I’m awake far too early – no reason for me to be up at this hour. But rather than sleep – or attempt such, I decide to write – or attempt such.

20 years ago I didn’t have this practice, this morning discipline of pen on paper, but I’m guessing if I had, on this day then, this is what I would have written:

I’ve been eating ice-chips since 6:30 last night. I’ve been hooked up to monitors since then, as well. I watch and hear your heart, its every beat, on the machine to my left. I start, suddenly and anxiously, whenever there is either the slightest lull or
slightest spike. No. I cannot sleep. The Pitocin should have worked by now, yes? The epidural should have left me feeling less restless and afraid, yes? The promise that you will soon be in my arms should leave me feeling calm, yes?

But neither my body nor my mind are having any of it. Nothing complies. Something is in charge that disables my every illusion that I am, or ever was in control of anything that ever really mattered. I focus on the monitors, willing you to be OK, willing you into my world.

And willing or not, you finally made your entrance: 9:25 a.m. on October 31, 1996. 20 years ago today.

Here I am, awake far too early on yet another Halloween morning, remembering that day like it was yesterday. And in truth, forgetting all of the pain, all of the fear, all of the worry, all of the waiting for the moment you were finally in my arms. Remembering my tears of joy, my heart broken open, your heart beating strong and well and wild. Realizing that all of this is still true today.

20 years old.
20 years old.
My baby, my girl, my heart, is 20 years old.

I have to keep writing it, seeing it in print, to take it in. Still, despite how unbelievable, I feel the significance and truth of loving you for exactly that long; of being a mother, your mother, for that long; of hearing my own heartbeat in rhythm and response to yours, for that long.

And it strikes me: I have every reason to be up at this hour – that day, to be sure, and this one – to write in halting and incomplete and impossible-to-capture ways that today, 20 years later, I feel exactly as I did then: overwhelmed by love, overcome by you, undone by the gift you are to me. Then. Now. Always.

Happy 20th Birthday, Emma Joy: my baby, my girl (no matter how old you are), my heart. I love you.