And today she's five.
Half a decade.
1, 826 days.
The pregnancy was long and difficult. It started with extreme morning sickness that landed me in the hospital a couple of times. I was on medications just so I could hold water down. In the middle of the worst of it, in February, a we had a large earthquake- the first one I ever experienced. A month after that, I fell down the stairs and broke my leg.
Through all of that, I was convinced that something was trying my resolve, my sanity. It was like one crazy omen after another asking me if I was ready for the trials and tribulations of parenthood. If I couldn't steadfastly handle these forces of nature, how could I possibly withstand the responsibility in caring for a tiny infant whose entire existence seemed to rest right in the palm of my hand, or in this case- the crook of my arm?
I was so scared to meet her. I was convinced that I had damaged her in some way. She was going to come out deformed from the painkillers I took when I had my leg surgery or from my inability to eat during those crucial early weeks of her development. There were no test results to indicate anything like this, but I never trusted my doctors anyway.
Then, on August 21st, 2001- almost exactly 3 weeks before the world changed forever- I gave birth to a screaming, 9 pound baby girl who was not only the picture of health, but of absolute breathtaking beauty. To her absolutely unbiased family, anyway... She was larger than the average newborn, but she still felt so delicate and tiny to me. Every feature was perfect, right down to the smooth cap of black hair covering her flawlessly round head.
Every day after that thrust forward a new test, as well as downright terror that besieged upon me when I realized that this whole thing was for real. That I had an actual baby and that I was in it for life. I couldn't divorce myself from being a mother if the relationship wasn't "working out".
I didn't realize at the time how lucky we truly were though. Natalie was a very easy, mild-mannered baby. Sure, she had colic, but it was a mild case. Once we realized what exactly she needed and how to get it to her, she was an absolute joy and one of those kids that was perfect for terrified first-time parents. She smiled early, laughed easily, slept perfectly, and never had a single delay that concerned us.
Her sweetness was inherent from the beginning. Soft spoken and demure, she continues to prove that daily. Sure there is a little more attitude in the mix now, but her essence has not changed much. The same can be said for her femininity. Every morning she's a ballerina. Every afternoon she's a princess. In the evenings, she's a debutante, showing perfect manners in restaurants as she asks people their names while introducing herself and her brother. She also loves Spongebob Squarepants with all the fervor of a child who has been watching it since age 2. Ask her any question about the show, and she will giddily answer like a burgeoning trivia master, proving that she is so totally soaked in the waters of my gene pool.
She's incredibly imaginative and appears to have a strong artistic streak. She draws with incredible skill. Her first picture of a whale at age 2 was so much the likeness of the creature that I was immediately struck by a mixture of fascination, horror, and pride when I saw it. Her genes from both parents are saturated in creativity and it was nice to see that come to the forefront so early. She's also got a bit of geekiness in her, with an eagerness to find knowledge wherever she can ("What can you tell me about suns?") and fit into the larger vocabulary of her parents, even if some of the words ("absolutely hilarious") don't quite roll easily off of her growing palate.
I have been careful to not have too many hopes for my kids. At least in the sense that I feel so attached to the hopes that I fail to see the children who are changing in ways independent of my desires. I just want her to continue to feed from an internal well of happiness and strength, supplied by the ones who love her most. I want her to be a good person. I want her to be authentic and without fear. I want her to experience magic. And I want her to succeed at whatever greatness she seeks. All other desires for her, I will hold close to my heart- smiling inwardly when she achieves and ready to spring like a mother lion when she falls.
I love you, sweet girl.