There are no pictures of me cuddling Ellen to my heart for the first time in the delivery room, but it doesn't matter. Every detail is clear in my mind: her perfect, round face, the fuzz of soft gold hair crowning the very top of her head, and her dazed dark eyes, squinting against the glare of the bright, sterile lights.
"You are the daughter I have always dreamed of," I whispered, resting my cheek against the smooth skin of her forehead. Lying there with her on my chest, I had a vision of the future and all the things she would accomplish. Like a movie on fast-forward, I saw her doing well in school, having loyal friends, and being a kind person. She would go to a good college and would someday make a positive difference in this world. Mostly, I pictured all the good times we would have together.
The year after her birth, 1984, was probably the happiest one of my life. I had a five-year-old son, Matt, from my first marriage, who readily adapted to his role as "big brother," a great second husband, a job teaching at a small university that I liked, and Ellen. When our youngest son, Joe, was born eighteen months after her, I rejoiced again, thrilled she would have a sibling close to her age.