I remember when Analie was born and Joey gently handed her to me, barely an armful of person to hold on to. I looked down at her, surprised to find myself staring into eyes I did not recognize. After nine months of weaving our lives tightly together within the fabric of a shared space, in a single moment we were torn apart and became strangers.

This week I looked into the face of my daughter and realized that somewhere between the first time I met her and that specific sliver of time, Ana had become more familiar to me than the back of my own hand. More comfortable than the DTS fleece I stole from Joey and wear on snappy Fall evenings. More precious than oxygen; I cannot breathe if I think about life without her. More alive than I realized she could ever be. And every day I am folding up new memories like origami swans, stuffing them in the Hope chest of my mind, knowing that someday when I feel bereft I can open the lid and all this joy will come flying out, more beautiful than I remembered it would be.

I looked at my daughter tonight as I laid her in bed, and I held her sweet face in my hands and I said “Ana, Mommy loves ALL of you.”

And she grinned at me, unaware of the significance of my words and how they weighed me.

I may have given birth to a stranger, but she is now my heart and soul.

And I may be extra pensive this week, my family has experienced a tragedy which has truly rocked many of us to the core. Each day I feel like I’m looking at Ana through different pairs of glasses. Some make me joyful. Others fill me with fear.

I can’t protect her forever, but I can love ALL of her every day.