It was roughly six years ago when I braced myself against the toilet. My three year old and eighteen month old were banging their tiny fists against the bathroom door. Sleep deprived and borderline crazy, I called my husband to tell him the news. I was pregnant, again.
But then something miraculous happened, my youngest daughter was born. She came out swinging and dug her little fingers into my heart, never letting go. When my oldest went to school, parenting became easier. Then when my second daughter began Kindergarten, life changed. I'd save my Target runs for when we'd be alone together. We had our inside jokes. By the time she turned four she'd deadpan, "seriously?" and "this is not negotiable."
And then Monday came. My husband and I walked to our oldest daughter's class while the school swirled with parents and nervous children. My youngest turned pale at the chaos. Only during gymnastics does my child become gregarious. She'd lock her sisters in the garage and wrestle them 'til they screamed for mercy, but put her in a room of people and she's done. A melted puddle of emotion on the floor.
We turned to my second daughter, who walked in like a Prom Queen, minus the crown. She waved to her adoring audience while she floated to her seat while donning a leopard print fedora. Children from several grades shouted her name - while my youngest tried ever so desperately to escape the circus surrounding our family.
We then faced the door to her Kindergarten classroom, her face stoic and stone. I hugged her rigid frame and kissed her on the cheek. She offered an awkward smile when her dad took a picture.
I felt her nails grip my heart ever tighter as I walked home. Alone, I drove to Target and parked the car across two stalls. Not because I'm an idiot, but because I couldn't see through misty eyes. I sat and cried in the car like the baby I was missing.
In six short years, a baby girl changed me (and my life) from tired chaos to a complete, satisfied mother.