My baby girl turned four today (yesterday, if you're looking at the time). Motherhood is absolutely incredible, isn't it? I mean, the last moments before and the first moments after? Crystal clear. Things I will never EVER forget.
I could never have imagined ...
... that my last pre-motherhood meal would wind up being grilled cheese and french fries at the hospital cafeteria.
... that my baby would enter the world two weeks early. WHAT?
... the sound of my own mother's voice when I called her back to let her know that, yes, I WAS at the hospital.
... that my water would break while I was on the phone with one of my closest friends as I sat on the floor of my bedroom in my fairly new home, unpacking a box of random things.
Don't ask me where I was sitting for the rest of this discussion. Buy you want to know, don't you? On the potty. Before I called it that. To everyone. And their mothers. Could YOU ever imagine?
... what life would be like a few months after she was born. The crying. The colic. The reflux. The exhaustion. Have I mentioned the crying?
... that a hair dryer would be an essential item in my "keeping my baby calm" repertoire. And yes, I am quite serious. Never tried it? New moms, be prepared. You totally SHOULD. And WILL. And then you'll thank me. I promise.
... the years after.
The love, the intensity, the exhaustion, the emotions, the screaming, the laughing, the amazing things she says and does ... the way her smile lights up a room, the way she laughs and makes me do whatever it was I did that made her laugh *again* ... even the way she bosses people around, in a sweet and nice way. Or not. Her sassy side. And then some. The way she sings. The way she dances. The way she moves with abandonment no matter where she is or what she is wearing. How she pairs stripes with polka dots, blocks with trucks and fairies with dreidels. How she saved branches from our Christmas tree, points out stop signs and white trucks and pretend barks at motorcycles because our dog does. The way she calls our cats "buddy" and "sweetie" ... the way she pets them and makes sweet sounds to them as she calls them to her. The way she talks about how she has four cats but used to have six and two are in Kitty Cat Hea"b"en. The way she knows that my Nana is in heaven, too. And that her uncle is my little brother. And how we go up to New York and up more to Maine, and Meme and Papa are down in Florida right now and coming up to North Carolina when they come for her birthday.
And then ... then I could never have imagined that as her fourth birthday came to a close my daughter would break my heart just a little bit.
Let me back up a moment. She said goodnight to my mom and told her she wanted to go back to her bed so my dad could have somewhere to sleep. She wanted me. Then when I tried to lay down with her she reminded me that "I can go to sleep by myself because I'm four."
OK. I could handle that. "Okay," I told her. "Do you want mommy to tuck you in?" As I sat down beside her she turned towards the wall. She was crying. "Honey? Are you okay? Why are you crying?"
"I don't know."
"Do you want mommy to stay with you?" Nods and more tears. "Okay, baby, mommy will stay with you." More crying. Sobbing. "What's wrong, honey? Are you sad?" Nodding. Sobbing. "Why are you sad?"
"I don't know."
"Okay, honey. It's okay." Hugging. Sobbing. Hugging again.
"I'm sad because I don't have a card."
Then the whole world shifted.
I know I'm supposed to stop here. I know I'm supposed to use this as my ending. But I can't. I need to explain HOW she broke my heart tonight. On the night of her fourth birthday. As the beautiful day came to a close.
She cried because my husband and I did not give her her birthday card today. On her special day. We got a cake for her. We sang to her. We gave her some little presents (it was late, but her big present will be hers tomorrow) and then it was time for bed.
And out of nowhere she recognized that she got a card in the mail from her Meme and Papa. And Nana and Zeide gave her a card this morning. And Mommy and Daddy, well, we ... we did not.
And that, in that moment? Tore out my heart, shattered it and broke it to pieces.
Amazing, isn't it? She's only four. I barely remembered myself that we hadn't given it to her, but she knew. She realized. So I ran downstairs, left her sobbing in her bed and filled out her card. So rushed I left off one of the cats' names. I got her a pen and she wrote Angel on there for me. And then decided that I 'forgot to write that I forgot to give her the card,' so she wrote it. Herself. Sort of. And lastly, she said that I forgot to write that she is four. So I told her we'll do that tomorrow.
And she fell asleep, holding my hand, with the card in her other hand, laying close to her chest. I should have taken a picture, but I didn't want to disturb her slumber. And besides, it'll be in my heart and mind forever.
This post was written in conjunction with The Red Dress Club's prompt this week. This week's prompt asked you to begin your piece with the words, "I could never have imagined" and end it with "Then the whole world shifted." I was supposed to stay under 600 words, and I *almost* did ... ehem ... if you only look at the wording in-between the required lines.