The One Question that Defines your Marriage and Tells your Future

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A single, simple but profound question passed my mind the other day:

“What’s the purpose of marriage?”

I asked this question while reflecting on the the deep heartache, brokenness, and loneliness that appears rampant (and silent) in marriages. The type of relationship where it’s not that you hate each other, but you don’t feel fire either, the joyful pictures on social media masking the pain and suffering inside a house of roommates. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking that we’ve come so far from the altar where we committed our lives to each other. What’s the meaning of this? Where do we go from here?

The marriage night behind us, the ring on the finger, we’ve slowly shifted our affections from the pursuit of our beloved to our own desires. We’ve started to sleep with our list of failures and hurts instead of in the arms of our love. We’ve set our eyes on our own goals, dreams, ambitions, expectations, and placed them on the shelf to stare at. We’ve fatefully held our spouse, this person fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, to an impossibly high standard of perfection and waited for the moment they fail.

adult-alone-anxious-568027We’ve forgotten our own sin, our own unfaithfulness, our own wandering, and how in our sin and hardened heart, the Lord still chose us. We forgot that we are two imperfect beings, made perfect by the blood of our Lord. We are two beings prone toward ambition, pride, control, jealously, greed, creating our life in “our image” and yet we’ve been unified in the covenant of marriage, two that became one, set apart to love one another, serve one another, and be a reflection of the gospel, a reflection of Christ and his Bride.

Over time, we’ve turned our marriage covenant into a marriage contract.

IF I am happy, then we will remain married. IF you make me happy, you are deserving of my heart.

Is that your definition and purpose for marriage? Happiness?

And what IS happiness? What have you filled this blank with “If only I get ________ then I will be happy. If only he does ________ then I would be happy.” Happiness is fleeting. Your definition of happiness changes with the season. Health comes and goes. Mental wellness comes and goes. Beauty comes and goes. Jobs come and go. Fertility comes and goes. Children come into your home and leave. Prosperity blesses us and fades. He gives and takes away . . .

When we build our marriage on these fleeting moments and things, and define our love by these grounds, we are bound to fail.

We set our spouse up for failure, and we set our minds on an idol, some picturesque Disney perfection that was never meant to be. In these hard, defining moments “happiness” is not what carries us into patience and mercy, forgiveness and grace, bearing each other’s burdens. Happiness is not the force that drives us to love harder, to serve when we aren’t being served, to listen when we aren’t being listened to, to pursue when the other no longer has the energy to return this affection.

While happiness IS a worthy goal, it is not THE purpose. When I further reflected on the question, further reflected on who I am in Christ, and His pursuit of His Bride, this is what came to mind:

10171289_2239024742052_1638737377_nThis spouse of mine, is my brother-in-Christ. First and foremost my purpose in this marriage is to lead him toward Christ, not to create myself as his savior, as his happiness, or as his answer. I am not. I cannot provide that. And neither should I look to him as the provider of such things. My JOY and my PURPOSE is to see Tucker as the Lord views him, to serve him faithfully, to confess my sins, to be sanctified little-by-little, to walk this path with him, to bear his burdens, to not hold his failures above his head, to show him mercy and forgiveness, to see his brokenness and instead of saying “HA! SEE! I knew you couldn’t provide that for me . . . ” is to instead point him toward his identity and worth – defined by Christ alone. To point him toward a joy that’s so much deeper than what this world brings. To show him peace so much more profound and lasting than what he can find in a picturesque marriage. To pray for him. To love him. To speak Truth and Light into his life. To bring him to the Living Water, and draw his pail. 

Tucker, I love you. Oh, how I love you. Thank you for constantly pointing me to the One who Saves. Thank you for instead of building my marriage on YOU, you’ve pointed me to Him. We’re aren’t perfect, but His Love is. We got this. Let’s do this. ❤

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A season to sow, a reason to reap: Your future can’t wait for tomorrow

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Our culture of immediate gratification has falsely and tragically led us to believe that at any given time, we can radically change our circumstances. For those of us who are young and have been blessed with resources, current circumstances has set a precedent for us to believe life is always adaptable, without consideration to how age, time, health, expanding families, and added responsibilities can make immediate adaptability less and less attainable – and our goals and wishes further out of reach. Once over the hill, life can leave us wishing that instead of only operating in the present, we prepared also for the future.

