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Four years later

“You make me sick,” I said to Paige, who was busy eating her third piece of cake.

“I’m sorry,” she said through a mouthful. “This cake is so good. I’m eating for three, may I remind you.”

She was comically huge, six and a half months pregnant with twins. It amazed me that after all the work she had gone through to have Nate, she and her second husband, Nicholas, had tried the old fashioned way for only two months before the twins were conceived. Not to mention the irony that through all of the fertility treatments our group had gone through, it was the traditionally-conceived pregnancy that resulted in multiples. I couldn’t think of anyone who deserved it more, though.

“Glad you’re enjoying the cake,” I said. “Please save some for the birthday girl though.”

The girl in question was sitting in the center of the living room, “reading” one of her new books. Brie had turned four a few days ago, and now the girls had brought their kids over to help celebrate the big day. She was clad in a pink dress and shoes, a total princess. Her dark blonde curls were tied into pigtails, and a pink feathery tiara was perched on top of her head.

Nate sat beside her, playing with two cars, repeatedly crashing them into each other. It made me laugh to see how stereotypical they had turned out. Brie in her pink dress and crown, Nate dressed in blue, playing with cars. They played well together, and yet seemed such opposites.

“Finally got him to sleep,” Julianne said, coming down the stairs.

“I thought we weren’t going to see you again for the rest of the day,” Paige replied.

“Who gave Sadie another piece of cake?”

I immediately looked at Paige. “Must be cakezilla over there. I don’t think anyone but Paige has gone near the cake.”

“Eating for three,” she repeated.

“Yeah, the three little pigs,” Julianne replied.

She moved to her daughter’s side, and removed the plate holding the remnants of a second piece of cake that sat in front of the little girl. Julianne kissed the top of her daughter’s head.

“Go wash your hands and play with the rest of the kids, okay?”

Sadie complied with her mother’s wishes.

“Seriously, what is your son’s problem?” I asked.

Julianne shrugged. “He’s not a good sleeper. We’re working on it, but we’re new to this whole raising a baby from scratch thing.”

It had only been three weeks since Greg and Julianne’s adoption of Reid, a six-month-old baby boy, had been made official, though he’d been with them since his birth. Julianne complained bitterly about his sleep troubles, but I could see the joy behind her words. She was thrilled to have another child. No one deserved another little one like Jules did. She was magical with Sadie. There wasn’t a person in the world who doubted for a second that Sadie was Julianne’s daughter.

When Paige had announced her pregnancy, there was a moment when I thought that I would be crushed. When Jules brought Reid home, I was sure the jealousy would begin, missing out on a second child when both of my friends had made that leap. Then I looked at my precious girl, and I knew that she was enough for me. She filled our lives with everything that we had been missing while trying to conceive. We still missed her sister fiercely, but we didn’t feel that we were missing out on anything by only having one child, even as Paige and Julianne added to their families.

The last four years had been hard at times, of course. Staying up all night with a refluxing baby. The fear that took hold of my body every time she was sick; even a common cold could send me into a panic attack of what could happen. The terrible twos that gave way to the willful threenager stage. The times I’d lost my cool with Brie’s attitude. We were probably in for it once she became a teen for real.

The door from the garage opened, and Ben stepped in.

“Okay, the bike is built.”

Brie jumped up and ran for the door.

“Coat!” I called.

There hadn’t been any snow for weeks, but it was still frosty outside. I didn’t want her to catch a cold. Well, I didn’t want Ben to let her outside to ride her new bike in the first place, but it didn’t look like I was going to get my way on that.

Brie, Nate, and Sadie bundled up to go outside: coats, hats, mittens. I grabbed my cup of hot chocolate and moved to the front door of the house, watching through the windows. The dads were outside with the kids. I watched Ben help Brie onto her bike, which was pink with streamers on the handlebars. It was her first bike with training wheels. No more tricycle for her, she was a big girl now.

My heart ached at the idea that my baby girl was growing up. In one way, I wanted her to be a baby forever. Yet I was excited for her future. I was excited for her to start school, to see if she was better at math or English, if she had a talent for sports or drawing or music. From the day she was born, I waited impatiently for all of her firsts, her first step, her first words, even as I knew that they were taking her further from babyhood and into childhood. I figured I could be excited about her milestones, or I could mourn the passage of time, and I’d done enough mourning already.

I had been thrilled on that day shortly before her first birthday when she had taken her first steps. She walked from me to her father, and as I watched her move away from me, I had been struck with amazement. This is my daughter, I had thought. And now she is moving. She can move away from me, becoming more independent, and she can come to me when I call, throwing herself in our arms for hugs and kisses. I had been amazed in her toddler years as she began to string sentences together. She could tell me her fears, her desires, her needs. She could tell me that she loved me, that she wanted a hug, or that she wanted to be left alone.

I was sure that going to school would be hard, both for her and for me. In preschool, she and Nate had been in the same class her first year, a combined three- and four-year-old class. She had loved seeing her best friend every day. Perhaps next year would be harder, with Nate moving up to kindergarten in the fall, and Brie staying behind, but she obviously loved her time at school. She would likely adjust easily.

It was my job to pick them kids up from school every day. Sadie was in kindergarten at the same school where Nate and Brie attended preschool. The three kids would pile into my car, each talking over the others as they tried to tell me about their day. I listened to them all, loving them all so much, but Brie’s voice always cut through the others.

She was becoming independent, yet was still our little girl. She amazed me more and more every day. I stood by the window, watching her peddle her bike. It wouldn’t be long before the training wheels came off and she was biking up and down the street all by herself. I couldn’t wait to see that.

Deep down, I couldn’t wait for my little girl to grow up. I wanted to see what kind of teenager she would be. I wanted to know what kind of adult she would be. I yearned to know what kind of mother she would be.

And more than anything, I prayed it would be easy for her.

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