No way! I can’t really be the mother of a five-year-old, can I? It can’t possibly have been five years since I walked into the hospital to see my midwife and walked back out six hours later with a baby. A tiny six pound six ounce baby who arrived not 30 minutes after we parked at the hospital.
When I got back into the car for the ride home later that day, I was physically sore and exhausted, but mostly I remember how surreal everything seemed. My entire world had just changed forever, and I felt shell shocked. What was I supposed to do with this tiny little being, completely dependent on me for her entire existence? How on earth did they just send me on my way – no final exam, no instruction manual, just a hug and warm congratulations.
Well, obviously we survived. We survived the cluster feedings and a baby who never ever took a bottle. We survived the coughs and colds I was positive were signs of some terrible disease that would carry her off in the middle of the night. We survived alternating periods of wonder at the miracle of life, and panic that I couldn’t possibly do a good enough job at this parenting thing. We survived the nights when she just. wouldn’t. stop. screaming. and I shouted at her to shut up. (I’m still sorry about that, sweetie, but after two hours of non-stop yelling we were both exhausted.)
We survived all the late night feedings, the spitting up, and the never ending poop. We survived the time I fell asleep and she rolled off the nursing pillow onto the bed. I stayed awake all night watching her breathe in case I’d given her brain damage (I hadn’t).
We survived night weaning. We survived the arrival of another baby (AKA the competition) and the growing pains that came with that. We survived potty training and the messes on the floor. We survived the first day of preschool and all the mornings after that when she didn’t see why she needed to wear clothes to school. We even survived the “why?” phase, though there were days I wasn’t sure my sanity would survive too.
This little girl challenges me every day. She challenges my patience, my parenting, my ability to problem solve, and she challenges me to grow, to be better, to be worthy of the perfect love and perfect trust she has placed in me.
Today I picked up a gangly five-year-old (five!) for the first time and held her in my arms. She wrapped her arms and legs around me like a monkey and grinned from ear to ear. A far cry from the itty-bitty newborn I held in my arms, rocked back and forth for seemingly hours, and nursed so peacefully. Most of the time it’s almost impossible to see the infant in my child. She’s not a baby, not a toddler, not really a preschooler either. She’s a rock ’em, sock ’em, rough and tumble kid, always pushing her boundaries (and mine).
Five years ago I hadn’t the foggiest idea where we’d be now or how we’d get there. I was stunned at the idea that I was now responsible for keeping another human being alive. Five years later and I’m still reeling, but in a different way. From one microscopic fertilized cell, I grew this joyful and spirited child with a personality too big for her five-year-old body and brain. Sometimes I am simply awestruck by how blessed I am to have this little being in my care. Sometimes I am overcome with the realization again that she belongs to us, dreamed of and made out of love. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I can possibly contain the love that fills my heart. Happy birthday to you and happy birthday to me too.