And now, on to the real post for today . . .
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Julia and me sitting on the steps of a museum in San Paulo, Brazil when she was about 3.
It’s official. I am the mother of three teenagers as of today.
Today Julia turns 13, and on the day she was born, B and I looked at each other with a mixture of delight and horror at the thought of having three daughters. We knew that having three little girls would be lots of fun, but we also fast-forwarded in our minds and realized very quickly that we would have three teenagers at one time.
All those hormones!
All that hair!
All the drama!
But you know what? Having three teenage daughters is probably one of the most fun stages of parenting we’ve been through yet. Our daughters are all unique, as different from one another as chalk and cheese, and yet they are all delightful.
I always say, and I mean it with all of my heart, I am the luckiest mom in the world.
And to think, having three teenage daughters almost didn’t happen.
It almost didn’t happen because, frankly, my selfish heart wasn’t sure I wanted to have another child. I was so happy with the two I already had, even though I felt pretty much like a failure as their mother. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to bring another child into this mess-that-was-me.
But God had other plans, our sweet Julia was born, and my life has never been the same, thank goodness.
As soon as she was born the nurses did the routine quick-check on her before they let me hold her. The nurses thought she looked fine, but our doctor disagreed. He saw something. Something so slight about the way she was breathing that not even seasoned labor and delivery nurses could see it.
They actually argued in the delivery room!
As I was holding my baby girl for the first time, my doctor and the nurses were arguing. Finally, with a stern reprimand, our dear doctor, to whom I will forever be grateful, practically stomped his foot and said, “Get her down to the NICU, NOW!”
Julia was whisked from my arms, placed in her little isolette, and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit before I even knew what was happening. One nurse had stayed behind to care for me explained (in a calm voice, thankfully) that the doctor had noticed that Julia’s breathing was not as it should be, a little shallow, and he felt she should be seen downstairs.
My brain went foggy, I remember. I was kind of numb. Suddenly, 30 hours of a delivery you really don’t want to hear about didn’t seem important or even real. My baby was sick, and I didn’t know what to do or how to respond.
Julia was born with a pneumothorax—a condition that involves an air pocket which forms between the lung and the chest wall, causing a collapsed lung. She also developed pneumonia—I still don’t know whether the two were related or not. Oh, and a pretty severe case of jaundice.
For the first 48 hours she was hooked up to all sorts of tubes and wires. It was pretty scary. But she weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and compared to the other babies in the NICU, she was gigantic. Eventually the tubes and wires were disconnected, she was removed from the oxygen tent, and she began to look like a normal newborn. We knew then that she was going to be fine.
Julia stayed in the NICU for a week, and then my strong, healthy baby was released to go home . . . unlike so many of the babies who would spend months in an isolette as their little bodies grew and developed. I almost felt guilty for having such a strong fighter on my hands.
And what a fighter she is! She is strong. She is passionate. And she knows how to stand up for herself and her beliefs.
My baby is 13 today, and I am so grateful for this day and every day of her life.
A couple of weekends ago I surprised Julia and took her to see “Wicked” in Chicago as an early birthday present. She had been dropping not-so-subtle hints for a long time that she really wanted to see it, but I kept telling her that it just wasn’t going to happen.
We had a wonderful day together—a day in which everything just fell perfectly into place. Our timing was perfect. Parking spots opened up right in front of us. And we didn’t even have to wait at our favorite restaurant for dinner! Even though it wasn’t her exact birth-day, we pretended that it was.
And I think, on that day, my baby girl grew up.
Happy birthday, Julia. I love you so much!