4. You Will Always Be My Baby

by Chelsea Donahue

In just fifteen & a half hours, my little girl will be five years old. In her mind, this is just a stepping stone until the “big birthday”, which of course she states, is six. Okay, Maddy. But for me, this is a big birthday. Five really begins the rest of her life. Five means kindergarten screenings, taking the bus for the first time, saying goodbye to my little girl. And of course, the reminder of July 2006 and the moment that changed my life forever.

But it all starts before that. Everything has a story. I was sixteen. I thought I was a big kid, all grown up. I was not (who are we kidding, I’m still not). I was head over heels in love with a guy who thought he was the greatest thing ever. We had a whirlwind romance that started in April of 2005 with a big black brand new car and an afternoon that neither of us thought would amount to anything. He was older, cockier, and I hated him more than anything. Eventually, (and I’m still not sure how) I ended up falling for him, which probably made me hate him even more. When we started dating in April, we fought worse than my cat and dog fight. I yelled, screamed, cried, threw things, stormed out. He threw some candy out the window once (don’t worry – I chased after it). Ten minutes later, but usually five, we made up. We broke up a few times. By April 2006, a couple weeks after I turned seventeen, he proposed on the ninth hole of a mini golf course (Martel’s in Saco, Maine, if you were curious). He put the ring on the wrong hand, I squealed yes, and put the ring on my left hand while I hugged him. I had dreams of graduating high school the following year, us having some big, beautiful studio apartment in some gorgeous historic city, and me sleeping all day until he got home from work, when of course we would go out to dinner. Big dreams, I know. Life wasn’t perfect, but to me it was. We spent the spring driving around in Benjo, his 1996 Geo Prizm. I named it after the radio popped out while driving down a bumpy dirt road in Maine. We laughed a lot. We ate too many boxes of Fruit Roll Ups. We spent afternoons watching too much Sopranos. It was by far, the happiest time of my life. We didn’t fight, we snuggled and made up ridiculous pet names for each other.

In July 2006, we went to Florida on vacation. I slept a lot. We went to Sea World and Busch Gardens and played mini golf. We were young and silly and thought we knew everything about life. Halfway through our two week vacation, I felt terrible. No, I announced, I was definitely not pregnant. A few hours, two trips to Walmart and five negative pregnancy tests later, I got a positive result. My entire life changed. I cried, cried, and cried some more. Threw up a little bit. Announced that there was definitely, absolutely no possible way I was going to get fat, get responsibilities and have a BABY. Not. Going. To. Happen. It was the fourth of July.

We got back to Maine a couple weeks later and the doctor confirmed it, I was eight weeks and seven days along (which, if you do the math, puts eight weeks before on the week of my junior prom). I was still against the whole baby concept. I hated kids. They made me feel uncomfortable. I had been around maybe two little kids in my entire life. In September, just after the start of my senior year, we took a drive up to Rockland to spend the day exploring and visiting lighthouses. There was a little toy store in town and we took a look around. In the back corner was a big wall with bins of stuffed animals. We both spotted a little stuffed golden Gund puppy, who we would later to come to know as Moe. We bought it. I spent the next months working really hard to graduate from high school by January, he spent the next months working stupidly long hours. There were a few ultrasounds thrown in there, including the one where the tech announced “it’s a girl” & he announced “holy shit”.

Eventually, 2007 came. Our doctor warned us that the baby was pretty small, and I was pretty dilated, and she would definitely come early. We went to the doctor for an ultrasound every other week. February happened, and two and a half weeks before my due date, on a cold night, halfway through a game of Yahtzee, Madison decided it was time to make her entrance… a few hours later in the afternoon. We sleeplessly struggled through the first few months, with lots of help, lots of tears and lots of stress.

In April we got married, right after I turned eighteen, on our third anniversary. But our hearts didn’t belong to just each other anymore, that little baby with very little hair and big blue eyes controlled them. We spent our honeymoon weekend talking about her and shopping for her. We watched her grow up, roll over, sprout teeth, bite, cry, crawl, walk… all while holding that little stuffed dog. We heard her first words, witnessed her first holidays, and her first birthday. We drove her around in Benjo when we couldn’t get her to sleep, and she was roughly two when we took her for her first late night trip to L.L. Bean. We had money sometimes, we had no money sometimes, we had a car that liked to die a lot, and we had Benjo. We had each other. It wasn’t ideal, but it was definitely perfect.

Five years later, we have a big, gorgeous apartment (although not a studio in a historic city), he has a big, cushy job, we have an SUV, a sedan, a black lab, a cat, and a turtle. I have been dubbed a soccer mom by most (all) of my friends. We spend some free afternoons playing mini golf and going out to dinner. I don’t sleep all day (okay, sometimes), instead I feed the animals, clean the house, pick Madison up from school, and realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

She has changed our lives for the better – in so, so, so many ways. And now she’s five. And I remember all those nights I thought “great, I’m a teen mom, this is just the worst thing that could happen”, but it’s not. Without her, we wouldn’t be as happy as we are. I owe my heart being so big to that little girl, who now has lots of blonde hair and still has big blue eyes, and her father’s attitude. Again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to see where the future leads her, but you can be certain it will be something amazing and great, because she is amazing and great. And smart. And beautiful. And the perfect combination of her mom and dad.

Happy birthday, Madison, I love all that you will be, and everything you are.

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