Six years ago today my life changed. My daughter Hannah was born, and I became someone’s mother.
It was a rather abrupt entry into motherhood, happening six weeks before it was expected to. Less than twelve hours after being jolted awake by my water breaking, and convincing myself I had just wet the bed, I had a baby.
It was very surreal at first. Hannah was in the NICU, and while I was able to visit her I couldn’t sit up for long periods of time following severe blood loss on my part. So I spent most of my time lying in my own hospital bed, resting, vaguely aware that I had a baby but not really living the reality. On my first night out of the hospital, when Hannah was four days old, Jon took me out to dinner. Neither of us were up to cooking, and we sat there in that White Spot and looked at the wristbands we were given to identify us as Hannah’s parents in the NICU.
We were marked. We were tired and overwhelmed and confused. But we didn’t yet feel like parents. And so I ate my chicken fingers and Caesar salad and pondered the largely academic reality of my daughter.
When Hannah was six days old, we brought her home. It was another sudden flurry of activity, much like her birth. They didn’t give us much advance warning that she was being released. I suspect they didn’t want to get our hopes up and then have to disappoint us. And on that day, again, in a haze of confusion my life changed.
That was 2185 days ago, now, and my life has continued changing every day since. Living with children is like that. They inhabit a world of change, where things simply cannot stay the same for very long at all. There is always a new peak to be climbed, a new depth to be plumbed, or a new nerve to be worn raw. There is always more and more and more of everything. So much more, that you think you can’t contain it, but you do. Until you don’t, and it spills everywhere, and other parents look at it knowingly.
In so many ways I am not the same person that I was on February 19, 2005. I am stronger and weaker. I am braver and more timid. I am gentler and more fierce. Motherhood has sharpened me in some ways, and softened me in others. It has denied me sleep and basic comforts. But it has also given me the world. And it is a world that is much bigger and richer and full of potential choking hazards than I could ever have imagined.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, as I waddled into the maternity ward the day that Hannah was born. And really, there was no way I could have. It wasn’t mine to know, then. It is only mine to discover and learn anew, every single day. Together with my husband and our children, I discover it.
Today, I mark another year gone. I do so in gratitude, to have shared this journey with my daughter. I do so in joy, to see the person that Hannah is becoming. I also do so in sadness, because it is another year I will never see again. Change, as I said, is constant with children. There is no getting back the countless moments from Hannah’s first six years, and no predicting what her seventh year will look like.
All that I know for sure is that today I am here, and my daughter is six, and I will celebrate the person that she is, and the person I am because of her. Happy birthday to my daughter, and happy birthday to the family that wouldn’t exist without her.