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To my firstborn,

You are the one I get it wrong with. My trial and error. My guinea pig I send off into the world as I hold my breath and hope for the best.

You’re the one I had the best intentions for—organic, early bedtimes, fewer apps, more exposure. You are the source of all my worry. I’ve stared at a monitor for far too long because of you. I’ve lost sleep as I’ve prepared for battle—fighting off colds or mean comments—preparing constantly for all the ways I can protect you.

But then one day I awoke, and you aged, and you told your mother to put down her sword because you’ve got this. You are equipped for more than I realize.

My first child, you changed my body. You stretched it out and put staples in my belly, and then left me with sagging, soft areas that will never be the same. Often I wish it all away, but how horrible of me to want to erase the site of a miracle. How else will I remember an angel exited my body?

Any other child after you I will never love as much. Sorry to my second and so on, but it’s true. I will love them differently, with a different depth, but it’s never the same as your first. That’s why they say the first time for everything is so sacred. You only walk this way but once.

You, my child, have given me the privilege of watching you grow and I hope you’ll see all the ways I’ve changed, too.

I will always be your constant, but if I’m the same kind of mother your entire life, I will have failed you. If I put all my attention and focus solely on you, I will have let both of us down. No single person should complete you, so you can’t be that for me, sweetheart. You can be my welcomed addition, my biggest blessing, my most treasured love—but you can’t be my entire world.

My job is to show you what a full and complete life looks like for a woman—for a mother. One who knows when she needs breaks or forgiveness. One who falls short. You will see me wander, and fall, and succeed, and plummet, and pick up and live some more. I will share all my errors with you so you don’t make my mistakes—and when you make your own—I’ll share in those too. You and I will have open dialogue, proud love, and unbroken trust, and this isn’t just wishful thinking because we’ll work on that connection every day.

You, my love, took everything I thought about myself and shifted it—and then you gave me less time to focus on me. At first, I thought that was a burden, but now I know you’ve given me a superpower: to care less about myself and more about the world around me. There’s no room for ego when you’ve got good, good love. There’s no reason not to accept everyone when you know we’re all the same.

So thank you, my first. You are the one to which I am infinitely connected and forever indebted.

After all, you are the one who made me a mother.

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Stephanie Hanrahan

Stephanie Hanrahan is wife to a sick husband, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again. Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she leaks nothing but the truth.

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