Twelve years ago today, I held her in my arms for the first time, terrified My first child had left this world too soon, SIDS taking him from me when he was 10 weeks old, making this beautiful girl – so fragile and small – seem smaller and more fragile than she really was. At first, each sound, every movement, and even the smallest cough made me tense up, afraid.
She was destined, that day, to be special. A second chance at motherhood, after begging and pleading my doctor four years earlier to please just perform a tubal ligation so I never ran the risk of experiencing the level of pain and loss I did when my son died. And even just days old, she became one of my greatest teachers: she taught me how to be a mother again, to again allow myself to love unconditionally, to let go of all the fears that I held deep inside of me, and, most importantly, she taught me to live again, to exhale.
Those lessons didn’t end as she grew. And now, in her twelfth year, I realize this is the year she has taught me the most.
She has taught me that when people really hurt you, you don’t have to put yourself in that position to be hurt again, and it’s ok to cut the toxic people out of your life.
She has taught me how to be brave during an unfamiliar situation, find its joy, and to shine.
She has taught me that when facing unknowns, it’s ok to be a little nervous and scared, but to not let the unknowns stop you from trying.
She has taught me to accept myself as I am – mistakes, faults, and all — because what I am is special, like her.
She taught me to stand up for little things, because those little things are big things to someone.
And she has taught me to put painful experiences behind me, no matter how difficult, because unless you do, you stay in a type of prison of your own making.
And through her, or because of her, despite any situational ups and downs that life throws us all, I have experienced pure love and pure joy.
This year has been an exciting one for my daughter, filled with a few ups and downs. She found a school environment that really fits her, and she absorbed as much as she could this past year, leading to being nominated by her teacher to attend youth legislature, making honor roll, and completely kicking ass on her iLEAP tests.
She met a new group of friends that love her and accept her as she is. She had sleepovers that didn’t end up in me picking her up in the middle of the night. She diplomatically handled the battles that sometimes happen in a circle of friends. She stood up for those she felt were being bullied or ignored.
She studied those things she loved: Egypt, mythology, art, animals, book, writing, drawing, comics, Pokemon, and game programming. She kept notebooks with all of the new information she had absorbed, contrasting and comparing, and even writing her own version of the research paper. Not because she had to or because it was assigned, but because she wanted to, because she loves learning.
She dreamed big – whether it was a job as an archeologist or a historian or opening her own animal shelter – and she dreamed with confidence, not wondering if she could do it, but when and how she would do it.
She showed kindness to those that were not always kind to her.
And then there was Emily Gras, the Irish Channel parade, and everything in between, where others were lucky enough to experience with her and from her what I am so fortunate enough to experience every single day.
As she turns twelve today, she prepares for math camp, 7th grade, and a whole new set of possibilities. I am confident, though, she will handle them all with the care and grace she has handled everything else she has experienced in her life – that’s just her way.
I am in awe of the person she has become, and continues to evolve into, and I know that no matter what challenges we have faced, she will be just fine. That’s also her way.
Happy Birthday, Emily. You are so loved.