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Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers,
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.
You turn five today.
Five years ago, at 8:07AM, after driving through wind and snow, after being laid down on a table and being cut open, after facing an army swathed in hospital blue and feeling as though a steamroller was placed directly on my lungs and chest, you were born.
I knew exactly what your face would look like, so when I saw you for the first time, I knew immediately it was you. In the back of my mind, I remember thinking that perhaps they kept a stockpile of babies in the scrub room of the OR, and instead of being pulled from my body, they merely went back, picked the one that looked closest to the parents in the OR, and presented it to them.
Of course, I know this was merely the wild thought of a woman deranged and high on morphine and spinal anesthesia.
I wish I had a more exciting story to tell you; I wish I could say that my water broke in the movie theatre or at a holiday party, or someplace exotic. I wish I'd known what real labor was like- but your shoulders were too wide to allow you to descend properly, and thus your head never engaged, and thus my body didn't know you were ready to be born. Thirty years ago, this might have caused me never to be able to have other children. Fifty years ago, we might have survived, but only after a month in the hospital. A hundred years ago or more and we'd be lying together in the churchyard.
Today you turned five, and received a new dress and three Barbies and a big girl bike, complete with training wheels and a matching Barbie princess bike helmet. You squealed with delight at the mess we made of the dining room, festooning the ceiling with pink and purple crepe paper strung from the ersatz chandelier. We followed old traditions- I made a huge family breakfast and we all gathered for the express purpose of celebrating your birthday. I've done this every year since your 2nd birthday and plan to make it a yearly event, no matter where we are. I always make quiche and banana bread, and you always get a balloon on your birthday. This year, we added a new tradition: you had a dozen pink roses on the table, fit for a princess and presented to you by your family. The poinsettia and wreaths were banished to the living room. This might be Christmas morning, but today is your birthday and we make a point to celebrate it every year.
You might ask us one day why we chose to have you on Christmas Eve. I don't know why exactly; I remember the day before you were born as one of frustration and fright, as having a c-section was the last thing on my mind when I learned I was pregnant. I know now that without it, we might have both been fine, but we might have both had incredible complications. I do remember that your Dad and I talked about it at length, and simply asked the doctor if she'd be available to deliver you the next day. It happened to be Christmas Eve; the decision wouldn't have been any different had it been any other Tuesday in any other month. We were tired and anxious to meet you.
This year, your transition from baby to girl was complete. You are completely night-trained, so no more Pull-Ups or Lil Swimmers diapers, ever, at all. Your vocabulary and pronunciation is approaching that of children twice your age; and your inflections and -isms are gleaned from waaaaay too much Nickelodeon and Disney. You love Spongebob SquarePants (and no I don't care that you watch it, you're too young to pickup on many of the adult references- you just think the worst thing SpongeBob says is "barnacles!") You now know how to read and write your name, and are picking up how to write various letters and numbers. Your fine motor skills are improving.
The biggest change (beyond what was probably a four inch growth spurt over the year, good Lord, Girl, are you tall), is that you have started to ask questions beyond how to do things or request things. You are questioning everything- and when we ask you questions, we enter a fantastic realm of answers, from the sublime to the ridiculous. You have definite favorites (short sleeves, dresses, Curious George) and definite dislikes (long sleeves, vegetables, being excluded from anything that grownups are doing). Some things remain ever-constant (you still beg to sleep between me and your daddy, you still love to wake up by me rubbing your back and singing softly, you still fuss when it's bedtime), but some things have changed. You are more independent and more stubborn than ever; you are less likely to ask for help (for better or worse). You give wonderful hugs and become, to borrow a phrase from Carrie, positively bereft when your daddy leaves the house in a rush and forgets to kiss you goodbye. You greet me with hugs and a cry of "MOMMY!" when I come through the door after school, and you know that's exactly what I need after a long day of class.
You are my greatest pride and hardest work.
I wonder how you will remember this, your fifth birthday. There will be no doubt that you will remember it for yourself, because four is still a bit hazy, but five is usually a fairly clear first-hand memory. I hope you will remember that your grandparents drove through an ice storm and were delayed 18 hours in Wisconsin to get here for you. I hope you remember that your aunties and other grandmother were here as well. Mostly, I hope you remember that we tried very hard to make this a good memory, a momentous occasion. When we ask you how old you are now, you say "Five!" and hold out a whole hand. You are a handful, indeed, my girl...but you are my handful, and though I still don't always know what I'm doing as a mom, I know that you'll do your best not to let me screw you up too badly.
The thing about you is that you not only believe you can conquer the world, but you believe you've already done so and are just waiting for your subjects to fall in line with the idea. You are a warrior princess, poised and ready to cry out in battle, charging forward astride your trusty pink steed. Next year you will conquer kindergarten, reading, and hopefully, swimming. It's been a great ride being your mom, and I can't wait to see where our adventure takes us next.
I love you, sweet Girl. Happy Fifth Birthday.
Edited to add: Once again, I'm humbled and honored. Thanks to the panel.