We only think about changes that need to come to a school, when our own kids attend it.

We only think about women in the workforce, when we become a part of it.

We only think about our marketability, when we are stuck in career that we can’t leave.

We only think about life insurance, when we’ve been diagnosed with something that makes it too expensive.

We only think about house maintenance when an expensive repair is needed.

We only think about our marriage, when something begins to threaten it.

We think about spending more time with our kids, when they are older and ready to move away.

We only think about retirement, when we start aging and realizing we can’t be young forever.

We tend to be creatures that believe “I’ll get to it eventually when I need to” and we forget (or choose to ignore) the sweet fruit that’s produced with consistency (and some trial and error) over a period of time. We forget that there’s a season to sow and a season to reap, and that both sowing and enjoying the fruit cannot be done on the same day. Furthermore, you can’t reap what you don’t sow. 

Friendships take attention, time, and patience.

Developing a new skill requires trial and error, practice, and observation.

Financial freedom comes with diligence and steadfastness.

A lifelong, loving marriage takes daily maintenance and adjustments.

The choices you make today set the outcome for the rest of your life. Even micro-choices shape your future and set your path.

Instead of thinking “But that will take 10 years to master/understand/develop/create, so why start?” realize that 10 years will pass either way – might as well be working toward something!!

I challenge you to start taking 30 minutes every day and dedicate to your best future-self. Your future-self deserves it. And the world does too. ❤ 

#WBW My Breastfeeding Journey

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Breastfeeding . . .  13 months and going

This journey has been beautiful (and difficult at times) with both children. Both unique experiences, both I wouldn’t regret. When Tali was born, I didn’t have many friends with children. I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding. I had little support. I wanted to quit. It was awkward. It was lonely at times. I had a hard time getting her to latch. My milk didn’t come in for 5 days. But one mommy was brave, messaged me on FB, told me about the benefits, and told me I can do it! I then committed to a year right then and there. I went back to work when she was 4 weeks old, and I pumped. Pumping was lonely. The stress to keep my supply was sometimes overwhelming. But those moments in the night made it all worth it. Tali was on mostly half formula and half breastmilk for her whole life. Tali weened herself around 6 to 9 months (cause she didn’t want to be held, cuddle, lol). She refused to nurse. So I’d hold a bottle of breastmilk for her to take, while pumping. Her one-year-old birthday was the last time I nursed her (she actually let me that morning.)

With Parker, I was ready for this journey. I knew I wanted to try again. I was armed with a LOT of knowledge, support, and techniques. I know about supply and demand. I knew about all the most recent research and articles that have surfaced about STEM cells, immune support, antibodies, probiotics, and more. For about 9 months I provided fully breastmilk, even after returning to work. And up to 13 months, he’s still mostly breastmilk fed with occasional formula. But, I had weeks where it hurt so bad I cried when he nursed. I had moments I wanted to give up to have more help and freedom. But, it’s been worth it. With Parker’s conditions (kidneys and ears), I’ve provided him to the best of my ability what his body needs to fight off any infections and to grow strong. One year now, and I think I’ll just keep going. ❤

IMG_1861I love snuggling my babies close. I love watching them nurse, watching them study my eyes. I love their little hands on my skin. I love providing for them. I love feeling their chest rise and fall with each breath. I love how I can calm them in seconds at my chest. I’m amazed how the Lord made our bodies – to grow, house, birth, then nurture.

I know this journey isn’t easy for everyone, isn’t beautiful, isn’t encouraging. I know that for some reason or another, mamas have chosen not to. And that’s okay. ❤ Don’t let this post be one to make you question your choices – or make you feel I would. You’re the mama. You know what’s best for you.

And this picture, it’s of a mama feeding her baby. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing here to hide.

