My 13 year old is now 14.
I woke this morning and began combing through pictures from her first year of life. I wasn't pining. Just reflecting. Indulge me for a bit.
When I got married, I wasn't sure I wanted children. My husband knew this and didn't press. I've always been pretty selfish with my time, and I wasn't willing to share it, or him for that matter, with anyone. We were young - 22, and just out of college. The subject of children wasn't even in the range of being close enough, to being anywhere close enough, to even being in the vicinity of being on my radar.
Our married life began. He managed a coffee shop while attending grad school. I worked full time at a local college while also directing their musicals. Along with getting back on stage myself, I also taught classes at a performing arts workshop. We froze in our first apartment (come to think of it, not much has changed from that apartment to this drafty old house) and enjoyed our free time when we weren't at one of the many side jobs we held along with our full-time ones: house-sitting, parking cars for a nearby restaurant, lawn care, cleaning fish tanks, performing in murder mysteries, a gig dressed up as Captain Crunch (for which I got paid in cash and boxes of Captain Crunch) . . . we made it work.
It wasn't until close to 10 years later that we had our first child.
She turned 14 today.
One of the most vivid memories I have of her birth was calling out her name while I was still strapped down during an emergency c-section. Following delivery, they whisked her off to the side to do all those pokes and prods they do to new babies. As I couldn't hold her immediately, I turned my head towards her, as it was the only part of my body I could move, and spoke.
"Harper. Hi. It's Mommy."
She turned her head in my direction. And was still.
I kept talking.
She knew my voice. The one that sang, read stories, and prayed while I carried her. I had read that the baby could hear while in the womb, and even recognize voices, but how could I have known this to be true until . . .
She turned her head in my direction.
She may be 14, but I still sing, read stories, and pray. Even if I'm told to knock it off with the singing.
We now binge-watch Gilmore Girls together, rather than Baby Einstein.
We choose chips covered in cheese over cheerios.
I don't pick out her clothes any more.
And she still hears my voice. Whether she applies what I share is up to her now, but I know she's listening.
Because often, that once tiny little baby, who was too big for preemie clothes, but too small for newborn clothes, turns to look at me with those big blue eyes, gives me a little smile, maybe a head on the shoulder, and without words, tells me she's listening.
Happy Birthday, little girl.
Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, will never get enough of the Gilmore Girls, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest!