Three years ago, I met a little girl who lit up my world. She handed me a lens and I looked through it to see everything around me with a brightness and vibrancy formerly foreign to me. Like a safelight, she led me past the shadows and back home.
Persephone was born on a damp and gray September morning. In the operating room, my mother held my hand and my doula stroked my hair. When Effie was pulled from me, wriggling and rosy, my mom exclaimed, "Oh! She looks buddy-ish!" Meaning that she thought Persephone looked like my little brother Walker, who we sometimes call "buddy." I've since poked fun at my mom, claiming that my little brother (who is fiercely precocious and accomplished) always overshadows me, and did so even during my birth.
When Effie was handed to me, I was overwhelmed by a wave of relief. Wide-eyed and scared at nineteen, long blonde hair tied up in a blue cap, wires taped and woven around my wrists and fingers, I reached for my daughter and held her for the first time. She smelled like the stars, the earth, the unknown magic that wafts like clouds around the place from which she came. The place that I promised her she was close to, still. That ethereal, vast darkness where we all come from and return to. Yet, here in the flesh, in this vivid life, I was gifted with an angel. I'm an atheist, but I saw God in my daughter that day, saw something far greater than myself and I suddenly felt wrapped up in the true beauty of life, of simply existing.
I thought I'd already failed Persephone when she was born. Failed her because I was too young and naive. Failed her because I didn't believe in my worth and capability. Failed her because her father didn't want to be a part of her life. Failed her because he and his family didn't acknowledge the messages that I sent alerting them of Persephone's birth. Failed her because I was lonely and afraid. 
Slowly, I settled into milky motherhood and my constant, calm, and trusting daughter gave me permission to not be okay. She never expected me to be anything other than what I was moment by moment. She loved me without condition and didn't pay attention to my flaws. She opened me up like a winter flower and taught me to bloom, despite defeating elements. 
I made many new friends. I grieved for lost loved ones. I grew and expanded my consciousness. I created and shared art honestly. I began to live with whimsy, wonder, and creativity. The past began to feel further and further away. The addiction, abuse, and darkness didn't haunt me. I replaced negative coping skills with positive coping skills, I opened myself up to the possibility of finding a romantic partner, I wrote down my stories like the heart tattooed on my sleeve.
Without hesitation or shame, I started writing about my life publicly. I know loneliness, and I write in hopes of making at least one person feel less alone. But, even if I don't accomplish that goal for you, I write to remember my stories, to keep a timeline so that I know I'm moving forward, to hold myself accountable to my daughter and to my dreams. For those of you who have followed my journey these past three years, thank you. You are heroes to me. For listening, for scrolling through photographs, for extending warm hands to hold and loving words to read. You are not alone, and neither am I.
My partner, Nik, called me from work this morning. "Congratulations," he said, "You're such a successful mommy and you make it look effortless, but I know it hasn't always been. I know what it's like to start from scratch. You're so amazing and so is P. She's so honest. She's not sneaky about anything. Like, you can ask her if she bit someone at school and she'll say, 'I sure did. I was being a puppy.' I love that. I know how strong your bond with her is. You've told me about the way you held her nose to nose on her first night, and about how you wouldn't leave her to walk ten feet to the bathroom after she was born because you couldn't be without her. You have put your love and energy into the world so purely and have an amazing Effie to show for it. She is so smart, aware, imaginative, kind, opinionated, and so beautiful. You are an unbelievable force, your perspective is amazing and is art. You share your perspective so thoroughly and P is a huge part of that. You are a mastermind and a supreme artist. I am so proud of you, especially today."
He is a gift. When I used to think about the type of partner I wanted in life and love, I longed for someone who could resonate with me on parenthood. Someone who can laugh about it taking an hour to leave the bookstore and make a little girl feel safe when she is afraid of the wind. I am looking forward to moving forward with a family two bigger than the one we've been a part of the past three years. Of all the people in the world, we found this loving man and his beautiful daughter. Now, it's not just me and P leaning on one another. It's a family, an infinite roof, a shelter, a home. It's what I've been longing for since I was nineteen and cradling a newborn in a hospital bed while silently crying for the hollowness inside me that I didn't know how to fill. 
Today, I am full. Wholly and completely.