Today is it. My daughter’s 3rd birthday. Like any normal person, I plan what the day would look like for us. I’d wake her up with a gentle whisper in her ear, “happy birthday, love.” Make her favorite breakfast, and let her choose the activities for the day. Plan a birthday party for the weekend so all her friends and family can celebrate it together. I’d make her a cake and have candles, possibly one with the number three. The party would be themed with her favorite character, animal or something else that she is really into at this moment in her life. Watch the joy on her face as she opens her gifts.
Every year, I spend the night before this day picturing what the day would be like for her. Then, I wake with remembrance of what this day really means: the beginning of a true nightmare and what the next few days mean.
Three years ago today, I woke up feeling better. I had spent New Years Eve of 2009 on the couch with back pain, convinced it was a pulled muscle from just moving into a new apartment. New Years day, I wanted to see my doctor, but the on call woman said unless I was in labor she wasn’t going to call him. I was convinced all I needed was a muscle relaxer. After only about 2 hours of sleep the next night, I woke up on January 3rd, 2010 feeling better. The pain seemed to have subsided. We headed off to church… a place where things would change forever. My water broke, we raced to the hospital. Rachel was born….at 25 weeks….not expected.
Did I get to witness her birth? Feel the joy of having a newborn placed on my chest? Nurse her those first moments of life? Did Ping get to experience the birth of his first child? No. No, no, and no. We missed out on all of that. Instead, we met her through a box. As I reached in to touch her hand, her tiny fingers tried to clench my finger back. Yet they were too small- they just made a fist. We read books to her…the few the NICU had at the time (now, they have them stocked in each isolate drawer.). That was all I could do on the day of her birth.
Three years later, I wake up from a dream that puts me in a good place, only to remember that I will never be able to live out the dream that I dream every year.