Eight years ago, on the day you were born, I hardly saw you at all. I don't even remember much of that day; you came into this world and there was a problem (it wasn't serious) (but we didn't know that at the time) (and when you are one minute old, every problem is serious) and just as soon as they laid you on my chest, they took you away.
I spent your first day waiting, wondering, worrying. I ran my fingers across the smears of blood and fluids left across my chest in your absence and dreamed of what it was going to be like to smell you, to hold you, to listen to you breath. You spent your first day asleep under a plastic pie lid, and I like to imagine you were waiting for me, dreaming, too.
I didn't know your lung had collapsed. I didn't know you weren't responding to sounds. I didn't know you have conjoined toes on one foot. I didn't know anything at all about your first day, except the pieces of information strangers would drop on the floor around me while I waited to be able to bridge the distance from the places you and I were separately confined.
Your father was by your side though all of this, of course - by kid three the romance of childrearing is dead, and the paternal instincts are at their peak. You were the daughter he'd waited 34 years and 11 months to the day for, and no amount of NICU walls were about to keep him from you.
When I was finally able to come see you, once I had feeling in my legs again and all the bleeding had stopped and the pain was a distant memory, they let me come see you. You laid pink and wriggly in your plastic bed, covered with things that go beep, and though you were only 1-1/2" of sterilized plastic away from me, it felt as though I were trying to reach across the ocean to touch you. I felt your tiny, new, curly fingers through the veil of plastic sheeting, and for as comforting as it was to feel the shape of you, it was almost more difficult this way. Mothers are not meant to feel distances from their children, especially not on the first day of their lives out of the joint.
This year, eight years after the day you were born, I hardly saw you, either, and when I did it was again through sheets of plastic. This year, though, you didn't look like the daily dessert special under a heat lamp - you were across a canyon from me, again with your father, and I got to spend your birthday with you through voodoo they call Facetime.
You came home to me two weeks later a new person, a girl, an eight year old. I got to meet the new you new - you seemed taller, you spoke clearer, that freaking loose front tooth dangling from your gums like old an old grape, taunting me to pick it. The desperation you've carried on your shoulders since we moved away from Arizona - from your father and the friend you made who I am sure will be with you for the rest of your life - seemed to have lifted off you. You have this shit. You came home a little bit older, but not too old. You came home eight, and that's just enough.
(Shitty mom's note: Her birthday is the 1st. Today is the 19th. Stop judging me.)