I catch my breath when I catch her in profile, her dusky brown hair swinging in the sunlight, the chocolate of her eyes like saucers as she watches, then jumps, feet first, into her life.
This is my daughter. This is my firstborn. This is the first true love of my life.
Sometimes, I think she saved me.
With my daughter has come a certainty, a settled ideal of who I am in this world, a reason, a hope. A light in the darkness, a lighthouse lit for me alone, a beacon I could follow out of the chaos and shuttered isolation I had grown into. I may have stared dumbfounded at her in my arms, squirrely and angry after birth, but there was a switch triggered, a change. Perhaps it was small, and the earth didn’t shift as much as I felt it move. But my insides reordered, and my heart, before two sizes two stunted, began to beat and grow once more.
I know she saved me. I know that when I ate that bottle of pills, when I stared into the abyss I thought so black and empty, she stared back at me, Vivian and her sister, wordless but pointed. There was no more empty.
And now we’re here, and she’s 7 and sprouting out as girls are known to do, the slow but far too hurried process of turning to woman. She lengthens, her voice blossoms in depth, her eyes gain a soul only age can provide. Now we’re here and I feel myself scrambling for time, to stuff it back in a bag and be back at those harried terrifying months when she was just a new pure creature in my arms who smiled and eased my fears. We’re here and 13 is much too close and my usual joke of “You can do X when you bleed monthly.” isn’t so much as a joke as a threat to myself.
Your baby girl is growing up Momma, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
I worry, the common fears of motherhood. Am I doing it right? Am I raising a good, smart woman? Is she strong enough for this world? Can I protect her from this world while letting her fly off?
Last night I let her run back, out of sight, into the raspberry bushes on the trail behind the house, with a friend and her sister. I would hear the odd yelp and giggle and bubble of joy come through the trees, and I realized, bittersweet, that the ache in my chest and the bliss from her lungs, they were intertwined, and would be forever.
They really do take a little piece of your heart with them as they take that first breath.
Happy Birthday my sweet.