Us

Happy Birthday CeeDear Cee,

Two years ago, I carried you around everywhere I went. This wasn’t because I was doing a dry-run in attachment parenting – I didn’t even know what that was at that point in my life – but because you lived in me. When you were in my belly, still a part of me, there was nothing more than Us.

Us was my new reality.

Us was every day.

Us was perfect.

To be perfectly honest, though, Us was freaking bizarre at first.

On a Sunday in July, I sat on my bed and told Daddy that you were coming. I had trouble believing it myself, since at that point the ratio of Me to You on this planet was about 466734576 to one. You weren’t much, but there was still enough of you to make me not just an I. I took a leap of faith and believed what the little stick told me, that you were there.

You shouldn’t believe everything you read, but when you read two lines on a pee stick, you tend to start switching your pronouns around.

You started to grow and I had less of a problem believing that there was an Us. You got bigger and bigger – a legume, a lemon, a butternut squash, a watermelon – and then one night two years ago today, you came. They put you in my arms and I knew that Us was real. What I had was a person, and no one with a grasp on reality has ever walked around the supermarket with a head of lettuce and referred to themselves as Us.

But it was then that I knew that while the term “us” applied – there was, after all, we two – it fell short. Us implies mutuality, a balance. And kid, I shouldered it all. For the last two years, you have taken me for granted and known nothing but the motions of our day that I put in motion. You’ve floated in and out of sleep and wakefulness, always knowing that I was there like a carton of milk in the fridge or a box of graham crackers in the cupboard. I joked with my friends that I was your assistant, but the only thing that made my attempt at levity even somewhat humorous was the fact that I was not merely assisting. I was doing it all for Us.

Feeding.

Playing.

Kissing.

Driving.

Rocking.

Hugging.

Reading.

Disciplining.

Loving.

Loving so incredibly much.

I carried Us Both until my back and wrists and heart and brain hurt. It was hard and gorgeous, the most glorious honor I’ve ever had. I will continue to give myself to you in whatever capacity you’ll need me, always.

But still, there were days that I thought maybe a better pronoun should exist to describe what we were. A pronoun that indicated that one of the You’s of the Us didn’t even know life without the other You existed, a pronoun that nodded at the other You’s inability to shut the other out, even when she wanted to.

But our English language is clumsy enough.

Better just stick with the Us and hope that we find our balance without rewriting the dictionary.

And then, a couple days ago, we were playing outside next to our apartment building. I sat down on the hill and watched you toss stones into a ditch. You glanced over at me and then started trundling up the hill with your strong little legs, putting your game on pause for a moment.

You sat down next to me and folded your legs to make them look like mine. And then you said something.

“Mommy. Cee. Us.”

My little two-year-old girl, you will never know what those words mean to me. You are my Us, and I am so grateful that I am yours. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known and I cannot wait for all we have in store.

Happy Birthday,

Mommy

candles

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82 comments

  1. Hey a very happy birthday to your little one :) Loads of love and luck…

  2. Aw, *sniff*…

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY CEE!

    1. Thank you! She had the awesomest day!

  3. This post brought smiles and little sorrows with it. I was constantly smiling while reading your post.
    This essence, this spirit what we call “motherhood”.
    I live with four other siblings of mine and my brother being a teenager frequently misbehaves with my mother. Sometimes I ask my mom that how she bares his attitude and still behaves so lovingly with him?
    Your post gave me the answer.
    Happy Birthday to Baby Cee and I wish the best for your US’s future.
    Cheers :)
    Mariyaah.

    1. Thank you, Mariyaah! Yep, parenthood requires you to dip into storehouses of patience that you didn’t even know you possessed.

  4. Happy birthday, I have to say that this is the most beautiful piece, so touching and well composed. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you! It was a pleasure to write it :)

  5. Feliz cumpleanos, Senorita Cee!

    1. She had an awesome day filled with copious amounts of sugar!

  6. Teresa Pate · · Reply

    Love that mommy and little angel so much…..Mom

  7. This was amazingly written and beautifully captured the “us” of parenthood. Happy birthday to Cee and to the beauty of your us.

    1. Thanks, Shoes! She had a great day defacing some of her birthday gifts with a Sharpie ;)

  8. Awww! Thanks for the tears this morning. Beautiful piece, and a very Happy birthday to Cee.

    1. Don’t worry, I cried a lot when I was writing it too. *Passes the Kleenex.*

  9. Twindaddy · · Reply

    Em, the love you have for Cee, and the way you express it with words, is absolutely beautiful. Happy birthday, Wee Cee!

    1. Thanks, TD. She really brings out the best in me. (As does cake.)

      1. Twindaddy · · Reply

        Duh. Cake is awesome.

        1. I may be eating some at this very moment.

          1. Twindaddy · · Reply

            I’m jealous.

  10. This is such a sweet birthday message!

    1. Thank you! I don’t normally write a lot of (serious) “open letter”-style posts but I felt like it was fitting on this occasion.

      1. There is definitely a time and a place for them. You nailed it :-)

  11. What a sweet letter. Happy birthday to your mini. The moments when it is just “I” are so far and few between. It’s so much work. And some days I feel so tired from it all. I do it all for them, though, and in these moments, I often find that my kiddos have a lot to teach me about who I am and who I want to be. I try to be patient by understanding how they experience each day, and then I realize that it may seem like I am doing all the work, but my kiddos are doing a lot of the teaching.

    1. Amen to that. It’s kind of a cliche, but my daughter has taught me more about myself than probably any other teacher I’ve ever had.

