Laura is my first born, my induction into motherhood. I guess that’s where we make the most mistakes, right? She’d probably tell you that she was my practice child. At 22 years old I was just winging it and learning what not to do with the next child.

Honestly, I think I was pretty good at mothering, even at my young age. I loved Laura (still do) more than I thought was even possible. I was attentive and nurturing. I celebrated every milestone. I took more pictures and video than I even have time to watch. I dressed her up in pretty little clothes with bows on her bald little head and showed her off to the world. She was my everything!

When they’re little, you have so many hopes and dreams for their future. You can’t imagine anything will ever be less than perfect for them. After all, you’re going to protect them from the world, right? You’re going to provide them with everything they need for a bright and successful future. What could go wrong?

Now, 24 years later, I can tell you what can go wrong. The world will take hold of your child and they will be influenced by all of it, both good and bad. Laura took a very difficult road. However, she remains my symbol of hope for the future as I’ve watched her battle her demons and emerge on the other side bruised and scarred and stronger and wiser. She is my reminder that, no matter how bleak things seem, there is always hope.