning. The butterflies you try to catch.
You’ve been through hell, but you radiate joy. That’s a superpower, my girl. Hold onto it with all your might. The world needs more people like you.
The world always needs another superhero.