You’re nearly 35 weeks gestationally here, 4 weeks old, weighing in at 3 lbs. 10 oz. You’re up to two bottle feedings a day, and when I give you my nipple, you go for it right away then decide you’re bored. Because you don’t get the immediate satisfaction, you wait for a bottle, then DOWN IT in five minutes, without spitting up. My girl can eat! And it’s wonderful.
If you were a boy, you would have been a Simon. Your father insisted any boy named Simon was begging for a wedgie and a donnybrook or two on the playground. I liked the Sunday morning cartoon, when I was younger, of a smart boy named Simon with oversized spectacles who liked to draw. “Simple Simon” the kids might have chanted, which didn’t frighten me. Toughen you up. The sad fact is, no matter what your name, kids will find a way to pick on you. For your red hair or freckles or your height. And you’ll come home and cry, and we’ll want to fix it for you. And when you’re tucked in bed, behind the safety of blankets and a nightlight, we’ll talk about it in whispers. But all we can do, as your parents, is equip you. That’s what parents do, teach you to protect, defend, and comfort yourself. Teach you what really matters. Your father is a wonderful teacher; he teaches me still.
He threw in some veto power over Simon, so if you were a boy, alternatively, you might have been a Jacob. We feared Jacob was too popular, though, so you’d always be known as “Jake B,” which wouldn’t do. Though I do think “Jake” is a whole different animal than “Jacob,” in the same way “Luke” isn’t the same as “Lucas.” Jake drives a Porsche and likes awkward redheads who dress in pink. Jacob is argyle smart and wears pocket squares and corduroy patches on his elbows. You would have always been Jacob, not Jake, to me. Though I think I like the name Jonah more. Be thankful you’re a girl.
You were such a surprise to me. I wanted a girl and felt guilty for it. “As long as they’re healthy,” everyone said. But really, come on! I wanted you, my little girl, to pull your hair back into rag curls and watch Grease II, singing songs about bowling. Kerri lotion and foot massages in a big bed. Ruffles. And let me tell you now, I already know your color is Lavender; you glow in it. And while I’m sharing the little things a mother just knows: we always knew, without a doubt, if you came into the world, you’d be Abigail.
When the doctor delivered you, he told me I had a daughter. “She looks just like her mom,” he said. And I remember thinking, mom? I’m a mom? A second ago I was pregnant, probably with two sons, and now I’m a mom? “Really?” I squealed, “Oh my God! We have to call Phil.” Yeah, that’s right, your dad was on the phone, but that’s a story you’ll hear over and over again… and so will he. The thing you don’t know is when they first presented you to me, swaddled, your eyes covered with a hat, all I saw of you was your nose and lips behind a manual plastic pump, helping you breathe. But you were my little girl, and I loved you before I even saw your eyes.
In the following days, I acted like a newlywed, enunciating things. Instead of “Oh, I’ll have to check with my HUSBAND,” or “may I introduce you to my WIFE,” your father and I began to hold onto our new words. I’m her MOTHER. I tell it to you every day, so close to your face, our noses nuzzling. “That’s right,” I tell you, “I’m your MOTHER. And I’m going to show you how to walk in heels, break hearts, and dress like you’ve just shed ten pounds.” Yeah, yeah, and I’ll teach you how to make a phenomenal bouillabaisse, to write from the heart–or at least your name and phone number–and to live fearlessly, my brave, sweet girl. Your father will teach you to play the guitar and how it feels to be loved unconditionally. I’ll teach you to wrap presents, when to use nutmeg, to build a fort, and how to hear the ocean in a seashell. You’ll teach us, every day, how much more there is to see and love in the world. Patience and laughter and what it feels like to love so much it hurts.
I gave you the middle name Ruby because it’s red and sweet and sounds juicy like the grapefruit you made me crave when you were busy kicking my ribs. You’re named after your father’s grandmother, Ruth, whom I haven’t met either. But you’ll learn about her from your grandmother Barbara. I wanted to give you the middle name Brave, but your father said it was a made up name, so you’re a Ruby, which suits you perfectly. And be thankful your father stepped in when he did or you might have a stripper name like Savannah or Emanuelle.
And whether you like it or not, despite how embarrassed you’ll grow to be, part of you will be just like me, the way part of me is just like my mother. Because that’s the cycle of mothers and daughters, trying to outgrow their reach on us, their habits and particular ways of speaking, but we inherit facial expressions, intonations and cadences, and wherever you go, you’ll know you’re mine. And I’ll be yours, always. So forgive me for holding on so tight, now that I can, because soon you’ll be walking, and learning to talk. Your first word will probably be "no," and at some point you’ll scream that you hate me as you lock me out of your room. You’ll ask for some space, and I’ll invade yours and learn when to give it. And before all of that, I’ll have to cry myself, probably outside your bedroom door, as I listen to you cry for me in the middle of the night. But for now, I’ll rock you to sleep on my chest and let you wrap your small fingers around my finger or a curl, and I’ll sing to you, my daughter.