So the ears are pierced. It was not the smoothest procedure, and I am glad beyond words that I (A.) let this be a choice she made on her own and (B.) respected her wishes to go to a doctor instead of the mall.

Although it certainly wasn’t a horrible experience, it was not without some pain, and if it was pain I was bringing on her because I wanted her ears pierced, I think the guilt would have crushed me. As it was, I cried more than she did – but I felt no guilt. I asked before the doctor started if she still wanted to do it, and she nodded bravely. And after the first ear did not go exactly as planned, I told her it was fine with me if she wanted to walk out of there with just one pierced ear. She shook her head, gritted her teeth, and got the second one over with. I was very proud of her and continue to be proud of the way she is taking care of her ears post-piercing. (Of course this is the kid who will be half-asleep and then bolt out of bed yelling, “Oh, no, I almost forgot to brush my teeth!” so I can’t say I am shocked.)

As for the doctor, I admit I kind of fought that one. Her pediatricians, the ones I called repeatedly, had told me that it was absolutely fine to bring her to Claire’s, and it was so much cheaper and more flexible on times and had so many cute earrings to choose from instead of just plain gold posts and I thought, “Oh, come on, Ruby, let’s just go there.” But she was steadfast: “No. I am getting them pierced by a doctor or not at all. There is no way I am letting a teenager anywhere near my ears with a gun.” This was the right choice, too. The doctor was a pro, the equipment was almost certainly better-sanitized, and they had several pain-killing options (that we ended up needing) that Claire’s would not have had.

The ear-piercing was just one piece of our complicated birthday/Christmas schedule that so far has included Ruby’s school party, her drama class play, her school performance, a bake sale, and Georgia’s holiday party – all punctuated, of course, by two bouts of croup, two stomach viruses, and an ear infection necessitating numerous trips to the doctor and the pharmacy in a seemingly endless loop.

We still need to cram in Celebration in the Oaks, a Santa picture, a birthday lunch-and-movie date with Ruby’s “twin” (they are best friends and share a birthday), and potentially some Christmas shopping if I can’t manage to get it all done online.

This, I now realize, is why so many people lectured me when I was hugely pregnant with Ruby.

“Man, you’ll spend so much damn money,” one man drawled at me while he was restocking the vending machine at my office. (This is the same man who tried to convince me to ride out a C-section with Lamaze breathing because drugs were bad for the baby.)

“Oh, that baby will never feel special,” said another woman at the drugstore, completely unprovoked. “Trust me; I was born Dec. 20, and I never got a day just to myself.”

“Ugh, a Christmas birthday is the last thing you need,” said one of my coworkers, whose son was born Dec. 22. “It’s just double the stress.”

All of the comments pissed me off like nothing else. What, I wondered, did they expect me to do about it exactly? Here I was, at the tail end of a high-risk pregnancy, wanting nothing more than a live, healthy baby out of the deal – and feeling like even that was maybe too much to ask – and these people were talking to me about money and inconveniences?

But, of course, once she arrived healthy and very much alive, I forgot pretty quickly that all I had wanted was her and started griping, within a few years, about the money and the stress and the inconvenience of it all.

It’s true that it’s not the best birthday, but it’s still the best day of my life (along with May 30, when Georgia was born).

When I went to Ruby’s class birthday party to bring cupcakes and ice cream, her teacher casually asked me what time Ruby had been born. I was shocked, after all these years, to find myself start tearing up as I talked about it.

“She was born at 7:47 a.m.,” I said. “A planned C-section because she was breech. She was born on a snowy Thursday morning, and it had been a really complicated pregnancy after a second-trimester miscarriage, and I was … I was just so … happy.”

I was. I still am. Eight years on and I am still in awe and wonder of what a miracle she is. Eight years on, too, and I still bear the scars on the insides of both elbows from all the blood draws I did, both before I became pregnant with Ruby, to try to figure out what had caused the miscarriage and prevent it from happening again, and after I became pregnant with Ruby, to see if the pregnancy was viable and to test a million different things several times a month (my thyroid hormones, my iron levels, my platelets).

“I can’t believe you still have those,” Ruby said not long ago, running her fingers gently over my scarred elbow crooks.

And then she bent down and kissed them. “Thank you,” she said.

I couldn’t possibly want anything more for Christmas.