Eleven years ago today, I went into labor when my water broke three weeks early.
I really had no business becoming a mom in the first place and I really needed those extra three to four weeks to get my mind and life right.
But babies don’t wait . They come when they are ready — even if their parents are not.
I wasn’t married. I wasn’t even in a relationship any longer with my baby’s father. I had no family nearby. I worked days for the newspaper and nights waiting tables on the tourist strip in Kissimmee. My mom was far away. My college girlfriends were far away. I had made new friends at work — some pretty awesome ones — but I didn’t want to be an imposition to anyone.
Despite the challenges I perceived, I remember waking up one morning early on in the pregnancy and thinking “I have my degree. I have a job. I have insurance. That’s more than a lot of people in my spot. I should be able to do this.”
Of course, parenting has turned out to be a much more complicated path but when I started to feel anxiety about how I would fare as a mother (sometimes, I was quite doubtful) I reassured myself with those items. I had the tools to, at the very least, be an adequate parent. Anything above and beyond that would be a bonus.
Emilia Grace was born at 12:35 p.m. on April 24, 2008 and she was so little, so precious, that I immediately felt that she needed my protection. My lot in life changed in that delivery room from one of self preservation to Mama Bear status. It wasn’t hard to love her or really understand what being a parent to her would now mean.
Still, when my friends and my wonderful Aunt Melodie left for the day and I was alone in my hospital room with my baby, I felt panic wash over me.
“Step one,” I thought, “Don’t drop her.”
So I set her in her plastic crib and just put my head in hands and cried. I was no longer alone but I was feeling that way more than ever. I didn’t stop the tears or try to keep them in. I let that panic release.
When the sobbing started to slow on its own, I took another look at her, asleep, swaddled, perfect. She was just five-and-a-half pounds, with lungs much stronger than the doctors anticipated at her age. She wasn’t chubby and cherub-like. She looked like a frog, with a small torso and gangly limbs that would dangle when she would stretch during a diaper change. My panic suddenly switched to an extreme feeling of luck. Luck for having a healthy baby. Luck for having wonderful friends and family, even if they were helping me from the outskirts. Luck that even though I wasn’t as grateful for the miracle of life as I probably should have been, a child had been born just the same.
Here’s the thing about receiving a gift you don’t feel ready for: it ends up being exactly what you need in life.
Emilia is that unexpected, life changing gift for me. Every good, GREAT thing that has happened to me since that date 11 years ago is because of her. I started running, like really running, to get in shape after the pregnancy. I started writing, like really writing for myself, because I wanted to chronicle my life with her. I bonded with my now husband over parenting and was able to add four more children to my heart as a result. I removed myself from the traditional workforce to spend more time with her and my stepkids and wound up building a fulfilling career from home that has introduced me to so many opportunities.
Most of all, though, Emilia made me a mom — a role I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted. Emilia is smart, strong and most of all, kind. Many days I find myself trying to be more like her. She grounds me, encourages me and makes me laugh.
I truly believe that the universe brings you what you need in life. Sometimes it — whatever “it” is to you (God, good energy, Karma) — brings you what you don’t even know you need.
Happy Birthday Emilia Grace, the gift I will never stop pinching myself to have received.