Today may have seemed like just any other day to anyone who had the opportunity to run into my daughter and me today at the indoor waterpark we visited in Storm Lake, Iowa, where my in-laws live, but to me, this wasn’t just any other day, it was a celebration of life and love.

Let me build up to my point here. For the record, I really do miss snuggling with a newborn and cuddling up with an infant, but to me, nothing tops the expressions of love that a toddler gives. Olivia just turned 19 months old on Thanksgiving Day-I can hardly believe that our little girl is almost two already! (Sigh). Olivia’s always been a snuggler, a cuddler, and an all-around Mommy’s girl, but there is just something so heartwarming (and sometimes heart-wrenching, depending on the circumstances, like leaving her at daycare) about a child who suddenly doesn’t just NEED YOU but WANTS YOU and isn’t afraid to let you or anyone else in the world know it.

Our girl gives the best squeezes (hugs), and pats you on the back whole-heartedly as she does so. She gives wonderful, sloppy, (and unfortunately, most of the time, also snotty) kisses, and she now says “I l-o-o-o-v-e y-o-o-o-u.” (Another big sigh). She melts my heart every time! If all of that outward expression of love wasn’t enough, Olivia always starts her day off the same way, (no matter how early in the day it is, much to my chagrin) singing, and her new favorite song goes a little something like this, “Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy!” Second verse, same as the first. My words definitely don’t do her little melody justice, but I hope that you can get the sense of Olivia’s deep love and affection for my husband and me, and her unabashedness in sharing it with the world.

I know what some of you must be thinking. Big deal! Every toddler begins to develop emotions, a sense of empathy, of love. Toddlers do everything in grandiose, including showing their emotions. True, true, I will admit, but when you consider the life that I have lived and wasn’t supposed to live at all, and therefore, the life that my daughter almost didn’t get the chance to live, there is something so special about my daughter and the overwhelming strength of her joy and her love.

Which brings me to today….my husband headed home earlier than us (to put together his early Christmas present-a new flat screen tv that he didn’t really need), so it was just Olivia, me, and Olivia’s godmother who went swimming. It certainly was a good time; Olivia loves the water, loves being around other kids, and loved getting to spend with her godmother, but to me, the best part of the day was seeing and feeling just how much Olivia loved me and loved spending time with me.

I am sad to admit that I like the me that is present on holidays and weekends so much better than the me that is present during the week when I am exhausted and being pulled in a million different directions. I am even sadder to admit that I know that my daughter certainly can tell the difference between the mommy who sometimes has to squeeze time in for her versus the mommy who has all the time in the world for her on her days off.

I know that I am not alone in this experience, but the very foundation of my relationship with Olivia, knowing that my life was almost taken from me during that abortion attempt and therefore that I would never have lived, never become a mother, has forged an even deeper love and understanding of the fragility of human relationships, of the importance of motherhood, of unconditional love in me and makes me strive to be the very best person, wife, and mother that I can be.

So today, when the onlookers at the pool saw this beautiful, joyful toddler throwing her arms around her mother’s neck, when they saw her yelling out, “mommy, mommy” anytime I wasn’t right there with her, when they saw her smattering my face with sloppy, wet kisses, when they saw my eyes dancing with delight as I took in every new experience that she had today, when they felt the joy that we shared together today, it may have seemed like any other day to them, a mother and child enjoying their time at the waterpark, but it was so much more than that.

It was another living example of the celebration of life and love that Olivia and I experience each and every day. Each day is a gift, and although I certainly long for more time with my daughter, I can honestly tell you that each day I wake up to her beautiful face and hear her melodious voice calling my name, I thank the Lord for the gift of our lives and the gift of His love and the love that we share with one another. And that, my friends, IS something truly special.