When the line turned blue on my home pregnancy test only six months after bringing our second child home from the hospital, I was not as thrilled as I had been the previous two times. To say I was a “little overwhelmed” with two children under two would be like saying Elmo is a “little annoying” or Caillou is a “little creepy.” My body was still exhausted from pregnancy, there were nights where I didn’t think I would ever sleep again, and my nerves had barely calmed from three excruciating months of colic. Another pregnancy so quickly was a mixed reality that I was not prepared to face. I trudged through my first few weeks of pregnancy with an unsettled mind, wondering how we could handle another child—both emotionally and financially.
But when my first ultrasound showed that my unexpected baby had “ceased to thrive” at 12 weeks gestation, I knew instantly that there was nothing in the world I wanted more than that child. I went through the D&C procedure with a heavy heart, mourning the loss of my pregnancy and chiding myself for not appreciating the gift I was given while it lasted. The sleepless nights would end, the finances would work themselves out; there was nothing that should have clouded the joy of anticipating another child. We had a beautiful little family, one boy and one girl. Our minds told us that should be enough but our hearts knew that our family wasn’t yet complete. Soon after our loss, we decided to quit worrying about the “shoulds” and the “what ifs” and follow our hearts; and I can’t imagine what our lives would be like had not chosen to do so. Within 6 months I was given another chance and I knew, despite all of the odds against us that it was meant to be.
Ainsley Quinn was born on
January 13, 2007, via Caesarian section. She arrived just two weeks shy of Brileigh’s second birthday. She weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 21 inches long with thick black curls, chubby cheeks, and a tiny heart-shaped mouth dotted above her chin. With her arrival came the amazing realization that she blended effortlessly into our hectic home, causing only slightly more work than a goldfish. She never cried and never fussed; she ate like a champ and slept like an angel. Finally! After two high-maintenance babies, the Newborn Gods awarded me an easy one. But the bliss was short lived. We coasted through her infancy, scrambling through our busy days while she played contently on her own between naps.
And then… she turned one.
I’m still not entirely sure that some foreign substance wasn’t slipped into her first birthday cake, because my sweet, docile baby changed into a toddler terror overnight. Whatever caused this transformation, my life has never been the same since. Stubborn, strong-willed, and fiercely independent, Ainsley wanted to discover the world on her own terms and was determined to mow over anyone who stood in her way. She wasn’t disobedient in the way that many small children are; she didn’t seek attention for her fits or go out of her way to butt heads. On the contrary, she preferred to stay under the radar like a ninja looking for the path of least resistance. While the other children got in my face to beg for a cookie and argue with my answer, Ainsley simply slipped behind the crowd and took one under the cover of their frenzy. She knew she could have three of them fully digested by the time the others ever stopped whining. Ainsley just wants to go about her life doing what she wants to do, and anyone who stands in her way (that would be me) must be obliterated. It’s nothing personal—I and the other obstructions are just necessary casualties of war as she climbs her way to the top.
Even as a young child, she has little patience for weakness or fear. When Tony drove his remote-controlled car through the house to terrorize his sisters, the other girls ran away shrieking and climbed onto chairs. Ainsley? She calmly walked up to the vehicle and punted it across the room. There, problem solved. Once, we were given a stash of commercial Halloween decorations, and we were concerned about what to do with the six-foot-tall, extremely realistic vampire. Surely we couldn’t keep it—it would be far too frightening for children. But when 2 year old Ainsley spotted it looming in the corner of our dark basement, she squealed with delight, named it “Richard,” and visited him daily for chats about unicorns and birthday cake.
Disciplining such a little ball of fire has proven more difficult than I had expected. Whining and tantrums I can handle; calm and calculated revenge plots I cannot. From the outset, I realized the key to handling Ainsley was to never let her win a battle of the wills. When I was wrong I acknowledged it, but when I was right I had to resist the temptation to give in. It was difficult, but when she pushed, I knew I needed to push back harder or she would ultimately mop the floor with me. Passive by nature, I was forced to become a little more stubborn to match the determination of my two-year-old tyrant in a tiara.
One afternoon, as nap time rolled around, Ainsley decided that she wouldn’t be observing the napping ritual that day. Each time I put her to her bed, she hopped up and walked right back out again. No tears, no yelling; just a glare with a hint of indignation. Determined to stand by my rules, I set up a baby gate across her door, one tall enough and complex enough that she couldn’t knock it down or scale it to freedom. At first it worked; Ainsley was shook enough that she let down her cool facade and threw the mother of all tantrums. Once the rages from her room grew silent, I was confident that I had won the battle and danced into the kitchen to make myself a victory lunch. There at the table sat Ainsley, patiently waiting and dangling her legs off the chair with a cup of water in her hand. Once assured that I was adequately astonished, she stood up and sauntered calmly back toward her bedroom. “I just needed a drink of water,” she said before she climbed back up the exit ramp of clothes, blankets, and pillows she had piled against the gate. Then, having made her point abundantly clear, she climbed into her bed and went to sleep.
Just when you think you have Ainsley figured out, she shows another side to her personality. This fierce, no-nonsense hellcat is also the sweetest, girliest, most imaginative child I have ever encountered. She is forever running through the house shrieking that a villain of some sort is hot on her heels. Then, just when you think she’s a gonner, she turns and defeats her pursuer (sans knight in shining armor) with nothing more than some melodramatic declaration of freedom—most often a quote from the newest Barbie movie. She emerges from her room several times a day dressed in a new and outrageous concoction of an outfit, colorful, sparkly and glamorous (that she picked out of course) stopping to pose and admire herself in the full length mirror before twirling around and announcing to everyone how pretty she is.
But the most glorious aspect of Ainsley’s personality is her infectious enthusiasm. When something makes her happy, no one in a ten block radius is left unaware of her delight. Her face lights up and she squeals and shrieks and shakes from head to toe, displaying appreciation so thick that it makes you want to give her everything you own. Her laughter is loud and sincere with a slightly insane trill that causes total strangers to stop and smile along with her, unsure whether they should be alarmed. She dances around and trembles like a puppy under her mop of curls, allowing herself to experience joy with an unapologetic freedom that adults can only wish for.
With Ainsley there are no secrets; she bravely wears her heart on her sleeve and the opinion of others are of little importance. When she is upset, she makes you pay dearly for your misdeeds; when she is happy, she lifts up anyone near her; and when she loves you, she reaches in and touches your soul. I accept that I must take a backseat to Ainsley’s will while she grows and evolves. But I never fear for her future because, while I am resigned to the fact that she will probably never do what I want her to do, I know that she will fight to the death for what she wants, stand firm for what she believes, and will never stop dreaming of what could be. With tenacity of heart and soul like that, I know she will never go wrong.