My Dear Madeleine,
As you love to hear, you were born a fighter. We welcomed you into the world two full months early. I’ll never forget when I was finally allowed to see you. You were so tiny and covered in lines & wires inside your incubator, your eyes too big for your head. But all I saw then was what I see now. Strength, beauty and a strange sort of fierceness in your eyes. A glint of fight…..a “grit” or perseverance that you would need then, now and always.
I remember the doctor coming in to tell us that you would likely have brain damage from the loss of oxygen you experienced during your emergency birth. As he ran through all of the other possible complications, I felt a sense of peace. Yes, part of that was my faith…but part of that was remembering the glint of fight and defiance I saw when you first opened your eyes. At three pounds, you proved the doctor wrong every day, with ever scan, every test. You grew stronger, cried louder and louder, yanked out your feeding tubes regularly and cut your time in the NICU in half. You are now an intelligent & gifted young lady who, as I have told you every night since the day you were born, makes me happy and proud every single day. But I will tell you the story of your fight in the early months of your life over and over not just because you love to hear it, but my dear, you will always have to fight.
You will be kind, be generous, be humble…but fight. Because you had (and still have) a natural sweetness and shyness about you, you were always willing to hand over your toy to a strong-willed playmate, let five people cut in front of you on the slide in the park, stand in the back while everyone else pushed their way to the front, quietly and humbly knowing the answer without raising your hand. I love that you are finding your voice as you get older. But as you continue to grow up that voice will need to become louder and bolder. Whether it’s as a girl, teen, young woman or experienced professional, you will have to draw boundaries and own your space. You will sometimes have to elbow your way to a seat at the table rather than standing in the back. You will have to speak out and speak up. You will have to believe that your body is your own. You will have to share your ideas before someone else does. You will have to ask and sometimes demand for what you deserve. You will have to be confident in the fact that you and your gifts are enough. You will have to believe that you are worthy….and that you are deserving of whatever position you desire or success that comes your way. You will have to be your own greatest advocate. But as I have, you will also surely benefit from the wisdom, kindness and generosity of many people you encounter. Be present with those people. Listen. Learn. Grow. And then pay it forward. Share, help, give, teach, mentor. My dear girl, you can be anything you want. But always remember you were first a fighter.