Happy birthday Amaya! You are two years old!
“The days are long, but the years are short.” Today I chatted with Heidi during my massage, and we reflected on the sweetness of breastfeeding. I could vividly remember the feeling of you cradled in my arms; the way your perfect mouth and cheeks looked, and how you would place one hand on my breast. You were safe, secure, and loved.
Today, I came into your room, and the first thing you told me in response to my Happy Birthday wish was – “Mama I don’t have pockets on my pajamas.” Your spirit, your thoughts, and your words never cease to amaze me. From the womb to your quick arrival, you have always been head strong, fierce, and vocal about what you want. Today, you continue to embody this, and I can already see the woman you will become. Your dad and I cherish you for all you are. I hope you always feel safe to express your truth; I hope you always feel secure in who you are; and most of all, I hope you always know you are deeply loved.
You Like: dancing, dressing up, Ba Ngoai’s chocolate pie, spending time with your cousins and friends, pancakes, tattoos, cuddling on the couch with daddy, eating snacks, hamming it up for your grandparents and great-aunties, seeing Christmas lights, pushing around your baby stroller to pick up acorns, spending time with family in Houston, loving all your younger friends – Penny, Gavin, and Joel
You Dislike: getting into your carseat and changing clothes before breakfast
Stats: 24 lbs, 18 months clothes, size 6 shoe
- New words: using pronouns like my, your, this, and that; supercalifragilisticexpialadocious
- New songs: baby shark
- New concepts: starting to sit on the potty at school
This past month we said goodbye to our sweet Terri. She was your protector from the day we brought you home, eagerly sniffing you and then using her nose to bury you under a blanket like she does with her most precious toy. Terri passed away suddenly in the middle of the night from cardiac arrest. I was deep asleep and when suddenly woken up by the sound of her gagging; I didn’t think much of it because she coughs up furballs all the time. But then she let out a long, loud howl like a coyote howling at the moon – I had never heard that sound before. Andy was still awake and rushed upstairs to see what the noise was, and by that time I had turned on the lamp to find Terri contorted in a strange position and limp. Andy rushed to check her airways and do CPR. I was still groggy, confused, and in shock but made it to the floor next to him, feeling helpless. He got her to inhale twice, but her heart had stopped. I called the emergency vet and told them we were bringing her in. By the time Andy walked downstairs with her in his arms, we both looked at each other and knew she was gone. The vet called it, Andy said goodbye, and I took my turn to go cuddle her one last time. Amaya was still sound asleep the entire time.
I had many guilty thoughts, such as – was I a bad mom for all the times I yelled at her? Terri had been having lots of accidents in the house since Amaya was born; anytime Amaya cried, her anxiety peaked. I had been so annoyed with Terri on so many occasions and always yelling “under foot!” because she followed me around so closely and often tripped me. But I tried to push those moments aside and remember how we rescued her as a puppy, after she was found tethered to a fence with Olivia at just a few months old. She claimed me as her mommy from day 1, and she was my very first baby. She lived a good 12.5 years, healthy, feisty, and constantly loving.
I explained to Amaya the next day that Terri passed away, and she was gone, never coming back. I told her I was really sad. She paused but then went on to eat her breakfast. We talked about it the next day when she asked for Terri in the morning, and Amaya said she missed her. We gave extra cuddles to Olivia. Then a few weeks later as I got Amaya out of bed in the morning, and asked if Andy was still sleeping. Then she asked if Terri was sleeping, and I said no Terri is gone, she passed away. When we got downstairs for breakfast, Amaya started eating and matter-of-factly told me, “Terri passed away.” Then she looked up at the ceiling and said, “Hi Terri!” I think I had told her at one point that she’ll always be watching down on us. Moments like that make my breath catch.
Reflecting on 2 Years
So I sit here today and reflect on the past 24 months. I still remember Amaya’s birth like it was yesterday, and I can’t believe how long her legs look now when I’m holding her. Last night we sat in the rocker side by side singing twinkle twinkle little star, and Amaya looked up at me and kissed me. That same morning she had made both me and Andy lose our patience after a 20 minute meltdown over breakfast. Andy left in a huff because our parenting styles were conflicting, and Amaya was inconsolable. Afterwards, we quickly texted apologies and I love yous. I’m so grateful for him as a partner and for our constant efforts in communication. There are blissful moments, and there are hair-pulling freak-out moments. But over the past two years, I can undoubtedly say we are experiencing the joy of life to its fullest.
Being a mom has pulled all my shortcomings to the surface, and both Amaya and Andy have patiently watched me navigate this new role. I recently had a talk with my manager about the possibility of taking on a role that would require working evening hours and more travel to Tokyo. I explained to her how I wanted to prioritize being with my family at this time, and for me that entailed flexible hours, little travel, and maintaining the sacredness of mornings and evenings with Amaya. It felt empowering to voice my wants and have her completely understand and support me. I also realized that this micro decision in my career was just that, one decision of many that would lead me down a path that I had the power to shape. It wasn’t going to create a fake glass ceiling or cast me into a box. This wasn’t a “lean in” or “I can have it all” type of moment. It was a present, thoughtful, and vulnerable moment, and it made me feel whole. If I can be any type of example for Amaya, I want to embody strength, truth, and authenticity always.
My dear Amaya, today I hope you laugh deep belly laughs, eat tons of pizza and donuts, and fill your cup with the joy you possess and the joy you spark within others. My light sees yours and grows brighter daily because of you. Cheers to our entire family on 2 incredible years!
- Meeting Harrison and playing with Joaquin and Gavin at Stephen and Jessica’s wedding
- Thanksgiving in Houston – Amaya vomiting on the ride home; reuniting with grandparents; riding bikes and dancing and singing baby shark with Camila, juggling two dinners in one night; letting all her crazy loud aunts hold her and enjoying the attention as she showed off her multi-language counting skills
- Eating sugar and staying up late while on vacation
- Putting up the Christmas tree – sort of helping to pass me ornaments, mostly eating goldfish
- Attending Mi’s wedding and wearing her first ao dai and party dress – seeing yourself in the mirror and saying “ooOOoh pretty”
- Tagging along after Ong Noi everywhere he went – her obvious favorite
- Looking at Christmas lights with Ong Ngoai, telling a deflated snowman to “wake up!” and picking acorns
- Celebrating an early birthday with Alex, Camila, and Joel; blowing candles over and over; having Ong Ngoai play the guitar to entertain all the kids
- Trying Ba Ngoai’s chocolate pie for the first time
- Learning to show us “I two years old” with her fingers