Lat week was Ruthie's birthday. Her fifth. To me, that seems like a huge milestone. Every birthday, I think back to the day she was born (as I assume all mothers do.) And I relive moments of that day again and again. And inevitably I cry. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. This year, I felt this strong pull to take the girls up to the NICU that day. That's where her story began, and I wanted the people who were such a vital part of her beginning to celebrate and share in our joy. We brought them cookies, and we brought them brownies and we brought them some pretty big smiles. I'm pretty sure seeing the grinning faces of "their babies" makes their day each and every time someone comes back to visit. We visit there a few times a year, but this is the first time I've felt a compelling need to be there on a certain day. All the way over, my eyes were filling with tears. It wasn't even a specific thought or memory that was striking me. It was just the whole emotion of it. Remembering how small she was, how scared we were, how sad we were that we couldn't bring her home, yet how happy we were that she was alive. And to look at her now, I am constantly reminded that she is a complete miracle. I can never express the enormity of my gratitude for the NICU staff for saving my babies, and for the fact that they were born when they were. In a time when saving a baby who could fit in the palm of your hand isn't an impossibility. I promised myself I would write a letter to my girls on their birthdays every year. Hasn't. happened. yet. So here we go...a week late, but true as ever.
I cannot believe it has been five whole years since you came into our lives. Then, it was still the first half of the decade. Now it's nearly the end of the decade. Five years. It's not fifty. But it's a milestone to me. I remember looking at you and feeling such an overwhelming sense of love for you, and an overwhelming sense of sadness. It was so difficult to look at you and wonder, first, if you were going to live. Then to wonder if you'd ever be able to run and play, talk and sing like a little girl should. My worries were for naught, because you are five now, and you are just like every other five year old I know. You are amazed at the world around you, and you are so eager to learn all that you can. You are curious, you are sweet, you are loving. You are also so very feisty and stubborn when you want to be. As infuriating as this is, I try to stop and remind myself that were it not for this spunk, you might not have had the strength to get yourself out of a rough spot. You might have had a harder time. Or you might not have made it at all.
Moms I know, who had their babies "when they were supposed to", and who took them home a few days later, often remark on how awful it must have been for us. I'll never deny it. It was awful. Every day of it. Leaving you every night never got easier. In fact, as we got to know you, it became even harder. But it was worth every bit of heartache, because look at you now. You are all a five year old should be. You love to dance, you love to sing. You love to play with your little sister. And you love to torment her too. You love to build things, and you love to figure things out. You write your name like a pro. And you find letters everywhere you go. You are full of questions. You love to pretend. Sometimes you are a princess, or a ballerina. Or a builder. Or a mommy yourself, tucking your baby dolls in for the night, telling them that you love them. And you love to tell me that you love me. And each time you do, I know that it doesn't matter how hard the beginning was. It only makes me realize more how lucky I am today. I love you baby girl. More than you even know.