Mama’s Simple and Wise Life Lesson

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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My wise mama taught me an important life lesson, one that as a kid I would roll my eyes and think “well when I’m an adult, I’m not going to have to do this.” Instead, it’s a lesson I now appreciate, cherish, and will teach my own kids.

Mama would always say:

When you leave somewhere, leave it better than when you arrived. When you borrow something, leave it cleaner than when you brought it home.

And she diligently applied this rule to every aspect of our daily life:

860272_1874362465723_1815623652_o.jpgWhen I’d try on clothes, mom would make me hang every single piece back up, button it, straighten it, fold the jeans, etc. and give them back to the attendant. When I’d leave a restaurant, if I made a mess on the floor, she’d have me tidy it up. If I missed the trash bin, she’d make me go pick it back up. I’d often get frustrated and say something along the lines of “But they hire people to do this! This isn’t my job.

She’d make me do it anyway.

Today I walked into the bathroom at my workplace and saw trash thrown near the trash bins and paper towel scraps near the dispenser. It looked pretty bad. Of course the average person probably pulled out the paper towel, grabbed it wrong, let the scrap fall to the ground, didn’t have a second thought, and moved along. The average person also might walk in, see what I am looking at, and think “this looks awful!” and leave with the same thought, taking no action.

This is my second home. It’s where I work, work I take pride in. It’s where my coworkers spend the majority of their waking hours. It’s a place that’s been good to me. I know my coworkers here, their spouses, and their children. I know our mailman. I know our janitors, and know many of their life stories and have shared with them my own.

I stooped over and began picking up all the trash, and tidying the bathroom. It took me about 20 seconds to do.

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When we care for these smaller things, when we take time to notice the impact of one person, we start to understand the world differently. We can suddenly see the impact of 10 people who stopped caring, and realize the impact of an entire culture who, out of habit, thought “someone else will do it.” We start to see how little decisions “pile” up – and these small teachable moments translate to every aspect of our life, our home, our family, our workplace, our lifestyle, our culture, our world.

A little of your time, mommy

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Tali broke my heart last night. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

One of the most difficult jobs a mommy has is balance: balancing career, mommyhood, cleaning, cooking, time with your husband, self care, quiet time, and everything else.

Different days have different sacrifices; sometimes our family is put on hold for work crises. And other times work is put aside for quality time with the people that matter most. Other times, we assume what our child wants most only to be reminded that the simplicity of their wish comes down to desiring our love, attention, and affirmation.

Yesterday morning, I left the house while Tali was still asleep and went to work, the usual. Work was busy, satisfying, and fulfilling. After work, I met Tali (daughter), Tucker (my husband), and Parker (son) at community group, an event we have every Tuesday night with our closest friends. We share a meal, the adults talk pleasantries, and the kids play; they play HARD. These kids have known each other their whole life.

After we got home, after what I would consider a long, satisfying day, I told Tali we need to get ready for bed. (It was about 9:00 PM).

Tali then suddenly cried, “Mommy, why haven’t you played with me today?” I opened my mouth to explain how we’d talked in the car on the way home and how she played with her friends tonight and had fun and how it’s late, but the words just felt empty to her emotional plea. “Mommy, I want to play with YOU, don’t you want to play with me?”

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Even after playing with her friends, spending time with daddy and Parker all day, what she really needed to feel satisfied was a little bit of my time, a little memory and token of my affection to carry her off to sleep that night.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to do. We’d been up really late the night before. I was exhausted and still needed to get her baby brother down for bed. If I gave her “10 more minutes” to play then it would turn into “ . . . but last night you played with me!”

Instead I hugged her, told her “Mommy is so sorry. I love playing with you. Tonight though we played with our friends and now it’s bedtime. How about mommy reading you a book?”

That moment really stuck in my mind, and has all morning. I think I’ll even ponder on its meaning for a few years, while Tali probably woke up without even a glimmer of it.

Our babies need us. They need our time. They need us to put down our email. Put down our phone. Place the world aside to show them that they are worth our undivided attention. Keeping them “happy” and “busy” with playdates and activities and other things aren’t enough. They need US. They simply need us.

And honestly, we need them too. We need them to remind us what’s most important in life. It’s the people in front of us. It’s the simple things in life.

