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To My Daughter at 1!

My Sweet Adesuwa ZikoraChidinma Nissi Nike (AZINN),

You’ve taken me on quite a ride this year. When I think about how I’ve watched your personality come to life, how I’ve watched you grow and develop, I can’t help but shake my head and laugh…with deep gratitude to Abba Father.

I remember the intensity of your first gaze, and knowing you as I do now, I can’t help but think you were actually daring me to take you on, asking if I was ready for what you had in store.

Oh ZikoraChidinma, I was so unprepared.

I was unprepared for your crying. I was unprepared for your clinginess. I was unprepared for the naptime and the bedtime shenanigans. I was unprepared for your feeding battles and the steep curve of learning you.

I was unprepared for how spunky and naughty you’d be, how much one little person could crave independence while still needing me close by every minute of every day.

And I was so utterly unprepared for the fierceness that would come to characterise my love for you, the tender mess my heart would become as I learned to be your mom.

There aren’t enough words in the world to explain this love I have for you. I have no way to explain the weight I feel being your mom. The weight of raising you well, of making the best choices for you. The weight of being responsible for another human, one I care for so deeply it breaks me.

I can’t say that this was the hardest year of my life, but I can say that this year was a crucible. I think I’ve grown and changed more in the past year than I have in the rest of my life combined. You stretched my body, you tested my nerves, you pushed my limits, and you opened my heart. You healed deep insecurities and brought new ones to the surface. You made me a mom, and by doing so, you made me into a brand-new person, a woman who has never existed before.

Your first cry set off a chain of events I couldn’t stop and couldn’t slow down. As we reach your first birthday, I have that same feeling I had after my first horse ride: knees shaking, heart thumping, mind racing, feeling exhilarated and blown away and full of joy and pride all at once.

We’ve done so much in this first year together, my Susu. We spent hundreds of hours breastfeeding, hundreds of hours driving to work, hundreds of hours playing and laughing and learning new things. We survived long nights, short naps, milk-supply pressures, illnesses, teething, mistakes. You figured out how to be a human, how to express your needs and your desires, how to make things happen in your own world, how to be independent and adventurous. You learned to hold your head up, roll over, reach up, sign for more, play hide and seek, collect treasures, take steps, say words.

But Nike, even if you hadn’t accomplished a thing this year, my heart would still be bursting with love for you.

For all the things we’ve learned together, the best part about this year has been learning each other. I hope you’ve learned that I’ll come when you cry, that I’ll let you make mistakes, that I’ll let you explore but will always be watching and waiting, ready to scoop you up when you fall and plant kisses on your cheeks when you snuggle in close. I hope you’ve learned that I’m a shelter when you’re sad or scared, that I meet your needs when you’re hungry or sleepy, that I apologize when I lose my temper, and that I’ll do just about anything to hear your sweet giggles.

Above all, Nissi, I hope you’ve learned that my love for you is unchanging — deeper than the oceans, stronger than the waves, brighter than the sun — and I plan to spend the rest of my life making sure you know this, making sure you believe this and feel this with every fibre of your being, and making sure you understand that this love I have for you is just a shadow of the love Jesus has for you.

You are both silly and serious, sassy and sweet, the little girl Abba Father knew I needed. You are an absolute treasure.

I love you forever and ever,