One year of you.

One year of getting to know you, of learning your likes and dislikes, discovering new ways to make you laugh (so far there isn't anything I wouldn't do for that giggle of yours).

One year of smiles and tears and exhaustion and the greatest love I have ever known. One year of doubting myself, then learning to trust that I was made for this and I was made for you.

You have given me so much. Strength I never knew I had, the ability to persevere through hardships I didn't even know existed. You gave me patience, trust, you taught me to let go and to be present. You taught me to cherish the tiniest things and to find the good in every moment.

Mostly, though, you gave me love.

It's not that I didn't have or know love before you. My life was full of love before you, something I am so grateful for. I loved your daddy and my family and my friends who felt like family. But I'd never had space in my heart to love me.

I don't remember when I started to really hate myself. If I had to guess, I would say when I was 15 or 16. It grew worse as I got older, this deep loathing for everything I was. I hurt, so much.

Meeting your dad helped, slowly. His obvious, unconditional love started the healing process, but that feeling of self-disgust never fully went away. Even after we got married, I starved myself. It became a part of me, this belief that I needed to shrink and disappear, that the smaller I was, the more beautiful and worthy I was.

And then, you.

Slowly, week by week, you changed everything. The belly I spent years hating, trying to shrink, was growing...and I loved it. I loved watching my body stretch and expand, the body that was a home to the child I loved and didn't know. I loved carrying you, I felt beautiful doing it. But I was afraid of what would happen after you were born, when you were no longer growing inside of me and my body stopped being your home. Would I go back to hiding, starving, wishing myself away?

I didn't. My body birthed you, my perfect girl, it fed (and still feeds) you every day. I watched you grow and thrive and I knew that I did that. I look down at my stretch marks and my lumpy stomach and sometimes I wince...but only for a moment. How can I hate myself, and this body that gave you to me? My body has changed and I love that it has; it changed because of you. Despite everything, the abuse and the disgust and the starvation and the pushing and prodding, despite all of it, my body gave me a treasure beyond compare.

How can I hold on to the belief that I am inherently evil, when you, my sweet sweet daughter, smile every time I walk into the room? How can I think I am horrible when I am your whole world? How can I not, at the very least, love the part of me that loves you?

You made me a mother. The most important role in the world, and you gave me the privilege of being yours. That's all I've ever wanted to be. You gave me a purpose and that sense of self (that feeling of "this is who I am") I have always wished for.

I still doubt myself. I am still insecure and I still worry that I can't ever be the mother you deserve (because you deserve so much more than I'll ever be able to give).

But I know that it's not an accident, being your mother. I have you and you have me and neither of us are perfect but I think maybe, God put you here because we are perfect for each other.

Motherhood is one long series of oxymorons, I'm discovering. I'm more tired and I can do more. I'm somehow the saddest and happiest I've ever been. I am so terrified of doing this all wrong, but so confident I am doing everything I can.

Happy birthday, light of my life. Thank you for everything you do, everything you give, everything you are. My life has so much more beauty and purpose with you in it, and I think the world is a better place.

Mama loves you more than you'll ever know.