On December 30, 2000, my eldest daughter, Sabrina, was born. She came to us 5 1/2 weeks premature and via an emergency c-section after it was discovered that she was in a full breach position that a century ago would likely have resulted in both of us dying during her birth. Nurses were scrambling, doctors were shouting, my poor ex-husband was whiter than the bleached sheets covering the gurney. But in the midst of it, I knew she would be okay. I could just feel it.
After she was born, they said she would likely need to be incubated. They were wrong. They said she probably wouldn’t be able to nurse. They were wrong. They said she might suffer physical and/or developmental delays. They were wrong.
Instead, she ate and grew and ate and grew and ate some more. By her 6th month check-up, she was in the 50% for her weight and 90% percentile for her height. As the years passed, she struggled with some physical ailments from her prematurity, but nothing that ever held her back in any meaningful way. She welcomed the world with a smile and hug that could win over even the coldest-hearted, and her compassion and grace taught many adults the value of random kindness. Her teachers spoke of how she lit up a room and how gentle she was with the other children.
Parenthood is such an incredible journey, isn’t it? This very small person is bestowed upon you, to nurture and guide and raise to the best of your abilities. There is no owner’s manual, and all the advice books contradict each other. You’re basically winging it, every single day, hoping against hope that you manage to get it right more than you get it wrong. And all the while, you are witness to this person evolving and developing and growing into something indescribable in its complexity and uniqueness.
Sabrina has given me many, many sweet and thoughtful gifts through the years. Pottery that sits in the dining room breakfront. Handmade cards that are tucked away and cherished. Scrawled artwork adorning my office walls. But, as I tell her every time she has birthday, nothing can surpass the gift she gave me that morning in December. Because in that instant, when she emerged and screamed lustily, she gave me the gift of motherhood. Just moments before that, I was simply me as I’d always been. But moments after, I was mother, on a lifelong journey of caring and worrying and protecting.
Nothing in the world could have prepared me for any of it, least of all for all the things she has taught me in her 12 years on this earth. I have been alternately astounded by her wisdom and shocked by her most unfiltered words and behaviors. I have discovered a fierce protectiveness I never imagined when she has been threatened, and a fear beyond my wildest nightmares when she has been gravely ill. I have known my biggest successes and failures in this life in my role as her mother — nothing in the professional arena even begins to approach them.
In my spiritual book club, we briefly explored the concept that souls pick their parents — that they, from some other plane of existence, select which of us to be born through and experience life with. I am, of course, unable to say with any certainty whether this is true, but I find the idea humbling and awesome. For whatever divine plan brought Sabrina to me, one thing I do know is that her birth was a the greatest, life-changing gift I shall likely ever receive.
Happy Birthday, my darling daughter. Thank you for all you have taught me and for all you have given me. But most of all, thank you for making me a mother and for blessing me with the incredible opportunity to to be your mother. When you exited my body, you took a big chunk of my heart with you. I love you dearly.