Happy 1st Birthday, Samantha Alyse Madigan

Dear Samantha,

Today you’re one year old. Congratulations! I thought I’d take this chance to look back on your road leading up to this milestone. I don’t think you can read this yet, but maybe someday you will and there are a number of people out there on the Internet who have been reading about you these last 12+ months (back when people actually used to read the Internet).

You are, I think, the best decision that your mother and I have ever made. We waited a while, but eventually decided that there would never be a perfect time and that we should make us one of those babies we kept hearing about. For a while, that was the most enjoyable part.

Your mom’s pregnancy was blessedly uneventful, with no serious complications and only the unavoidable discomforts like having her left foot swell while her right stayed the same. Thanks for that, by the way. The only ugly spot was when the foul-mouthed Ultrasound technician asked if she had given us “a picture of the baby’s twat”. Being the overeducated kind of obsessive people we are, we read a ton of books about what you were up to during these months. We learned the lingo, watched the videos, bought the products, and went to the classes. We rolled our eyes when other people didn’t know how long breast milk would keep in the freezer or how dilated your mom needed to be before getting an epidural. We even hired men with power tools to build you a place to live.

All that didn’t really prepare us when the day finally came. You were a week early, for one thing. I was sitting at the computer early one Saturday morning and looked up to see your Mom in the doorway. When she announced that her water had just broken, I kind of flipped out. But she was calm. We packed, made our way to the hospital, and got the news that we wouldn’t be going home until we were a whole family. That took a while, though, because you were reticent to join us outside the uterus. Your mother had to push for six straight hours before you’d had enough. It was like she was frickin’ Hercules, if Hercules was a sweaty woman giving birth. We think we narrowly avoided a c-section, but the doctor stuck this sucker thingie on your noggin and pulled you outa there.

When I met you, I was amazed and overcome with love.

The thing that really got to me was how human the look on your face was. I expected you to be a little blob, not quite a person yet. But you were wide-eyed, surprised and a little pissed off –with good reason! As I held you, you looked right in my eyes and yelled at me, as if to say “You there! What’s is going on here? Put me back at once!”

Sam, your first few days were a little rough, with a bout of jaundice and a little trouble with nursing. But your mom, hero that she was, stayed patient and kept at it. For a few days we had to feed you expressed breast milk through a syringe. But you go the hang of it and we all three learned as we went.

Grandma and Grandpa Sommer couldn’t wait to visit you, and we made it to Tulsa eventually so you could meet Nana and Grandpa Madigan. I think the only thread of sadness woven through your story so far is that you’re so far from the rest of your family, who live halfway across the country. Still, you got to visit most of them several times so far, and we were glad to have the help when we can get it. I think, though, that you’ve been easy on us. You were fussy initially and we developed a deep bag of tricks to calm you, but the long grind of sleepless nights that we initially braced ourselves for only lasted a few weeks. After we stopped committing the error of waking you up, you actually started sleeping through the night at eight weeks!

Getting you to nap during the day, however, was much more of a challenge. That took a lot more patience and a lot more letting you cry it out for a few minutes. Even then, you’d sometimes only sleep for 15 or 20 minutes. The result was that you were cranky early and often. Eventually, though, the work paid off and you were on a regular nap schedule –twice a day for an hour to an hour and a half each time.

In fact, a lot of our energy –yours, mine, and your mom’s– went into getting the basics down. Sleep was important, but you also had to learn how to eat, raise your head up, roll over, calm yourself down when you were upset, and poop. Oh, the poop. It’s amazing that such basic abilities have to be learned and developed, but we were totally into it, even the poop. We celebrated every milestone and cheered you along as you explored the world. And we’re not about to stop.

Now, Samantha, that’s not to say that there haven’t been a few inconveniences along the way. We’re Baby People now, and that means that we don’t see many movies in the theater and sometimes when we would try to go out to eat you’d throw a fit. Every conversation we have with adults eventually turns to babies, and our house has been decorated with safety gates, toys, and baby-related supplies. Somewhere along the way (I think around the time you started napping well), though, you developed a tolerance for our nonsense and started putting up with it. We could do things like take you up to L.A. for visit an amusement park or even fly with you to St. Louis and then drive to Tulsa. A lot of people have commented on how good-natured and mild-tempered you are, and we have to concur. Thank God and thank you.

Eventually we moved on to Life for Advanced Users and you tackled things like solid foods, rolling over, the unfortunate event with the baby sitter, sitting up on your own, cosplay, and even pulling up. Unfortunately you also decided to see what being sick was like, which once resulted in a very awful trip to the Emergency Room. Don’t worry, though. You survived.

This is starting to get kind of long, so I’ll wrap it up. Sam, when I think back on those first few months with the benefit of hindsight, I realize that it was largely about me. It kind of shames me to say that and I assure you that I loved you and would have died to keep you safe and happy, but in the beginning it was less about you and more about my instincts to be a good father. It was like you were a little game, with the objective being to keep you healthy, happy, and comfortable. Make sure you nursed, make sure you were clean, make sure you got enough sleep, make sure you weren’t ill, make sure you weren’t too warm, make sure you weren’t too cold, make sure you were safe. It was a game I played with all my heart, but I overlooked you as a person and focussed on you as a part of the system and sometimes just saw you as a squirming little game piece on the board of life.

That changed, though. As the weeks and months went by you got the hang of this life thing and I got to know you as a person. We started to gel. You started smiling at me when I came into the room and I started to miss you when I was away. Not the game or the sense of accomplishment that came with playing it well, but you. Lately when I come home from work you’ve been listening for the sound of the garage door and you’re usually at the kitchen gate waiting for me when I come in the door. You smile and maybe laugh, and I do the same. The couple of hours that I get to play with you each night are the best part of my week, eclipsed only by the additional time we get to spend together on the weekends.

Samantha, you have a great life ahead of you, and I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to hold your hand through this first year of it. You’ve changed me, challenged me, and won me over. You’re awesome.



Published by

5 thoughts on “Happy 1st Birthday, Samantha Alyse Madigan

  1. Dude. What is a hormonal, 2nd time mom to do but get wheepy (I’m holding Henry as I type….that has to make it worse)?! Nice job!

  2. Awwww, very sweet! …Although I could have done without you referring to my pregnancy as getting “knocked up!”

  3. Sorry, Marla. Didn’t mean to make you cry. 🙂
    And thanks, Zero Boss! I actually found your site a couple of weeks back and have been following it as well.

  4. Second time I read this and viewed all the darling photos, many of which have found a little nich on the TV (really getting loaded). I agree with Gerealyn’s comment, but maybe only a woman would understand this. Lovely letter, though, good writer. Why don’t you try your hand at something more!

Comments are closed.