My eyes open as I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder and hear quiet, urgent words: It’s time.
Time for what? I wonder. I am groggy and confused, not sure where I am, my surroundings unfamiliar. But when a searing pain courses down my back and seizes across my stomach, I suddenly remember.
I am about to meet my daughter.
* * *
Zoey arrived five days earlier than expected, on a hot July Sunday just one day shy of my own mother’s birthday. Her early entry into the world seems so fitting for her now: Zoey is so excited about everything in life that, if she could, she would still show up 5 days early to make sure she didn’t miss out on the fun. As a two-year-old, she once stood in line for a full hour to get her face painted, waiting patiently beside me, not one complaint escaping her lips.
I’d spent most of my pregnancy not sure about this whole becoming a parent thing, having decided years earlier that I would have been okay if I never had any children. But there I was, minutes away from bringing one into this world, frightened and in pain and still unsure about what I was doing… not only in giving birth, but in everything in my life. I was full of doubt. How on earth was I going to do this?
* * *
I don’t remember much about the 29 minutes that elapsed between waking up and hearing her first cry, but I know I will always remember how time stopped when they placed her in my outstretched arms.
I remember looking at her face, red from the cries that erupted from her lungs as they adjusted to the first breaths of a new world. I remember gingerly tracing her miniature hands, reveling in the five fingers they each held. I remember the way I carefully cradled her in my arms, the heat from our steadily beating hearts warming our tired bodies.
I remember the way she rooted against my chest, trying to find what her perfect little mouth knew to seek, and when she found it, I remember the way her eyes — which had remained closed until that moment—finally flickered open and met my own.
As her cries quieted, my own tears began.
* * *
Sometimes I wonder what I was doing before my daughter entered my life.
I think I was wandering around a little aimlessly, not sure of who I really was, because somewhere along the way, I’d gotten a little lost. Somewhere along the way, I fell asleep.
Up until her birth, my life had been a series new beginnings. Every promotion my father received meant a move to a new state, where a new school and a new group of friends would be. I moved away to begin college, and then after that, I found myself moving to Colorado to begin a new life on my own. Tired of not feeling rooted anywhere, I settled into a job and a life that, at the time, felt safe.
But when my daughter arrived, my world titled on its axis. She gave me a renewed purpose, and I became determined to provide her the life she deserved. And the harder I worked, the more I realized that all of the things that I wanted for her, I suddenly started wanting for myself. That realization changed everything, setting into motion another series of new beginnings. New beginnings that started when I chose to break free from places where I felt I couldn’t be the best me—not only for my daughter, but for me as well.
It’s remarkable. Because of my daughter, I finally woke up. Because of her, I never want to fall asleep again.
* * *
The other morning I walked into Zoey’s bedroom to wake her up. Upon hearing me, her eyes fluttered open. They were full of sleep and heavy with love, reminding me again of that blessed summer day when she arrived and changed everything.
“Hi, sweet girl,” I said, climbing into her bed so we could curl up together before we started our day. Zoey wrapped her arms around me as I asked my usual morning question. “What did you dream about?”
“Apples and oranges and you,” she answered in a sing-song voice, not missing a beat.
“I see,” I said as I smiled. “So everything sweet, right?” I laughed, wondering if she would get my lame joke. Zoey smiled back but shook her head.
“No, silly,” she laughed. “I dreamed about things that give me life.”
* * *
Her full name is Zoey Nicole, a name that roughly translates to mean “life victor.” I think about how she lived up to that name from the moment she entered this world because of the gift of life she bestowed upon me.
For the rest of my days, I will accept and embrace the gift that she gave me, and I vow to never let it slip away again. I owe it to her, and more importantly, I owe it to myself.
It is my ultimate hope for all of us: that we remember and acknowledge the gifts, both good and bad, that brought us here to our blessed todays. That we wake up each day, experiencing a lifetime of wonderful, magnificent resurrections, and when we do, that we open our eyes to the world and stay awake for all of the lasting, beautiful moments that weave together into this amazing thing we call life.