My youngest child shouldn’t be here. Yet, last week the Riggleman Crew and friends gathered in our home to celebrate Tori Grace’s 7th birthday with an over-the-top Elsa birthday cake. Elsa’s braided glory cascaded down the side of the two-tier cake. The song, “Let It Go” was sung right along with “Happy Birthday.”

She squealed, laughed and blushed, excited for her birthday but unnerved at all the attention.

Her presence is a daily reminder to be thankful, to pour out gratitude even in the midst of parent-versus-child standoffs over why she can’t wear silver-glittered boots, rainbow-colored cheetah pants and her favorite Elsa dress to school. Never mind the uniforms and school dress code.

In her eyes, the injustice of the school dress code is to be conquered, if not bent at the very least by wearing sparkle pink socks underneath her khakis as a way to buck the system.


Because of her compassion and mercy, Tori Grace is there with the first aid kit in a matter of seconds, picking glass shards from my husband’s foot with tweezers or wrapping Band-Aids around Elijah’s cuticle tear telling them softly, “It will be OK.”

This child carries my heart. She has a stubborn streak that reaches the heavens. I should have known what she was going to be like given the circumstances surrounding her birth.

Before she was born, I found myself a part of a club no woman really wants membership to called secondary infertility. A trip to the doctor’s office taught me a number of things about my body, and I learned my two children (born seven years apart) were considered miracles as the doctor wrote in my file the words “hostile environment” and “secondary infertility.”

Wanting to complete our family, we opted to go through fertility treatment.

After months and several rounds of treatment, I was pregnant. Before my husband and I could celebrate, the doctor ordered bed rest and advised us to “prepare to lose the pregnancy.” I prayed during those long, dark, lonely days, hugging my stomach hoping the next doctor’s visit would include the noise of a thrumming heartbeat.

In the dark room, the cold gel spread around my belly, the doctor’s face full of concern before a smile crept to the edges of her lips and then I heard it, a thunderous heartbeat. The next few months included a difficult pregnancy, but I had never been more grateful to be carrying a life.

As if the good Lord wanted to prepare me for what mothering this child would be like I was induced twice, eight days apart, because the first round of pitocin-induced labor failed. The second time around, Victoria came into the world hearing the words “Holy (insert curse word),” as her 10 pounds, 2 ounces tipped the scales. At first, she meowed like a kitten before dictating to the nurses how life should be done.

Today we call her Tori Grace, because it takes a lot of grace to parent her. Her stubborn drive includes passion, adventure, mercy and justice.

She is a vivid reminder of the things God helped us overcome. She’s also a reminder of the things to be thankful for this season. Life, taking a breath, watching a child grow up, discovering the world and watching her as well as my other kids find their purpose in it.

It taught me just how precious life is and what gratitude on my knees feels like. With Christmas looming on the calendar and the days of holiday parties and visiting family ahead, I am preparing my heart to be thankful for each person and every moment. How about you?

Heather Riggleman has lived in Kearney 15 years. She is addicted to coffee and loves a good run, is a full-time mother of three, author, and journalist. She is learning to accept the mess after chasing perfect for too many years.

Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 8:00 am

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