Today was a good day. My little niece, Emma (or Emmie–as we call her) celebrated her sixth birthday today. Six years old! It’s hard to believe. Soooo hard. Ironically, she was born exactly 3 days after Thanksgiving. This year, her birthday again fell 3 days after the holiday. Some may call that coincidence or chance. Me–I call it meant to be. Fate. It’s like she’s the universe’s way of reminding us how truly thankful we should be to have such an amazing little girl like her in our lives. Just in case we ever forget. As if we could.
She was our little miracle baby. She was born 2 months early and almost didn’t make it. Looking at her now–so full of life–it’s enough to take your breath away. And sometimes, it does. I still remember the first time I ever laid eyes on her. I remember that I cried. It was hard not to. Especially seeing her–that 3lbs. 14 oz. precious little angel–lying in that incubator in the NICU, hooked up to so many tubes and machines. If I close my eyes, I can still picture it. I can still smell that nauseating sterile smell of the hospital. I remember that it didn’t feel real. But it was real. So very much so that it scared the hell out of me. I almost didn’t go in. I remember scrubbing my hands and arms with soap and hot water; then having to put on this faded yellow sterile gown. I remember standing outside the door as the nurse handed me a face mask and advised me of the visiting procedure–how holding was allowed, but only for a few minutes at a time. I remember standing on the threshold then, seeing her lying in that glass cage, and shaking. When I walked over to her, I remember thinking she looked even smaller and more fragile than she’d appeared from outside the room.
Just as it had been with my oldest niece–it was love at first sight. It really was. She was beautiful. She still is. She had a full head of almost-black hair and the cutest little button nose. 🙂 And her hands. I remember her tiny little fist–those tiny little fingers–wrapping around my pinkie. She had the tightest grip too. You could tell just by looking at her that she was a little fighter. And she was. She still is.
She fought hard. She never gave up. To this day, her strength still amazes me. She’s been through so much in her short life already. From having to spend nearly the first 6 weeks of her life in a hospital, to having problems associated with her premature birth–to having epilepsy…the list goes on. It hasn’t diminished that strength of hers one bit though, believe it or not.
I don’t know how she does it. How she managed to become this amazing, happy-no-matter-what little girl is beyond me. It’s hard sometimes. More for the rest of us than for her, I think. It’s just so sad and frustrating and it breaks your heart to see her struggling. It’s an injustice, I think. It’s not fair that she’s had to go through so much–nor is knowing that she’s going to go through so much more in her life. That sense of helplessness is always there and its crushing. It truly is.
But despite it all, she’s incredible. She’s vibrant and precocious and willful and stubborn. More so, she has a personality that just never ceases to amaze me. She’s something–that little girl. A true miracle. My inspiration. Then, now, and always.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Emma!!