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In a few days on Mother’s Day, you will wake me up with your signature hugs and cuddles. You will give me cards and coffee in bed (I hope!). But the biggest gift has already been given – the gift of you.
Our love story began in Norway, the land of the midnight sun. You were born on a chilly afternoon while the leaves on the trees were exploding with colour; dancing in the wind in the late afternoon sun.
It was as if to set the scene for a life more colourful than I could have ever imagined. My soul melted when I held your tiny, warm body in my arms. You were, and are, perfect.
Like the best gifts, there’s often an element of surprise. And oh darling, how you surprised us! You came into this world with an extra chromosome, a detail that for a little while got too much attention.
Because, you see, that chromosome is not what makes you special. It is not your x-factor. What makes you special is the combination of everything that you are – your dreams, hopes, personality, strengths, heart, mind and soul. That is what makes you the person you are and my daughter.
And oh, what a daughter and sister and friend you are. You are the life of the party. The heart of the song. The zen in the chaos of everyday life.
You are divine. Easy going. Curious. Sunny. You see the best in yourself and the best in others. You celebrate the tiniest details, savour everyday moments like they are candy, and live wholeheartedly in every single moment.
I cannot explain how grateful I am to explore life with your hand in mine, or my hand in yours, as really, I’m not sure anymore who is teaching whom.
All I know is that we make one darn fine team – living our best life to our own tune, writing our life story in real time with colours I longed for, yet didn’t know how to paint with, before you came along.
As most parents will say, there is a me before you and a me after you.
And the me with you is the me I always wanted to be. It’s the me that follows my values and not my ego; that sees more clearly and notices a whole new palette of colours that makes life so much more interesting.
While you were working on finding your words, I was working on understanding just how powerful communication is outside the bounds of spoken language.
Understanding that your voice doesn’t need language, and that a roar of kindness is more powerful than one of fire, opened the door to freedom far beyond what I could ever have imagined.
This has also enriched my professional life, helping me shift from doing good work to working for good.
So Maia, while you are not defined by Trisomy 21, your extra chromosome does carry some significance. It is a part of the tapestry of things that make you into you, and it’s a part that has made me into myself.
You see, my darling girl, simply by being born you gave me the passport to a world I was yet to discover. And that is something I will forever be grateful for.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me your mum. For taking me on the ride of motherhood – the transformation that grows and changes, that unravels and rebuilds, the mightiest adventure that I am forever grateful I get to experience.
And what’s best, my girl, is that our adventure together has no limit. There is no box to put us in, no boundaries to keep us from living the life we want – because the rules don’t apply.
That doesn’t mean we won’t meet walls of steel, and like anyone we’ll stumble with heartache and heartbreak, but trust me – this is part of the human experience and it’s what we choose to do with it that matters.
And you and me, darling girl, we’ll roar with kindness and create our own playbook. There is so much freedom and opportunity when you throw away the guidebook the way you do, so naturally and confidently as if old maps don’t even exist.
It’s what I always wanted to do, and with you by my side, you help me find the courage to live freely, love deeply, our way.
Because that is how you’ve taught me to embrace life: As an opportunity. It is an opportunity to create the life that we want for ourselves and those around us. To find our real self. To be good to others. To make a positive difference.
To feel all the feels, to learn and laugh and cry. To see the good and the strengths in those around us. To choose community, to create it, to be it, to pay it forward and to live every single day with the knowledge that life is a gift.
And you, my darling girl, you and your little sister are my biggest gifts and passports to living the life that I always wanted: A big, bold and colourful family adventure off the beaten track, all carrying backpacks bursting with community, joy and meaning.
I am so proud of you, and I’m so proud of us as a family with your little sister and pappa.
I love you forever and ever.
Your mamma xx
Ingerlise Svaleng is a lucky mama to two beautiful girls, Maia and Lola. After 20 years in the corporate sector connecting the dots between positive psychology and leadership communication, she is now focusing her attention on doing good. Enter 21 GIFTS: A kindness project aimed at shifting the narrative surrounding a child diagnosis. Inspired by her daughter Maia, Ingerlise has built a network of more than 120 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand where dedicated healthcare professionals use her strengths-based conversation framework and symbolic suitcase to provide hope, joy and inspiration at time of diagnosis.
Follow Ingerlise on Instagram.
Picture credit: Suzanne Grayson @suzanne.was.here