  12. Thanks a lot for ruining my writing day with this perfect, beautiful ode to motherhood! I am currently trying to explore what the mother/daughter bond has meant to me both as a mother and a daughter. You describe so perfectly the burdens and the joys and the feeling that none of it is optional. I loved it.

    1. Thank you! I am endlessly fascinated with this relationship that I have with my daughter and I find it really inspiring in its frustrations.

  13. This was sheer and utter beauty. Just like Cee. Just like you. I was smiling all the way through it. Happy Birthday Cee!!! And Happy Us Day to you!

    1. Thank you! It was a great day and there is still cake in the fridge ;D

  14. It’s crazy,it’s wildly out of balance, it’s heartbreaking and heart making… it’s motherhood! I can’t believe that sweet baby is already two years old. I too cannot wait to see what else is in store for the Austins!

    1. As long as your pool is in store, I’d say the future looks bright! (I told C the other day that when we go to Memphis, she could come swimming. I apparently like to invite myself over.)

      1. It’s available honey1

  15. Awwww!! This melt even my cold Monday-encrusted heart!! Love it!

    1. “Monday encrusted heart” was the best thing I’ve read all day. ;D

  16. Happy birthday, Cee!
    You lucked out in teh Mom and Dad department.

    1. For some reason, she doesn’t agree when we make her stop eating chalk.

  17. Happy birthday, Cee! *sending bloggy hugs to all of y’all today*

    1. Thank you! Hugging right back!

  18. What a beautiful letter to your little girl! :)

  19. Beautiful! Hope the party was spectacular. :)

    1. It was awesome! If I ever find some spare moments I’ll write about it.

  20. Precious, precious, precious!

    1. Thank you! xoxoxo

  21. I can not believe little Cee is two already! I have been following your blog since before she came and I am amazed that two years have gone by already! You are in for so many more wonderful times!

    1. It’s totally crazy, right? I have so much respect for moms like you whose kids are grown. There are moments when I feel like the nostalgia for what she was like only a couple months ago will be the end of me ;)

  22. This is just perfect. My daughter turned two in January and I relate so much to what you’ve written. Happy birthday to your little girl!

    1. Thank you! I love that you can relate to it. It’s comforting to know that there is so much overlap in experience in the often solitary lives we have as parents. We’re all in this together ;)

  23. And I’m crying at work . . . yup.

    1. No worries. I do that a lot too ;D

  24. Oh, Emily. Crying my face off. In six weeks, part of my little Us will be turning two also. What a ride it has been. Happy birthday to little Cee from our “Us” to yours! Xoxo

    1. Thank you! One of these days we really need to get all our usses together ;D

  25. With 3 weeks to go till I meet the other half of my “us” that made me tear up more than a little bit.

    1. Congratulations! Enjoy it – you’re in the middle of a special time ;D

  26. This is amazing. *gets a bit teary* Happy birthday, Cee! :)

    1. Thank you, Sam. She had an awesome day.

  27. What a fabulous and beautiful post!! Happy Birthday, Cee! Wish you, your mom and dad, lots of magical fun! xox!

    1. Thank you, TJ! She had so much fun today!

  28. SO so SO sweet. Happy Birthday to your beautiful little girl!

    1. Thank you! She makes me all misty too.

  29. I admit, I wasn’t sure where this story was going. When I hit the end: waterworks. That was very cute and sweet! My fiance and I are trying for a baby and even if it takes me two years to hear something like that, it will be well worth the wait!

    1. It is toooooootally worth it. But if you need to see the other side of the coin, feel free to read through some of the posts I’ve written about her tantrums. ;)

  30. Damn you, made me teary. What an absolutely beautiful thing “us” is.

  31. Happy Birthday Cee!!! This was beautiful Emily. You did good x

  32. Awwwwwwww, Emily, what a sweet letter to Cee on her us-day. That’s such a lovely picture of the adorable birthday girl making her second birthday wish, “Please, please, please, let me have this cake all to myself.”

  33. What a beautiful letter. Brought tears to my eyes. As a mom of two little girls, I remember those times fondly. Every stage gets better and better and just when you think you can’t possibly love them anymore, you absolutely do. Happy birthday to her – and hat’s off to you for surviving the first two years! :)

  34. Awwwwwwwwwwwwww, happy birfday to the little chick! Cute story. I just said cute. Where am I right now? I feel dizzy.

    (No really, it was a really cute story)

    Dizzy again.

    1. Oh my god. I totally didn’t mean to rip off lame adventures just now. I feel kinda unoriginal at the moment..

      It was an awwwww moment though. Who can blame?

  35. Oh Emily! So beautiful and I had to choke back tears reading it. Those little moments are so incredible they take your breath away.

    Happy birthday Cee!

  36. This is the sweetest thing I’ve seen on WordPress as of yet :) so profound and so simple at the same time. Thank you for sharing!

  37. Happy Birthday Cee – I just love you to bits even though I’ve never met you – but your Mommy made me love you through her words.

  38. Gah, I’m so behind. But just wanted to say, beautiful post.

  39. Love how this all unfolded, complete with the unexpected pains that come from parenting (physical ones we may not have predicted), to the “U” in “us,” to the tears that filled my eyes when your daughter gave you a few simple words as a birthday gift. (Like the Hobbits, who give rather then receive.) Just beautiful. Thank you.

  40. […] or other topics such as Buzzfeed, her blog is the place to be. At the very same time, Emily can share pieces full of such heart-warming emotion, your eyes well up and you’ll feel as if you’ve known her for years. And, if […]

  41. This made me tear up, especially with an almost-two year old girl of my own. I love your writing!

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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