Monday, January 27, 2014

A Letter to Olivia

My darling girl,

YOU ARE ONE. I can hardly believe it. 

Technically you turned one 6 days ago, but I was such a hot mess on your birthday and the day after that I couldn’t compose myself enough to write anything.  By the time you are old enough to read this, I’m sure it won’t be any surprise at all to you because you will already know that I am a total sap and I cry all the time. 

But this was real crying.  I just kept thinking about what the last year has held and then all of the heavy emotions surrounding your birth – the spectacular highs and the crushing lows – came flooding back in a tidal wave of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. 

But I think I am ready now. :) At least, I will try.  Guarantee you that by the end of this I will be bawling.  But you probably expected that already. ;)




Before you even entered the world, you brought my heart so much peace {just like the meaning of your name!}.  I had such a scary end of pregnancy with Luke and then post-partum depression and I was so, so scared to be pregnant again.  My pregnancy with you went fantastic {well until the shingles at the end, but that wasn’t your fault ;)}.  The c-section with you was so calm – so opposite from the chaotic emergency one with your brother that I will forever feel like my pregnancy with you healed me from my fears that I would have held onto for the rest of my life.  You showed me that pregnancy, and delivery, and the post-partum time doesn’t have to be terrifying.  It can be beautiful and peaceful.  That was your first gift to me.  Thank you, sweetheart.

Your second gift was your birth-day.  I felt so bonded from you from the beginning and I know people say things about mommas and their boys {and of course I adore Luke just as much as I adore you} but honey there was something so magical about you from the beginning.  You had both me and Daddy wrapped around your teeny little pink pinky from the second you were born.  Never ever in my life will I forget the gloriousness of waking up on the second day you were alive and feeling the warm sunshine flooding through the window and me and you and Daddy were there together and I just held you all warm on my chest with your little pink hat and I just felt so COMPLETE.  I had a DAUGHTER and it was magical.  I have never felt so at peace with the world.  You gave me the gift of peace that day, for the second time. Thank you.




When later that night you had to be moved to the NICU, in the most horrifying hours of my life, I posted on Facebook and within minutes had dozens and dozens of messages and posts and e-mails letting me know you were being prayed for.  One of the gifts of going to Cedarville is having friends now around the country and you were literally being prayed for around the world.  It was one of the most humbling experiences our lives to see the power of God’s people lifting up a little baby to His Name.  This was the first of many, many times over the next few months that Daddy and I would be blown away by how many people were praying for you.  Whole churches, complete strangers, friends of friends stopping me in the store telling me they were praying for Olivia – all praying for YOU.  What a gift to see God’s people in action, banding together! Thank you.




When you went to the NICU, Daddy and I began learning about a part of the world we’d never really thought about before: the “parents of sick kids” world.  NICUs and PICUs have their own little hushed, quiet subculture {except for when it isn’t hushed and quiet, which also happens often}.  I am no longer innocent to all of the pain that is happening, day and night, in hospitals around the country and around the world.  I am aware that at any given time, even at the happiest times, like Christmas, there are sad and lonely mommies and daddies out there, praying over their babies, willing them to make it and to be okay.    It’s good thing to have your eyes opened.  I know how to pray for them now. Thank you.



We started learning about the heart and all the things that weren’t right with yours.  I finally learned how to say Teh-TRAH-loh-gee of Fuh-LOH and got pretty darn good at drawing pictures of the heart and explaining to people {in technical terms and in layperson’s terms} about what was wrong with yours.  Not something I ever wanted to be an expert on, mind you, but hey, it’s kinda cool to know so much about how the human heart works.  So thank you. ;)




When we got home from the hospital, and had the simultaneous joy of “we have a baby girl in our house now!” and the dread of “open heart surgery is coming sometime soon,”  we were carried by meal after meal after meal from church and prayers and phone calls and the most amazing notes and cards.  Again we saw God’s love in action, in very real and practical ways.  We were sent money from two very special angels who saw to it that all of our fees for parking and food would be covered during your hospital stay and were also given a very large gift from some other very special angels to help with our car when it died just a few weeks before your surgery.  LOVE IN ACTION, displayed to us because of what we were going through with you.  Thank you.



The Sunday before your surgery {it was on a Wednesday}, our entire church prayed for you during the service and Pastor anointed you with oils {first time in my life I’d ever experienced that!} and prayed for your healing.  A friend told us he was fasting the whole day of your surgery, and through your Facebook page we knew that hundreds of people were banding together again to pray you through that surgery.  Carried by love, in the name of God, for you.  Thank you. 

And on that terrible morning, May 1st, 2013, when I had to hand you over to the anesthesiologist's arms and watch her walk away with you, not knowing if I’d ever see you again this side of Heaven, in what was literally the single most awful moment of my existence, God carried us.  We sat for hours in the family waiting room, and other families came and went, and each time we chatted with them and told them what you were in for, every.single.person. was shocked at how calm we were {and frankly, so were we}.  It was such an amazing thing to be able to share about how many people were praying for you and how we knew God was in control.  Daddy and I were able to share about the power of prayer to hurting strangers, and pray for their babies too.  What an honor.  Thank you.




