Dear Ann Catherine,
I absolutely cannot believe it's your 5th birthday!! I know "time flies" is such a cliche, but in this case it's so true. For some reason, five just sounds so old. It's like you are crossing the threshold from little girl to big girl.
I am so proud of the little girl that you are. You are so full of compassion for people. Lily Baker hurts herself - and you cry. You have the kindest heart. You care deeply about people. You love so completely with all of your heart. When you laugh, you laugh from your head to your toes. You are beautiful - inside and out.
I will never be able to fully convey to you what you mean to me. You gave me a reason to keep living. I wanted to just pull the covers over my head after Melissa died and never face the world again.
But there you were. In NICU. Weighing less than two pounds. Hooked up to a ventilator and tubes and monitors. Fighting with every breath you had.
It was a turning point in my grief. I realized you needed me. You couldn't do this alone. You needed your mommy and daddy, and everyone who loved you, to fight with you. And from that moment, I decided to put all of my energy into getting you well and bringing you home.
68 days later, we did that. You were still so tiny. But you were alive. That's all that mattered to me.
Over these past five years, I have gained so much joy in watching you grow. It seems like yesterday that I could hold your entire little body on my chest. Now I pick you up, and your legs almost touch the ground.
Your daddy and I have a saying. "Melissa saved Ann Catherine's life, but Ann Catherine saved ours." You see, after I had complications during my pregnancy with you and Melissa, your sister amazingly held on for 7 weeks. That gave you time to grow and get stronger before you were born. As sick as you were at 26 weeks, it could have been so much worse. She gave you a chance to live.
You did the same for us. You gave us a reason to keep going. You gave us hope. More than anything, you gave us love. And you still do. Every day, you tell me you love me. Often you just say it out of the blue. "Hey Mommy? I love you!" Those moments are etched in my memory.
I guess our nightime ritual sums up how I feel about you. After we tuck you in, I tell you I love you and you say you love me too. Then you say, "No matter what, Mommy," and I answer "No matter what."
I have no idea how we started that, but nothing could be truer. I love you. No matter what.
The other day we talked about you turning five and you said, "But Mommy, no matter how old I get, I'll always be your little girl."
That is so true, my sunshine. And no matter what, I will always be your mommy.
And that, in itself, is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
I love you to the moon and back...and then some,