Our baby is double digits

The "baby" is 10 now. I still tell people Payton is the baby when I get asked about my kids' ages. Why does it feel like she will always be that round-faced, sweet, rosy-cheeked, calm baby who emerged to a chaotic and frenzied home back on June 6, 2012? She was never really supposed to be, you know. But of course in hindsight, I see now that she absolutely was always meant to be.

My late husband Matthew and I had some rough spots in our marriage over the years. I will be honest. I know that one of those rough patches was around the time she was conceived. I guess I was always trying to make things better with us, even if it meant superficially, with sex or an attempt at cooking something he'd like (I really only consistently failed at one of those two things — you can surmise which one lol). Earlier that year I had miscarried a baby (my third miscarriage in three years), and that spring our frozen embryos from the cycle created when I had twins two years prior —had also failed. I started to wonder what was wrong with me, with us. I was stressed and tired. I had a 4-year-old son, 2-year-old twins and I worked part time in registration in the emergency department of the hospital. I guess I thought keeping myself busy was a way to get over the fact I was done with childbearing. A way to smooth over the not-so-marital bliss I felt with Matthew those days. It wasn't his fault either— he was stressed in his own right, as president of the family business with nonstop responsibilities that come with being the boss. Not to mention the exhaustion of being hands on father for three little ones alongside me. And I was no peach either.

We booked a trip that fall to our favorite vacation spot in Siesta Key, a trip with the kids, maybe in hopes we'd get ourselves back on track. I remember thinking that despite being pretty regular, I hadn't gotten my period yet on that trip. I remember us bickering about something on the beach, who knows what. And after taking a Walgreens pregnancy test and seeing a positive result, my first thoughts were not happy ones, like with all the tests I'd taken before. They were scared thoughts. Nervous thoughts. I didn't want to feel that way but I did. And I am not proud to say, but the way I told Matthew about it was really crappy. During another bout of bickering that night, I snapped, "I guess you have to get used to being with me some more because I'm pregnant."

We didn't really talk that night. I'm not sure we talked a ton the rest of that trip. We smiled through sandcastles and pictures with the kids on the beach, I remember. We walked on eggshells around each other for at least a month. Because both of us knew with our past history, this baby might soon be gone. So we didn't talk about it. It wasn't until an ultrasound I requested prematurely just before Thanksgiving that we let out our first sigh of relief. The baby was healthy. Its heart was beating wildly. An ultrasound revealed a little tiny thing that looked like a Teddy Graham. A little 'bear.' We were going to have a baby.

Matthew sent me an email later that day at work, telling me how happy he was. He said he knew there would be rough patches. But he just wanted things to be good. He wanted things to be normal and fine. He wanted happy. When baby did arrive a week early on June 6, I remember feeling a lot of love in that house again. We had four kids under age 5 and all but one in diapers. We were sleep deprived but we still laughed. Matthew probably changed more diapers than me. I tried feeding us on new Pinterest recipes I'd look up in between breastfeeding and watching Caillou marathons on tv with the kids. We chased all of them in circles. Matthew loved holding his "little Payton bear" and feeding her bottles late into the night to let me go to bed early. We woke early to do it all again. It was a shit show. But there was love. There was normalcy and good in all of it.

I look back at what a good baby Payton was. She didn't truly say a word or speak until after age 2. And once she started she wouldn't stop. The best part was she made us laugh. She continually makes us laugh today. She usually makes me laugh when I need it most, too. She didn't get too many good memories with her daddy because she was 3 when he got sick and life started getting more complicated. She says she remembers only snuggling daddy. Sometimes at night if he'd read a book or if he was sick in his bed, he'd snuggle her. I like to tell myself he was holding so tightly to his sweet Payton Bear —his perfect, good, beautiful and normal piece of this world for as long as he could.

So today, on her 10th birthday, I told her I know daddy is certainly still watching over her, wishing he could snuggle her, to inhale just one more breath of the goodness, of the sweetness surrounding her, to hug her tightly for one giggle out of her. I tell her all the time how daddy loved his little Payton Bear so much. Happy birthday baby —our baby —who was always so meant to be! 



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