When the surgeon came out and told us that your hole had been successfully repaired, but that this wasn’t the end of your surgeries, that was crushing. I wept.  Hard.  Right there in the waiting room, in front of everyone.  My baby wasn’t completely fixed and my nightmare wasn’t over and I HATED IT. But after I composed myself I realized just how grateful I was that we had made it through the hardest surgery.  And so we moved to the PICU with you for several days and walked by sealed doors with parents in protective covering and signs that said “Neurosurgery” and realized that hey, this really isn’t the worst.  Open-heart surgery seems pretty horrific compared to tonsils out but to me and dad, brain surgery takes the ultimate cake.  So we counted our blessings and we saw what a fighter you were and how awesome you were healing and how you soldiered through the horrific pain of recovery and you became our hero and we fell in love with you all over again.  Even though your Facebook page “only” got 730 likes, we noticed that the posts we were uploading each day from the hospital were being seen by upwards of 10,000 people.  Daddy and I were blown away by how many people were getting to hear your story and see God at work.  You got yourself out of the PICU and onto the Peds floor and then got yourself home.  You came home and recovered like a champ and when they told us to watch out, that you might be developmentally delayed from all the necessary time on your back, you blew through those milestones and started crawling and walking, not just on time, but EARLY.  You did NOT sit quietly and succumb to anything.  Thank you, my little fighter!




And so we settled into this post-surgery {but really pre-surgery someday in the distant future} life.  I feel like life with you this year was divided into two parts: super sad early months, dreading what was to come and waking up every day realizing that it wasn’t really a nightmare and yes we DID have to go through open-heart surgery with you, and then the post-surgery months, just relishing in the fact that you are HERE and you are currently HEALTHY and what a complete and utter joy you are. 

Like we had to hold our breath for about 14 weeks in the beginning and now it’s just been one big exhale…one big smile. 


Day in the Life 001


I mean we still had challenges – you had dead serious reflux that had you eating small amounts, meaning there were nights you were up and eating 4 times {until about 10 months old you were up anywhere from 1-7 times a night}.  So it took us a lot longer to “recover” from babyhood than a normal family because we were so dang tired.  lol  But now, most nights, you sleep about 12 hours, give or a take a random diaper change here and there at 12:30am.  No biggie.  We feel like humans again! So…THANK YOU. ;)




I can’t tell you how many times you get complimented at the store every time we are out.  People just LOVE you.  You smile your big cheeky smile and people just melt.  You stare right at them and share your joy and it is fantastic.  I am so, so proud to be your mom!  And I know Daddy feels the same way.  You just seriously exude joy and happiness, honey!  It’s hard for me to describe in words.  You are such a treasure and have so much personality.  Thank you for bringing so many smiles to our days!




As of right now, you are:

- 21 pounds, 4 ounces and 29 inches long {50th percentile for both}

-You wear 9-12 or 12 month clothes and a size 3 shoe and size 3 diapers {size 4 for overnights}

- You have almost 6 teeth

- You can take steps {you've taken 10 steps for us} and just in the last two days you're starting to walk all by yourself, just out in the open {as opposed to walking “to” one of us}.  You are getting braver and we love it.

- You absolutely adore Luke and hearing you two giggling and chasing each other is the most magnificent sound my ears have ever heard. 

- You love, love, love books and enjoy “big kid” and baby books.  You have pretty amazing fine motor skills and can open real and chunky pages with your fingers.  You’ve had the pincer grasp down pat for months now. 

- You absolutely love to eat and “cheer” for me when I get your tray out by waving your arms up and down and going “ah-ah-ah-ah” in a happy voice.  When you want more, you bang the tray. lol 

- You can currently say mama, dada, ba-ba {bottle}, mo {more}, yeah, and sometimes we swear you’ve said brother! You wave hello and goodbye {when you want to, lol} and absolutely love putting things over your head and playing peekaboo with us {aka cutest thing EVER}. 

- You are already so into your girly toys and choose them over all others.  You love your dollies and your makeup vanity from your birthday!




Not a day goes by that Daddy and I aren’t so grateful for your life. 

You are an absolute joy to us, and we cherish every minute with you.  Every day that goes by we cherish you more and fall more in love with how beautiful, joyful, and adorable you are. 

Thank you for staying with us and giving me the gift each day of waking up and getting to be your mom!  {Yup, I’m crying now!}

You are my sunshine! Can’t wait to watch you GROW!

Love forever,


  1. I can't believe she's already one! I love this post. You have taken all of the pain and fear you experienced around her health concerns, and made it all into something positive. Congratulations for making it through this difficult year, and for having such a beautiful little girl. I hope this next year will be smooth sailing for you all!

  2. Olivia is one beautiful little girl! Love her smile and sparkle in her eyes. Happy 1st Birthday Olivia!

  3. Oh goodness, you're going to make me cry!! This is so beautiful! Olivia is absolutely darling and gorgeous, and that SMILE ~ I can see why she gets attention everywhere! :) As for you ~ I think you deserve medals and awards. I cannot imagine having to go through what you're experienced this year, the heart surgeries... That would have to be the scariest thing ever! I hope this next year is a wonderful one for all of you!

    1. Thanks Clarita! One thing I know for sure...I don't know how people are brave without Jesus by their side! So thankful for HIM!

  4. Aww how cute she is. My grandbaby he just turned 1 also.


    1. Thank you, Pamela! And "Happy Birthday" to your little grandson, too! :)

  5. This was such an amazing letter and great photo idea! Love your perspective. Amazing how God can change our hearts and help our attitudes during these otherwise unbearable moments. What amazing love and hope to pull you through and it's AWESOME that you dwell on what you've been taught. You are incredible.. and a great writer!

    1. You are very sweet, friend. Thanks for the huge support you've been to me this year! xoxo

  6. Love this Jess, so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  7. Wow--I popped over from Pinterest for your clean bathtub post and got sucked in. What a SWEET girl you have! Sending prayers for continued healing. :-) Hali

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