Miscarriage: My Story, No Details Spared

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October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. This month I remember my sweet angel baby Jordyn that we lost so suddenly in March of 2016.

It’s taken me over a year to publish this story that I wrote shortly after we miscarried. The details were too graphic, and the pain was still fresh. I knew when I wrote it that I had the intention to make it public, but couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. I share with you something that is so deeply personal and vulnerable because I want those who haven’t walked through miscarriage to understand what miscarriage entails, and I want those who have walked through it to know you aren’t alone in the details. 

Here is my story, raw and unpolished:


The last beat of his heart sounded while my body cradled his; at one point two heartbeats from within the chambers of my body, and then one; when his last one faded, mine continued, rocking him into heavenly slumber. Perhaps I was sitting laughing with my husband unaware of this event when it occurred. Perhaps I lay dreaming of holding him. It still haunts me that such an event occurred without notice, without pause. Life continued as another one passed.

IMG_6699Three weeks ago, I heard his heartbeat for the first time in an ultrasound. It was beautiful and strong. I was given “Congratulations! A healthy baby!” and sent home. Life continued. We dreamed. We prepared. We hung my pregnancy clothes.

Sunday night while I slept, I dreamt that I was forced to move into a new home. This new home was anything but welcoming; it was dark and cold. A murder had been committed there, and left. I was faced with the task to clean it up by myself before I could move in, and tell no one of what happened. The feeling of heaviness, of darkness, of fear, of suffering was full upon me faced with this morbid task. I would be forced to live in that house with the memory of what I saw. Trembling, with a cleaning pail and rubber gloves, I entered the cold, dark, quiet house anticipating what I was about to see. Entering, I gasped and fell to my knees weeping, body parts illuminated in pale light.

I then awoke to intense pain in my lower body, and headed to the bathroom. I sat down, and found blood in my underwear. Just a spot. Being 11 weeks pregnant, I immediately began weeping uncontrollably, although unaware of what it fully could mean. Blood isn’t good. Gathering myself, I stumbled into our room where Tucker was asleep. He awoke hearing my sobs and asked if everything was okay and when I didn’t respond, he got up and followed me into the bathroom where I showed him — he embraced me while I wept. Tucker reminded me that we didn’t know anything yet – and there was so little blood. In that moment, I felt so helpless. I couldn’t check on my baby. I couldn’t comfort him. And if it was miscarriage, I was powerless to stop it. I ended up staying up most of the night in tears. Tucker and I went to the living room around 3am and tried to watch a movie to distract us – and wait. Wait to see if more blood came.

That morning, no new blood came. We called the doctor and I described what I had experienced and she told me that it was nothing to be concerned about – that a small amount a blood was normal and to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Suddenly the dark gloom lifted, lingering, but lifted. I excitedly told Tucker that everything would be okay and I rubbed my belly, smiling, cradling my baby. We couldn’t have been more happy to hear our little child was still there and okay, although I was still having some painful cramping. I told work that I was “sick” and stayed home tending to Tali and going about a semi-normal day.

Things took a turn for the worst around 9pm that evening (my daughter was already in bed asleep) – it was sudden and unexpected. I had invited my mother over to watch The Bachelorette, and shipped Tucker off to be with my dad to watch the game. The evening was beautiful and uplifting until that telling moment I’ll never forget: I laughed and felt a rush of fluid come — and continue to, every time I moved, every time I talked, with every step. I immediately knew – and my heart sank deeper than I’ve ever felt before. All hope drained from me, all the light was gone. I knew our baby was no longer alive. A heart no longer beating – that seconds ago I took for granted that it was. And my body still held onto his lifeless one.

