Julia Michelle Baird was born on May 16, 2013 at Covenant Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. She weighed six pounds, five ounces and had a full head of brown hair. Julia’s life started with a bang as right after birth she was having difficulties breathing and was rushed to the NICU where doctors did their best to stabilize her. The next morning Julia was transported via ambulance to the NICU at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Four days after her birth, it was concluded via MRI images that Julia had at some point during labor and delivery not gotten enough blood, oxygen, and glucose causing severe global brain damage. The news was heartbreaking. However, that same day was joyous as it was the first time her mom and dad were able to hold her. Julia’s prognosis was grim. We were told she would never walk, talk, know who her parents were, basically that she’d be a vegetable her whole life. Although Julia remained non verbal and non mobile, she would go on to prove everyone wrong, defy odds, and show everyone just how smart, determined, and wonderful she was. Julia’s first few years of life consisted of many doctor appointments and hospital stays. Although it was sometimes difficult to navigate through her medical complexities, we worked hard to get Julia on the correct medications and gathered a great team of doctors. We learned how to care for her and how to change out a gtube, trach, and how to catheterize her. Julia went through a lot but even when she was very ill, she was always a trooper and smiled through it all. Around two months old Julia began in-home therapy through Grant Wood AEA with occupational, physical, vision, and development therapy. She also started physical therapy outside the home at the Center for Disabilities and Development. Through all of this, Julia’s personality began to shine and it was fun to watch her learn and grow and do adorable things. (Julia even got to star in a video made to educate and train occupational therapy students!) We quickly learned that Julia had a big personality full of smiles and laughter, love, silliness, and just the right amount of sass. Julia loved to socialize and was always happy to be the star of the show. When Julia was three years old she started preschool at Borlaug Elementary in Coralville, Iowa. She attended half days for four days a week and had a great first year of school. It was then that she learned how fun it was to ride on a school bus. The bouncier the ride the better! When Julia was four, she moved to North Liberty, Iowa and started school at North Bend Elementary where she continued to attend until her death. Julia had many wonderful teachers and paras who worked hard and were very passionate about teaching and caring for their students. Julia learned so many new things and amazed all of us at what she was able to do. She learned how to count, she learned her letters, and she learned how to use switches (very sensitive buttons) to communicate. It was always exciting to hear about Julia’s day at school, see the artwork she brought home, hear about the fun she had with her friends, and watch her participate in the school music concert. Julia made lots of friends and you can easily argue that she was the most popular kid in school. All the students at North Bend enjoyed being with Julia, pushing her in her stroller, playing with her at recess, and looked forward to seeing her every day. Julia loved everyone back and loved being at school. Not only did Julia flourish and grow through the help and education at school, she also made leaps and bounds at therapy as we switched to ChildServe in Coralville. Julia went to ChildServe for therapy three days a week after school for speech, occupational, and physical therapy. At speech she continued to work with her switches for communication, flooring her therapist at how much and how well she was able to communicate. It was clear Julia was very smart and had a lot to say. We were so excited about the advancements she was making and were working on a custom communication device for her. In occupational and physical therapy Julia continued to meet and set new goals. Her trunk and head control got better and better. She showed us how strong she was and that she was determined to let her strength shine through. Through the use of equipment and knowledge of her therapists, Julia got to sit, crawl, and even walk. It was a lot of hard work, often with much needed dance breaks, but Julia enjoyed being upright and learning to move her feet and legs. In the fall of 2021 Julia got to participate in Hipotherapy where she got to ride a horse! ChildServe works with Miracles in Motion in Swisher, Iowa where they use horse riding as a way to help with posture, trunk and head control, and many other things. Julia’s horse was named Jet and she particularly liked that she got to wear a really cool riding hat (aka a helmet)! It was amazing to watch Julia continue to develop and grow physically but it was also so fun to watch her create bonds with her therapists. Just like with her teachers and paras at school, Julia developed wonderful relationships with all those who worked with her on a daily and weekly basis. She loved them and they were some of her biggest cheerleaders. A girl with a big personality certainly had her favorite things. Julia loved music and anything musical. Any time she was upset her mom would start singing to her and Julia would calm down almost immediately. She loved all sorts of music and enjoyed toys that made music or just hearing singing from family and friends, at church, or at school. Therapy almost always involved music and Julia would smile especially big when her favorite songs were played. Julia loved being outdoors and going on walks. A favorite place to walk was Kent Park or all over the neighborhood as we often ran into friends from school. Julia also loved camping with her family. She loved being surrounded by her cousins, sitting by the fire at night, and her favorite was the sparklers on the fourth of July. Although we had to be very careful in the water because of her trach, Julia loved anything having to do with water. She loved swimming at the pool or beach and loved her bath time. Perhaps Julia’s biggest love of all was the movie Moana. When given the choice, Julia almost always chose to watch Moana. She knew all of the songs and was even Moana for Halloween one year. Her favorite song from the move was “You’re Welcome” and she would light up and giggle every time she heard it. Runner up movies were Trolls and Sing. All three movies were fun and of course, had lots and lots of great music and singing. Julia’s untimely and unexpected death was a dagger to the heart of everyone who knew her. Julia lived her life boldly and loved fiercely. She was smart and determined. Her smiles were big and could melt the coldest of hearts. She made a connection with everyone she knew and was loved beyond measure. It is with deep and heavy hearts that we mourn her death but we will always remember her smile, her giggle, and the way she lit up a room. We will never stop missing her and our hearts will never stop aching but we will always celebrate how wonderful and amazing she was. We now take comfort knowing that she is in God’s hands and able to move freely and without limitation. Here’s to you, baby girl, we love you and can’t wait until we can be with you again someday. Shine on! Julia was preceded in death by her paternal grandmother, Julie Baird, and is survived by her parents, step siblings, grandparents, and many aunts and uncles and cousins.