I do not know whether to cry uncontrollably or celebrate wildly, Emma. Perhaps both.

Both…and then some.

Nearly undone at the thought that you are only months away from leaving my home and beginning to craft your own; that you are leaving the predictability of (and frustrations inherent within) the public school system and diving into the newness and expansiveness of college; that from this point forward you will be gone more than = you will be here; that I am a place/person to which you will return from time-to- time, but with whom you no longer “stay. So incredibly grateful that every bit of this is true.

I can hardly wait for you to rely on an ever strengthening identity apart from mine. I can hardly wait to hang your senior picture on my wall. I can hardly wait to see you don cap and gown – just months away – and = walk across that stage; a graduate. I can hardly wait for you to get to college, finally meet your peers, be engaged by curriculum and content you love, and be challenged in ways you can’t yet begin to imagine. I can hardly wait for you to come back – yes, only for visits – full of stories to tell. I can hardly wait for all that our relationship will yet be when I am less a day-to-day mom, more a here-when-you-call-me source of support and love.

No matter what, whether crying or celebrating, here’s what’s true: you can no more be separated from me than when still in utero. I feel your heartbeat just as I did 18 years ago. I see the signs of your movement and growth just as I did 18 years ago. I imagine your every discovery, your every learning, your every milestone just as I did 18 years ago. And I can hardly hold on to my heart as I look at you – grown, gorgeous, wise, kind, witty, talented, generous, compassionate, and full of love – just as I did the first time I held you, 18 years ago this day.

That day doesn’t feel all that long ago – when they forst put you in my arms; when I wept and wept and wept in joy that you were finally here – whole, safe, strong; when I couldn’t quite believe my good fortune, my luck, my answered prayers that you were mine; when I stared at you for hours upon hours as you slept, pinching myself with the truth of your breath, your presence, your beauty.

This day, I still weep with joy that you are here; that my good fortune, luck, and prayers have been answered more times than I can possibly count; that your breath, your presence, beauty are more stunning and powerful and miraculous than ever before.

But far more now then ever before, I look at you with wonder: for every moment I’ve had the privilege of witnessing: each step you’ve taken, fall you’ve known, heartbreak you’ve lived through, problem you’ve solved, question you’ve asked, tear you’ve shed, song you’ve sung, argument you’ve had, belief you’ve challenged, insecurity you’ve risen above, hope you’ve held to, risk you’ve taken, day you’ve lived.

You are a wonder.

Happy birthday, Emma Joy. May this day (like the one that can’t possibly have been 18 years ago) be yet another birth – no less miraculous or profound – into all the life and life and life that awaits you.