Tucker wasn’t home and I texted him to come home, and told my mom I was tired and needed to rest. I stayed strong until she left because I wanted to first process the emotion with my husband. I was already wearing a pad just in case from the previous incident, and now found myself paralyzed with fear and sadness. I couldn’t look, couldn’t check – I didn’t want to face what was happening. I went to our bed and curled up in the fetal position, and absolutely fell apart. I wept uncontrollably as more blood continued to come – it never let up. Tucker came home about ten minutes later and found me in the bed. He immediately curled up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, comforting me, holding me, a moment of knowing silence hung in the air. I told him between sobs that I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to look. While sobbing I continued to repeat it. But, I knew I had to or I would get blood on my pants and bed. He helped me to the bathroom as my body continued to painfully contract. I felt the same anxiety as I did in my dream Sunday night, and I wasn’t prepared to face it. To see blood. I wasn’t prepared to see the proof of what I feared. A nightmare that I couldn’t wake from. I sat on the toilet and saw that the pad was full of bright red blood – new blood — a sign of miscarriage. My whole body began shaking as I now faced what was happening. It was real. My baby was gone. My womb held no life, but just a body. I continued weeping, sobbing. And I sat… as blood continued to pour out along with tissue with each sob.

Image04I sobbed for so many things: for the loss of hope. For the loss of opportunity. For the loss of memories I expected to make. For the pain. The pain of labor. For the graphic nature of this moment. For the unknown: the image of my child’s body floating somewhere, unknown, unseen, in human waste, in a cold dark sewer system, forgotten, abandoned, rejected by the body. Dear Lord, I just wanted to hold him. I just wanted to hold her once.

I fixated on this idea. Where is my baby? Where is my child?

Tucker ended up calling my doctor and we ended up at the hospital because the pain became unbearable. When I arrived, there were happy faces. There were people awaiting news in the waiting room of a blessed new life. The nurses tried to reassure me that my symptoms didn’t necessarily mean miscarriage. But, I knew. I knew before they knew.

Once we were admitted, they asked about the clots I passed. They asked if there was evidence still left in the toilet that I used. They asked about my pain. They hooked me up to machines. They used an ultrasound machine. They entered my body and used an internal ultrasound. The privacy of that moment, the vulnerability of that moment felt invaded by machines and strangers and objects. The loss of life corresponded with a loss of privacy — and the peaceful, familiar space to pause and process and reflect and pray was gone.

They turned the monitor away out of my sight, and walked out to discuss. They confirmed no heartbeat, and with that, the last bit of unrealistic hope I had was crushed. They told me that “stuff” was still passing and that they needed to ask my doctor if I needed to stay overnight, have a surgery, or wait it out.

Instead they offered me a pill and had us go home. We drove slowly. We cried. We stopped for food to delay return. We walked into the house, and I didn’t want to say anything to my parents that waited with my daughter. I had no more words.

We arrived home that night around 2am, and a few hours later, Tucker had to get ready and go to work – life, responsibilities, and time continuing forward, unforgiving of human life or suffering, leaving no room for rest or processing.

Having no experience with miscarriage, and not having spoken to a mom that went through miscarriage, I didn’t understand that my body was in labor. I didn’t understand what “surgery” entailed. I didn’t know what my little pill was. I didn’t know that the “stuff” spoken of was my child. To me, my child was never just “stuff” — nor was his remains. When I went to the hospital, no one educated me. No one spoke about options. No one asked me what I wanted. No one explained what would happen next.

Three days later, my child arrived into the world. That morning I had thought about going to work because processing the pain alone at home was worse than continuing in routine tasks. Luckily, I decided to stay home one more day. I didn’t know that that “stuff” that would pass on its own was code for my child’s body. And, I had no idea that when you miscarry, you labor and pass your child — depending how far along — whole and recognizable. That afternoon my body started painfully contracting and I left for the bathroom. Something larger passed, and all the pain I had been feeling suddenly and immediately lifted and was gone. In fact, I felt peace. I immediately recognized the meaning of this moment. I knew what had happened and what I passed. I was so unprepared. No one told me this would happen. No one told me what to do next.

I couldn’t bring myself to flush the toilet. I couldn’t bring myself to not look upon my child’s face. But I sat, frozen. Am I crazy? Am I crazy to want to hold him? Is that not what I wanted? I had fixated on not knowing where my baby was, and sobbed over the idea of him each night. Isn’t this a redeeming moment?

