I watched as you confidently hopped out of our car this morning, adjusted your new floral cross body birthday purse, and walked next to me into the store. You looked so grown up.

It struck me then.

Eleven years ago today I was a terrified brand new mom. I’d suddenly gone into labor six weeks before my due date. The obstetrician at the hospital assured me that my baby was well on her way. Labor could not and would not be stopped.

As I lay on the rigid white hospital bed, shaking with fear and writhing in pain, I feared the future. This was not how it was suppose to happen. I hadn’t even had a chance to pack my hospital bag. I’d spent hours reading baby books in preparation for your much anticipated arrival. I’m a planner by nature and this was unplanned and undetermined.

imageWhen your bun is born six weeks before she was suppose to be finished baking in the oven, you worry. A lot. I didn’t know if you would be ok. Would you have developmental issues? What types of hurdles would we face? It all felt so uncertain and scary.image

imageAfter leaving my baby in the NICU for 14 agonizing days, to be cared for by strangers, we got to bring you home. I remember that day so well. It was a rainy, dreary day, much like today. Daddy and I were such rookies back them. Neither of us could believe that they trusted us to transport this tiny human, who came with zero instructions, in our car. Alone.image

Nurses wheeled me out in a wheelchair, despite the fact that I’d been released weeks ago. Baby Sarah Elizabeth lay in our gleaming, brand new infant car seat, carefully perched on my lap.

Strangers casually sauntered past us as we prepared to load our precious new cargo into our car. Nobody seemed to notice anything unusual as we embarked on our extraordinary journey into parenthood. Life around us seemed normal, unchanged.

The next several months were spent in a hazy sleep deprived state. You wouldn’t breastfeed from the source. So, every 2-3 hours, around the clock, I pumped my milk for you. Then, through your tears, and my own, I’d try unsuccessfully to get you to latch. I’d end up feeding you that liquid gold from a tiny bottle. We kept careful track of how many cubic centimeters you drank each time. A home nurse visited once a week to weigh you, help you latch and check you. Eventually you caught on.image

I was that freak of a mom, who today I would politely steer clear of. I called the pediatrician often. I needed to fix you. I wanted to make sure I was doing it all right. You were a colicky little thing and preferred to perform your nightly screamfest between the hours of 4pm and 2am. Nothing, I repeat nothing could get you to stop screaming. Daddy and I would take shifts pacing the hall of our little condo, hoping we weren’t waking neighbors and wondering if you’d ever stop.image

I’d felt like a giant failure during those hours. Daddy would rhythmically bounce you for hours in your ocean themed bouncy seat, to relieve me and soothe you. You’d calm down a little…until the bouncing stopped. That was a brutal phase.

Around four months old, your tummy issues simmered down and colic began to give way to smiles and high pitched giggles. I would spend hours with you asleep on my chest during the day; just breathing you in. I’d sit on our couch in our very first home, snuggling my nose into your baby fine hair; soaking up your baby scent and smiling. This was how I’d imagined it.image

imageimageNew moms are constantly comparing their babies to other babies the same age. I was no different. In the Mommy group that you and I attended, you were usually behind the other babies in development. But that day I watched you sit up all by yourself, on the floor of our little home, I knew you’d be fine.

It was you who crowned us Mommy and Daddy. Because of you we became parents. You schooled us in soiled diapers, owies, cutting teeth, puréed food and baby proofing from floor to ceiling. You.image

We have the honor of being your parents. You blazed the trail for your younger siblings. Thank you for deconstructing parenthood for us. We struggled a little less with each of your newborn siblings, because of you.

I tried not to allow my emotions to run away today as I watched you. Memories flooded my mind as I remembered.

So many memories.

You’re becoming a young lady. In doing so, you are taking us on another journey. This time it’s not about changing diapers, potty training or taking first steps.

We are here to guide you the best that we can. These years will be full of difficulty with friends. More than ever before, you’ll learn what it means to have a friend and to be a friend. You’ll learn lessons you never wanted to learn about friends. And that will be tough.

Right now it might seem as though your body is defying you, as it starts to change. I promise that part gets easier. That’s all I’ll say about that because I know you’re horrified that I’m even bringing it up.

Please know that we love you with all of our hearts. Sarah, you are everything to us. You will always have your family to lean on. Yes, even your obnoxious farting brothers, and meddling sister are here for you.

Just as I knew you’d be fine then, I know you will be fine — more than fine — now.

Happy 11th Birthday to our very first baby. We love you more than you know.image