One Mother's Love Letter to Her Daughter

Filed under: Opinions

Love at first heartbeat. Illustration by Dori Hartley

Dear Valentine,

Years ago, as I reclined comfortably on an examination room table, an attendant jellied my belly with sonogram goo and, within a few seconds, I heard a sound I would never forget for the rest of my life: your rapid, sparrow-small heartbeat.

Even though the heartbeat was strangely distorted in it's muffled amplification, all I heard was life -- precious, vital life. There was life inside me -- a heart beating inside my womb! It was so hard to believe a human being's heart could beat that fast, but, then again, you were no bigger than a hummingbird at the time. Yet, there you were, alive, inside my body, making your presence known. You were undeniable.

When I first heard this manic, throttling little drum, I immediately and instinctively understood the power it would forever have over me, and I knew, also, that you would look to me as its source. Accepting this grand responsibility came as natural to me as breathing, and, before you were even born, I had already fallen deeply, unshakably in love with you.

I recognized the racing beat of your heart as the sound of love itself. And, at that moment, I knew you were my one true love, my valentine girl.

Months later, as I screamed and screeched you into this world, all the blinding pain that accompanied your birth was silenced the moment I saw your face.

Something dramatic was going on "out there" in that hospital room -- a big fuss was being made with heart monitors, forceps and doctors. There was craziness and faces were covered by blue masks. But you and I were already in our own little world. Nobody could touch us, nobody could enter.

Something intensely awesome had just occurred, something -- miraculous. Still, amidst the hysteria, we experienced a frozen moment in suspended animation: I touched you, you felt my touch and we both knew all the drama of the world would forever melt away in the bliss of this true love. My valentine was born. My forever girl.

I held you so tightly -- and didn't loosen my grip for years. I walked with you strapped to my body and dangling like a goofball in that Baby Bjorn, my back aching, my nose eternally sniffing the top of your sweet head. I'd know that smell blindfolded, even today.

As I watched you grow, my heart expanded with each new step you took. And every time you fell, I felt the pain in ways only a mother can understand.

Then, of course, there was that awful day the doctors misdiagnosed you with leukemia. They told me you were going to die if you didn't get immediate treatment, and all I could think of was, "No! My baby cannot be this sick. She's only 7 years old!"

I rode with you in the ambulance all the way from Key West to Miami Children's Hospital that horrible night. I held your hand as the tubes went in and out of your frail little body. You endured test after test, and I sat there, hiding the reservoir of tears behind my nervous fingers.

But you were so strong.

When the nurses brought you a selection of toys to keep you occupied, you smiled at me and said, "Wow, Mommy. I thought this was the worst day of my life, but now I know it's the best day ever."

One silly little toy was all it took to change your outlook. I almost crumbled in the face of your courage.

As it turned out, you didn't have leukemia at all, but an acute case of ITP, a blood disorder that occurs when the body is not producing enough platelets. Serious, for sure, but not leukemia-serious.

Still, my poor little boo. But it was nothing you couldn't conquer. You moved on, like the radiant pulse of energy and love that you've always been. You learned to read, write, act and dance. You think deep thoughts, groove on music, challenge me daily and surprise me constantly.

You are a survivor.

Every day my heart walks around outside my body. I miss you when you are at school, yet I delight in your independence. And, when I pick you up each afternoon, the second you park that 12-year-old body in the passenger seat next to me, everything in my life suddenly becomes better.

To this very day, when you walk into the room my heart beats for you. My only child. You're just a few months away from being a teenager, but, still, I never pass up an opportunity to check in on you as you sleep. Your face? Purity. Your breath is all the peace I will ever need in this world.

You are the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Your life has given me something I will never, ever lose. You've brought love into my life, a love that will never fade. You really are my true love, and, after all, isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about?

True love.

Happy Valentine's Day, my forever girl.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.