Madeline’s tenth birthday was on Saturday. Not long after her first birthday, I flipped ahead on the calendar and saw that her tenth birthday was going to be on a Saturday. Perfect for a blowout 10th birthday bash. Instead of planning a party, I withdrew into myself. I’ve been on autopilot for a while, without even realizing it. My head did what it could to protect my heart…but this milestone birthday hurt more than I ever expected.

Double digits. Two hands. A decade. Sometimes when I think about the time I spent on bed rest leading up to her birth, it feels like it happened to someone else. In lots of ways, it did. I was a totally different person then, living a completely different life.

This was the first year James had questions about Maddie. Where is she? Can we visit her? Is she still a baby? Why can’t I see her? Mike and I did our best to answer him. At one point, he let out a heavy sigh and put his face in his hands. “But I want to go to her birthday party!” I honestly thought the lump in my throat would choke me.

Annabel was a sweet big sister to James, trying to explain things to him and comfort him when he was sad. I was so proud of her, but so angry that this is their reality.

I should have a fourth grader here, making me crazy with her homework, activities, and sibling squabbles. What do fourth-grade girls like these days? What posters would she have on her walls? Would she have been into sports? Would she have wanted to join the choir at school?

Every year brings new questions. Every year I hope it will get easier. It never does.

We had our annual creme puffs on Saturday night. Maddie’s brother and sister each blew out a candle for her.

After they went to bed, I cried in the shower.