By Dana Gornall
I remember your very first birthday.
You woke me in the middle of the darkest part of the night, nudging me gently and signaling that it was soon time for you to be born.
Lying awake, eyes fixed at the ceiling in the dim blue-gray light casting shadows that can only be seen by eyes that have been open long enough in the dark, I felt the beginnings of your coming. Dull aches turned into sharpness, which turned into longer and more intense clutching pangs that left me quiet and focused on what my body was doing.
And yet I still wondered if it was time.
I lay quietly listening to soft breathings of others sleeping in the house. It was intimate really, just you and me awake and waiting—waiting for when would be the time.
You took your time though, and we didn’t meet until the middle of the darkest part of the night the next day. I remember wondering how I would be able to love more, when my heart had already seemed to have gone beyond it’s capacity.
I soon found there was no limit and love could overfill every piece of my heart.
I remember how we struggled with nursing. What seemed like something I had a handle on before, now with you seemed awkward and unfamiliar again and I worried you wouldn’t be able. In just a few weeks, though we found our way and my nights were dotted and broken with wake and sleep, and sitting in a rocking chair in the middle of the darkest part of the night.
I remember how you learned how to crawl so quickly and then how you pulled yourself up and took your first steps before I could stop you. Always adventurous and practically fearless, you were ready to do things on your own before I was ready to let you.
You brought giggles into my home and life. Tender tiny hands, and an ever-nurturing soul—you have always seemed to make other people light up when they see you or are around you.
You have so many different sides of the person you are.
I love your tenacious spirit. The little girl that stomped her feet in protest after being asked to put away the the tiny chair you had dragged out in the middle of the room. You pitched a temper tantrum, picking it up and throwing it in defiance.
The child that pulled aside a preschool boy and convinced him to sit along side you smashing play dough and chatting about fairies while all of the other boys were fighting dragons and swinging imaginary swords. The baby girl who colored pictures for me and brought me a cool washcloth when I was confined to bed after a nasty bout of the flu. These are all just parts and moments, but they are a highlight reel that flickers and jumps and tells the world who you are in small ways.
I love your silliness, your energy and the way you sing at the top of your lungs when you don’t care if anyone can hear or whether or not you hit the right notes. I love that you get tears in your eyes just like me when we watch sad movies and I love that when you were little you had at least 14 stuffed animal dogs and named every single one of them Solo.
Last night I watched you dancing with your friends and it left me in this puddle of joy and sadness, fear and pride—a dissonant medley of sorts. You are growing so fast and so beautifully that all I can do sometimes is just sit back in wonderment.
You are 13 years old today—on the cusp of no longer being a kid and yet not quite anywhere near an adult.
There are so many unforeseeable things to come and my heart quickens at the thought of them. You will feel so many things.
These next few years are the beginning of both upheaval and change and sometimes they will come so fast you will hardly have a moment to catch your breath. This will be confusing, at times. You may think no one understands you, really, and that you are the only one that feels so deeply. Know that this is just coming into who you are, and that can be oh so intense at times—and that it will pass.
You may at some point hurt someone and this will leave you feeling torn. Whom do you protect from the pain—yourself or them? The answer is that there is no way to protect, but you should always stay true to yourself and your own inner guide.
You may become broken yourself one day.
Know that this is okay and brokenness just means you will learn better how to heal yourself and reminds you that while hearts can be fragile, they can also grow strong.
Don’t ever be ashamed of the dents and cracks your soul will withstand throughout time. These cracks reflect the light that comes from the inside and makes you even more beautiful.
Finally, for now know that I am here for you when you need me, even when you think maybe you don’t. Know that it is okay to not want to need me or to push me away, at times. That is part of learning how to walk away from me and that is what you need to learn.
I know that your adventurous spirit can be fearless at times as it always has been. But also I want to tell you that my arms will always be ready and waiting when you need them, even during the darkest parts of the middle of the night.
Happy Birthday, baby girl.