Gigi Ofelia Almanza – the sudden and unexpected occasion of your birth will forever be cherished by we, your loving parents, as a day that brought not one but many blessings to our world. And what a world you enter. It is fraught with dangers and challenges that you must face with confidence and perseverance. Your mother, brother and I will do much to help you navigate your world, but you must always be prepared to take matters in hand and muster strength aplenty to overcome and thrive. For this indeed is your world, and I am proud to write to you, my dear child, of the tremendous will you displayed on October 4, 2017, particularly at 4:47 p.m. If this day is indication of the manner in which you overcome trials in the future, then you are well suited to begin handling your world.

But let’s not be too hasty with praise. You certainly did much, and we’re grateful, but you have your mother to thank for enduring more than 28 hours of labor to ensure your birth. And she did it more than seven days before you were expected to arrive. That’s right: surprise! You showed up early. This is an admirable quality, one your father does not possess as he’s afflicted with chronic lateness, give-or-take 20 minutes. You were supposed to be delivered via scheduled cesarean section on October 9, but you had your own plans. I should mention that your mother was absolutely thrilled to perform a vaginal birth after cesarean. It was the one wish she had for your birthday, and you gave it to her. In this, I already see your grace.

I should also mention that your mother is the strongest woman I know. She is absolutely beautiful and she creates beauty through her craft, through settings and images and, especially, through her children. You’ll learn much from her regarding beauty, bravery and fierce determination. And your first lessons came on your birthday.

The other women who stood by you this day displayed qualities I hope you embrace. Your mother’s doctor, Joann Samora-Mata, wrapped her arms around you while you were still inside mom’s belly and reassured us all that you would arrive safely and without surgery. This is compassion. Your mother’s nurses, Caitlyn and Caitlyn (yes, two Caitlyns) did everything and more to guide your progress, comfort mom during labor with kindness and humor and made certain her wish of delivering you safely was fulfilled. This is generosity. Your pediatrician, Maria Rossell, checked in on you a few times after you were born and asked that the hospital investigate a small patch of hair on your lower spine, as it may be a sign of spina bifida. She called us immediately after reading the test results to inform us that your spine is normal, and then she scheduled your first check-up the day after you were discharged. This is dedication. Both of your grandmothers rushed to see you after you were born and cried tears of absolute joy when they held you. Hold you, that's all they had to do. They met you for one second and pledged undying devotion to you. This is love.

Regarding the challenging world I mentioned, while I expect you to face it your own way, as you did on your birthday, I also advise you to look to the women around you who can and will help you stand taller. You will continue to meet compassionate, generous, dedicated and loving women in the world, and they will help you be a more compassionate, generous, dedicated and loving woman. But more than all, your independence and confidence will guide all your qualities to be the wonderful person I know you will be, and that’s all your father can ever hope for you.

Happy birthday, my wonderful daughter.