Picking Wishes at Thirty-Nine

Birthday cake at Pambiche

Birthday cake at Pambiche

I closed my eyes to make a wish. The usual wish, the raggedy one I’ve been toting around like a blankie for nearly ten years, showed up right away. And while we are hoping for a sibling for our daughter, I gently nudged that wish aside. Because as much as wishing for a child would be wonderful (and perhaps, in the cost-benefit analysis IS the way one ought to spend one’s birthday wishes), I have a bigger one.

In the dark October air of the sidewalk cafe tables, my dear friend, my wife and my daughter sat around me. In that split second, eyes closed, I couldn’t see them but I could SEE them. Know what I mean? They were suddenly so present. I am the luckiest LUCKIEST woman in the whole world.

So I took a breath, opened my eyes, and blew. The birthday candle flickered and went out as I blinked back tears. I already have so much more than any one woman could wish for.

This morning while I was “mothering” (aka writing this blog post in my head while helping my 15-month-old daughter remove and replace half-chewed crayons from an empty 2-liter bottle of club soda) I heard myself say: we’ll always remember this, right? My daughter looked at me, perhaps for clarification, but probably because I was impeding her progress with the last sticky broken crayon. I angled the bottle, she pushed her crayon in, clapped in triumph and I grabbed her close for the quick squeeze she rarely permits without squirming.

I’ll always always be your mommy, I told her. We’ll never forget when you were little and we had this time together.

So maybe I’m a weepy mess because I just turned 39, or because the process of possibly finding a sibling is just so.dang.hard., or because the autumn sun is lighting up the red-orange dogwood leaves outside my living room window. Who knows? I blubbered and my daughter, ever the empathetic toddler, squirmed away and went in search of a book to read.

Photo by Denise Kappa

Photo by Denise Kappa

Before I became a mom, I used to talk about the gut punch of longing: the way that suddenly talking to my sister on the phone, I’d hear her child cry, and I’d go breathless, stunned by the sudden grip of yearning for motherhood that literally left me momentarily unable to breathe.

On a tour for her book, Lori Holden talked recently about the theoretical child you imagine while waiting to adopt, and how easy it is to focus on YOUR motherhood and not on the mythical child that is, well, mythical. Then the real child comes into your life, and everything shifts and changes. It becomes ALL about the child and very little about you, which is perhaps how it should be all along.

Longing to be a mom was super powerful but pales when set next to the full-body-ache I hold that our real daughter have a healthy, well-loved and full life. Some days, like this morning, I peer into the future and that long and windy road punches me in the gut because I have personally inventoried a few of the ways that life can disappoint, betray and shatter us.

I started this post because I wanted to try to describe the way that wishes change, and how mine is now only for my daughter’s health and blessedness. But now I think I’m really writing to remind myself: whatever I might fear or dream, I will never lose my daughter.

She’s already mine, here in my belly, where the love of her – the real, amazing, unpredictable her – holds my breath captive and my heart full. So maybe rather than wish for anything else, I just wish for this: to be present to this moment, this now, with all that I am.

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What do you wish for? When is YOUR birthday? What was turning 39 like for you?