Dear Baby Bird,
Happy Three Years!
Oh, Birthday Boy, we made it to three. Three big, full-to-bursting years. Three years of ups and downs. Three years of getting to know each other better every single day. Three years of never having the answers, but making it work anyway... most of the time.
As with your first and second birthday, there is a temptation today to reflect and look back. This is healthy and natural, but this year feels different because there is something else now forcing me to look forward; the life growing inside of me - your brother - so I am also inclined to look forward.
I haven't quite got my head around the fact I will have to grow another heart before this baby is born. I say this because that makes more logical sense to me than the possibility that my current blood-pumping vessel will be able to accommodate love for the both of you. I am confident that I will grow that heart. I am also confident that you are going to be a wonderful big brother.
But before I go into that, let's stop there and reflect a little because so much has happened in this last journey around the sun. The biggest development for us all has been your language. You now communicate with us using words and sentences, and often a mix of two languages. You were slow to start with talking (compared to others and compared to the doctors' expectations too) but in the second half of this year it feels like you are more than making up for that relaxed beginning. You now have some phrases you use far too much, "I'm happy!" and "I'm not sad anymore" (after a tantrum) being my favourites, and "I need..." and "I can't..." being those that frustrate your father and I the most, but having this new tool for communication has made so much easier. We can try and explain why we do the things we do - discipline, routine, stopping you putting large objects in your mouth - and you can give us quicker clues for what's going on with you. It's also helped us get 95% of the way there with toilet training. I'll be honest and say there were days (ahem, weeks) when I thought I'd be changing your nappies when you're at secondary school, but finally I can now see that this won't be the case. As with most things you've done this in your own special way taking your sweet time until you were ready to really go for it (when will I learn?!?). You still refuse to alert us to the fact you need a pee (or "plaas" as is the Dutch word) but you'll go by yourself when prompted or you need to and you already have a frightening capacity to hold urine in your bladder for longer than I can (though I am five months pregnant...). Poos or poepjes are still a challenge and you are very fussy about the toilets you bless with your mess, but I know we'll get there and maybe, just maybe, your father and I can enjoy a month or two of no nappies before your brother arrives.
You now go to daycare three full days a week, and you spend the other two mornings at pre-school, something you started just over three months ago. You took this significant change completely in your stride. While I walked into the primary school where your group is, and immediately felt utterly intimidated by the onslaught of children aged four to eleven, running through the halls, you just stood back and watched them, waving occasionally or pointing at them and saying "Children!". Your confidence in these scenarios amazes me, though you are not foolhardy and you do know your limits in playgrounds or public spaces.
Like your mother and father, you have come to love holidays with a real passion and the time we spent in Thailand with your Australian cousins at the end of last year, plus the last few European trips we did were huge highlights for you. Swimming every day, playing with other children in kids clubs and hanging out with us in the shade in between makes you a very smiley, happy boy. You also love going back to the UK to spend time with my parents, your Annan and Grumps. Their house and garden are like heaven to you and every visit we make their firms your bond with them. Likewise the time you spend with your cousins there. Back in Amsterdam, you have made some firm friends, not least T who you see nearly every day and you notice when that's not the case. When we all went skiing together earlier this year, you and he didn't just survive a week together, you thrived the whole time with no arguments or fights over toys or anything else. You go to him when he's upset, saying "don't worry" or waiting to give him a kiss or cuddle, and after your holidays or his, you reunite by running towards each other and sharing a big hug. I never expected you to have such a big heart so early on and it's been the biggest delight of the year to see this part of you grow.
It's this part of you that I hope will lead you in loving your brother. Already you insist on seeing my growing belly in the flesh, and more often than not our days draw to a close with you resting your head against its fullness as we read books. I feel a confidence in your love that I honestly never thought I would feel at this stage. I know your brother can hear you and I know he will look up to you from day one. Yours will be a face and voice he searches for, and hopefully that will help him know how loved he is. When you were a baby, I often thought how you should have been a second sibling as you always loved watching bigger kids and you always seemed to be searching for something else besides your father and I. Maybe the way you've taken all this in your stride, fully accepting and welcoming, is a sign that you're also finally getting what you wanted to. Or maybe that's just me trying to calm some of the nerves and worries I nonetheless have about this transition, because it is going to be a big change, for all of us, but something tells me you are going to adjust much better than perhaps I will.
There are still struggles. How can there not be? I am still learning how to parent and the older you get the more new challenges we realise we're clueless about; that is your burden as our first child. When you had chicken pox recently your behaviour changed completely, sending you into frequent meltdowns and tantrums, resisting us and protesting almost every ten minutes. It made us realise how balanced you normally are (at least by toddler standards) and I'm relieved you've returned to this now your spots are healing... for the most part. On holiday in Ibiza, while we were talking with hotel staff you wandered off and got lost in a small crowd in the lobby. Somehow you ended up outside and in that minute or so when I was running around looking for you, I felt gravity like I'd never felt it before. Every step felt like the ground wasn't where it was supposed to be and even after I found you and hugged you and told you that you must always make sure you can see us, I still wasn't sure my legs would hold me up as we walked back inside, and the "what-ifs" didn't stop running through my mind for many hours.
There are going to be more things like this. More falls, more mistakes, more panicking, more accidents, more bumps - literal and metaphorical. But the three years we have had so far, although they have been far from smooth sailing, I now see them as a series of chaotic events that have built a solid foundation. You know you are loved, and I know you love me. Yes, I knew this a year ago, and maybe even got a taste of it two years ago, but now it's undeniable, and blatant, and brilliant, and the best flipping thing in my life. It's because of this that I already feel more connected to the baby growing inside me than I did with you at the same stage or pregnancy. It's because of this that I will go into birthing that life with more confidence and hopefully calm than I did with you. It's because of this that I know even if the clouds of post-natal anxiety and depression come in again, I know there will be sunshine again, eventually.
I miss baby you desperately, not because I loved that phase or because I want you to stay little, I don't - watching you grow is the biggest joy of my life - but I wish I could go back to that time and feel everything I feel now; confident, empowered, proud of you and proud of myself and our little family. I wish I could have been the the mother I am now for you. Sometimes when you look at me or we laugh together, or you rest your hand on my leg just because that's where you want it to be, and I feel the love you have for me, I wonder if maybe I was that mother already, back then, I just didn't know it because of everything else that was going on. In my best moments, this is what I tell myself.
Well, would you look at that, I went backwards again, even after saying I was trying to look forward this year. I guess if you can't reflect on a birthday, when can we do it?
But back to looking forward.... I can't wait to see what this year brings you. Yes, all being well, a little brother, but also more independence, more learning, more creating, more laughing, more time with your friends, more discovering the world around you, and most importantly, more discovering the huge, wonderful world inside of you. That is what I'm looking forward to the most. That and more sunshine (even if it's sunshine that beams through the clouds), and maybe, if we're all feeling brave enough as a family of four, a few more holidays.
I love you, you brilliant human being, my Baby Bird,
Your proud, happy, exhausted (but it's not just your fault this time, it's also thanks to your brother!), crazy-in-love mother x
You can read all my motherhood diaries from the first year of my son's life here, or start at the beginning here.
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.