On August, 1, 2006, our first niece was born. Sophia Marie had ten little fingers, ten little toes, and was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen!
She wasn't due to arrive until some time mid-October.
To really put that into perspective, that would be like Bean arriving today, or even as early as last week. This teeny, tiny, perfect little being was sitting there in front of us when she desperately still needed to be warm and safe inside the womb, growing and thriving and preparing for her debut.
However, there she was. From moment one, she's been a survivor. Tiny enough that we could slip our wedding rings all the way up her arm to her shoulder, her size didn't matter. She was a fighter. Odds meant nothing. Not to her. Not to us. As a first time Auntie and Uncle, Michael and I were smitten. Despite the initial moments of fear, the fact that the odds were against her was quickly pushed to the back of our minds by the sheer determined force of the little soul in front of us.
She wasn't going anywhere. She had work to do!
Her very first birthday card and gift. Obviously Aunt Holly had to be sure there were bears involved. :)
Her first goal was pretty simple. Cause everyone and anyone who met her to fall so deeply in love that there would be no coming back from it. I dare say that she succeeded. She was less than 3lbs, and all the machines, tubes, straps, and needles seemed to shrink next to her already charming little personality. Despite being almost 3 hours away, Michael and I spent every moment we could driving up to the NICU, and there wasn't a single doctor or nurse that didn't smile when they spoke of their little patient. Every single person that walked by her small, quiet area stopped to admire and compliment her. She was a star. A star before she was even expected to be born! She was a star like no other, and she proved it by shining brighter than we could have hoped for!
She was home in October! Home, when many hadn't thought she would survive past the first few days! And people continued to fall in love with her. How could you not? Being home didn't mean she was out of the woods. We all knew that there were many health challenges ahead of our little Peanut, but we also had complete confidence that our little fighter would take them on with the same spunk that she had everything up to that point. So we loved her with everything we had, and we watched our amazing, tiny one grow. (And thrive on the complete adoration of everyone around her! She's been a heart breaker since day one!)
Sophia's First Birthday! Those eyes!
Shortly after she turned one, Sophia was "officially" diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. It was a diagnosis that we'd expected, but it still wasn't easy to hear. Everyone had been hoping and praying and pulling for her for so very long that it felt wrong to have any kind of diagnosis that suggested that she might have a harder road ahead. But this was Sophia. One little diagnosis wasn't going to bring her down! It was just another pot hole in the road. Nothing she couldn't easily get around.
It wasn't even the hardest thing in her life she would have to overcome. Over the years other medical issues have piled up. Again, not unexpected, but sometimes it seems so unfair. She's been in the hospital countless times, and a few of those it was hard to hold onto any kind of hope. Even knowing the strength and determination that she has, there were a couple of times that I stood next to her in a hospital bed trying to find the words to say everything I needed to, because I wasn't sure she was going to beat it this time. There have been times Michael and I have held one another and sobbed, thousands of miles away, praying for our Peanut, because there was nothing else we could do. As the years have passed it has been encouraging to see how very far she has come, but also frustrating to realize that she is not as far as we'd always hoped she would be. But those were our goals and hopes for her, not her's, and it's not hard to smile when you realize that she is so advanced compared to where some people thought she could/would be.
Nothing has exactly been easy for our little fighter in her day to day life, the last couple of years having been particularly hard. Like some of the darkest times in every life though, they have also brought her (and her sisters) some of their most amazing blessings! Nothing that Sophia has come up against is anything a person would ever wish on a child. But she has battled through it. She's battled through it with a smile on her face. She's battled through it despite having almost every odd stacked against her that was possible. She's battled, and won, and I have yet to meet a person who has brought so much joy and light into the lives of others just by being themselves, because that is what our Sophia does! She blesses the world!
Today, she is eight years old. Eight! As Michael said, "How did that happen?!" I'm not sure. I still remember holding this tiny little baby that weighed nothing, and now this little girl that is all arms and legs and comes up to my chin is sitting there in her place! We have been so blessed to have her in our lives, and I look forward to watching her grow and change in the years ahead!
I've tried here, though I can't possibly, to express what Sophia means to those who love her. How she has changed us and our lives. I can't explain what a joy she is to this world, to her sisters, her cousins, her Uncle, and me. It's just not possible. But I can share her, because she is a star, and deserves to be seen!
Happy birthday, Sophia Marie! We love you!
Center of the "pack". Such a loved little girl! I can't wait to have you all together again!