IMG_0154I retrieved his sweet little body, and kept him. I held him. And for a moment, all life paused. My angel. I told Tucker the news, and we decided to buy a Japanese Maple Tree and burry our beloved under the tree. We named our child Jordyn Eden, and said our final goodbye that weekend — peace came over us. Closure came. And closure came as I spoke to other mothers to find out that this experience, and how we sought closure, was common. Other mothers, in utter shock, flushed the remains and then felt guilt and shame, never feeling that they had the chance to say goodbye. For these parents, some sought closure by writing a letter to their loved one and burying it instead, or perhaps placing rose petals into the water that the baby was born into, and sending it away the same way their child left them. Either way, there is no wrong way to say goodbye. There is no closure that comes close to ending our pain or mourning. There is only acceptance, and reflection, and prayer, and community, and faith, and moving forward when everything in us wants to go back, go back to that beating heartbeat, to the double lines on a pregnancy test.

We enter into a community of motherhood we never expected to or wished to, but in it we found love, and peace, and hope, and remembrance. Although to so many people this little life never was, to us they were, and they are, and they continue, even if only in our heart.


 

 

Three Years Ago Today: A Birth Story

10669108_2448876388212_6300732187177903828_oTucker and I arrived at the hospital promptly by 5:30am to be induced, as our little miss was estimating at 10lbs and was already almost 2 weeks late! Little did I know, it wouldn’t be until the next day that we met our sweet little girl.

The labor was anything but what I expected. I didn’t respond to being induced; the pitocin was cranked up high after 6 hours of labor not starting. Then, all at once, my water broke and STRONG irregular contractions started, peaking without fully coming off of them. I labored for a hour before begging for an epidural with these medicine-induced contractions and no doula or education for pain management. The epidural wore off after an hour, and I was given a booster. Once that didn’t work, they took the epidural out and restuck me (still didn’t completely work). My temperature spiked and baby’s activity slowed. Then the oxygen mask. Then the anxiety meds. Hours and hours went by . . .

My sweet nurse took me by the face and told me “I’m here. I’m here. We’re gonna make it.”

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THREE years ago today, Tali arrived early in the morning after 4am. After the labor hadn’t gone as planned, and no progress had been made after four hours, after my body had gone through 23 hours of medicine-induced-contractions, an epidural removed and redone, anxiety medicine, and oxygen, the doctor said the words “Failure to Progress” and the word “C-Section” was spoken. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt like I had failed. I felt like my body failed. I felt like something was wrong with me. In that moment I felt like the most miraculous moment of life was stolen from me: watching an innocent babe come into the world, your child. It was like sand through a fist: the tighter I tried to hold on to it, the faster it slipped through my fingers.

Tucker was exhausted both emotionally and physically watching me fight through labor. I was exhausted mentally and physically as well. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Okay,” so Tucker did for me. Tucker was rushed off to get dressed and I was sent into a sterile, white-walled room, with obtrusive bright lights: anything but the serenity in which I wanted. I couldn’t see the doctors’ faces, as they were covered with a mask. I was told to lay my arms out flat. Tucker came in and stood over me, his eyes the only recognizable part of him that was visible.

I was so scared. Behind the curtain they’d be cutting into my body, pushing internal parts to the side to bring my daughter into the world. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be…Then, before I could think about much more, Tali was born into the world crying. I saw tears in Tucker’s eyes as he said “She’s beautiful.” In that moment, I “saw” her for the first time through his eyes – a shared emotion. I told Tucker to go to her, that I’d be okay. And, that’s my last memory.

Although I was “awake” during these pictures – I don’t remember them. I don’t remember holding my daughter for the first time. I don’t remember breastfeeding her. I don’t remember the first time I looked into her eyes. I don’t remember how she moved. I don’t remember how her skin felt or how she smelled. My first memory is looking across the room and seeing someone holding her. I remember a room full of people.

But yet, despite all the circumstances, when I saw her, all I could think about was her. That perfect moment hung in the air. She’s mine. She’s my daughter. She’s so perfect. She’s so beautiful. I brought her into the world. I’ll do anything for her. I love her.

Happy Birthday, Tali.