It was nearly 20 years ago that I hastily opened the drugstore-purchased home-pregnancy test, that I tried to pee on that small pink stick without making a mess, that I left it sitting on the counter for the allotted time as I walked into the next room – disciplined and determined to wait the exactly-prescribed amount of time before I looked, that I held fast to my unswerving certainty that no line would appear, no plus mark would be revealed, no wishing, no matter how fervent, would ever be rewarded.

Over the next two days, I took six more tests. (Months later I found them all in a drawer and laughed at the evidence of my highly-honed doubt and disbelief.) And in the early-evening of the third day I went to the doctor because clearly, the over-the-counter tests could not be trusted. I needed an expert’s definitive declaration before I would allow myself the luxury of inhaling, of imagining, of believing that what I had longed for, prayed for, and grieved over for nearly five years could possibly be mine.

Every once in a while I can capture the emotion of being suspended between complete disbelief and overwhelming ecstasy. Every once in a while I can remember what it felt like to breathe in truth, to let in hope. Every once in a while I can recall what it felt like to finally feel whole, complete, and worthy. And every once in a while I will weep as I picture the moment they placed my daughter in my arms – how all the waiting and wishing and depression and despair vanished in an instant, how every fear evaporated, how something in me knew that I was forever changed by this miracle, this gift, this girl.

I was right. Forever and endlessly changed by her.

By you.

Happy 19th Birthday, Emma Joy. I love you.