I had always imagined myself screaming with joy and excitement the day I found out I was pregnant. What happened in reality was barely a faint whisper of “I’m pregnant”!

My husband Gunnar and I were in complete shock and simultaneously overjoyed. We were entering the great unknown -- in New York City, no less. Our 5th floor walk-up, tiny 350-square-foot East Village apartment would have to make space for baby. Luckily, Gunnar is an interior designer and specializes in making small spaces feel like home. That is exactly what he did. With a crib find from Amsterdam that hung from our 12 ft ceiling, paired with a wall of shelves and the tiniest little clothes rail closet you’ve ever seen – we were ready.

I spent the entire pregnancy trekking all five flights of stairs, every damn day. We left gender to be a surprise and when you were 8 days late, I wasn’t sure I could endure it any longer. But finally, after three taxi rides back and forth from our apartment to the hospital, you, my baby girl Ihlen, came bouncing into the world. You were the physical symbol of your parents’ love -- your father’s heartbeat and mine in one.

Five years pass in a flash, and suddenly it’s your 5th birthday, my baby. Except you’re no longer my baby but an amazing little girl. “Has it really been five years already?” I ask myself as the day approaches.

I play a montage in my mind of all the moments with you from the day you were born. I relive all of the sweetness, all of the adventure and all of the love. And I feel sad thinking you’re not going to be so little anymore and the mom guilt kicks in. As a working mom, I question myself and all the moments that I missed. Did I miss too much with you?

Then I realized I’ve been the best mother I could be. I am leading by example. Phew, that’s so hard to say... I’ve learned, with the help of my amazing husband, that it’s about quality, not quantity. I get to work in an industry I love, and I hope the same for you someday!

Reflecting on 5 years feels like a blink of an eye. Looking at you, my little love, it feels like time can’t slow down fast enough. Once small enough to barely fill my arms, you’re now the tallest kid in you class and come up to my second rib. You’re going to be taller than me by the time you turn 10!

I love our girl chats during bath time and never want those to end. You’re independent, hilarious, gentle and adventurous; and you love life. Your little spirit gives me wings and puts a smile on my face. I’m looking forward to this next chapter and all of the others to follow as we wave goodbye to the toddler era and embrace the beauty of the unknown.

Here’s how we celebrated our special day.

The Theme:

You’ve been counting down the days to your 5th birthday since shortly after you turned 4! You decided months ago you wanted a princess party. So that’s where we started and then it took off from there. I felt like 5 is such a big number and should have a fun extravaganza of creativity to celebrate the day. Minted had the perfect invitations and décor for your party. With their help, and my husband’s creative eye, we were able to turn our apartment into a princess fairy wonderland.

The Photos:

Our family has hundreds of instant film images, as we love to take pictures!! The Fujifilm Instax team sent you a light blue Mini Instax 9 (her favorite color) along with some colorful bordered film. You loved it and got to take pictures of all your friends at the party.

We also wanted to incorporate some photos of you, Ihlen, into the decor. Sony sent us an incredible short-throw projector, the kind you watch films on, which we used for projecting photographs. This was one of my favorite elements at your party.

The Details:

We set up a little tattoo station with the chicest kids tattoos from Tattly. All the kids got to pick their fave design from their assortment. We also partnered with the super talented face painter, Hanna of Painting Bees, who was so calm and gentle with all the kids. This was a key element for the party!

The Food:

You really wanted a piñata for your birthday, but instead we surprised you with an exploding cake from Flourshop. My friend Amirah makes the best cakes, and this one was beyond any of our wildest dreams. A nine-layered multicolored cake full of sprinkles and chocolate candies, covered in multicolored sprinkles! All the kids screamed out of joy as we cut into it and unraveled all of the goodies inside. We are still cleaning up the sprinkles! Meanwhile, the parents sipped Yola cocktails while the kiddos feasted on cupcakes and cake.

The Takeaways:

The party lasted hours past what we said on the invite, but no one cared! It was just the best time. We packed the apartment with all of our nearest and dearest, which is all you need to make a great party! Then all the kids got to take home with gift bags filled with Eboo color cards, paper airplanes and floral fans.

Sara Larson works in fashion pr and loves all things beauty, especially red lipstick! Gunnar and she love throwing parties and experiencing new adventures with Ihlen.

Photos by Zach Hilty photography.