March 6th, 2016
This morning was just like any other morning—only, maybe you woke me a little earlier than normal. (You knew it was your birthday, didn’t you?) The sunlight was coming through the window above my bed and shining in your face as you hollered at me, demanding to be picked up, over the side of your pack’n’play.
You’re a year old today, yet you still sleep in our bedroom—next to my side of the bed, close to me, as always.
I’ve been looking toward this date with mixed emotions for weeks now. The denial held me back from making plans, making progress, for your party. It’s scheduled for a month from now, because I didn’t move quick enough. (Though, in hindsight, this is probably for the better—your father has been sick all week, I’ve just started getting sick, and who knows if or when you’ll get it.) I still haven’t even sent out the invitations, though I have texted many of the invitees a cute little Save-the-Date. In fact, up until yesterday I planned on purchasing a template from an Etsy shop. Now, I am in the process of creating my own invitation—and, I finally started looking into party supplies last night, like balloons and centerpiece treats.
Yesterday, your father and I spent several hours looking back on those early months of “newbornhood”…and it was as if I could’ve closed my eyes and been right back there a year ago. There are parts of your birth, and after your birth, that I have struggled to remember for months now. There are bits and pieces I have had to fight to remember, digging through a haze of drug-induced fog from the post–c-section pain, even when I look at the photos and videos in an attempt to remind myself of what happened.
But yesterday was different. I heard your new-baby cry in a video from the early days and suddenly I could hear it in the hospital, in the operating room, when they first lifted you out. I watched your purposeless movements as a month-old newborn and remembered when you would squirm out of each and every swaddle we put you in during those first few nights. I saw the timestamps on the photos we would take at the hospital, noticed the dark lighting of the maternity suite around you, and remembered what it was like to be up at all hours of the night and how routine it quickly became.
I could taste the food that your father would bring me from the cafeteria, the same cafeteria we would frequent every time we went to the hospital for private LC meetings. I always ordered grilled cheese with tomatoes, and a Pepsi, and a pudding or a cake—depending on what looked good that day. I could hear the Rockabye Baby music we would play from my iPhone to get you to go back to sleep, and stay asleep, until we realized that plain white noise worked better.
We have photos—from July—of you sleeping, unswaddled, in the pack’n’play with the raised floor. I was incredulous. How was it that you were already rolling at four months old? I think back on those first few months and they seemed to last forever. I’ve realized now that time was moving at a very slow crawl back then, even though it seemed to fly when I was in it.
But I went back to work, and time truly sped up. You stopped with your newborn cry, and found your infant voice. Your movements became more intentional. You started smiling, laughing. Rolling became sitting up became crawling. You started babbling. You changed every day, but so subtly that I barely noticed until I looked back a week or a month and wondered when you became this newer, older version of you. Today, I watch you walking around in circles through the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Today, I look back on the first-ever photo I took of you and can barely comprehend how different you’ve become in just one year’s time.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few days, it’s that every parent looks back on the first year differently. I’ve had many people congratulate me on surviving the first year. (If anything, they should congratulate me on making sure you survived, am I right?) I see how it applies to others, but not as much to me. Is it because you weren’t a colicky baby (or even one that cries for no reason)? Is it because your sleeping habits weren’t terrible? (Though, at a year, you really need to step up your sleep game. I love you, I do, but waking several times per night, every night, is too much for this mama!) Is it because of the two miscarriages that happened before I had you? Is it because I’m a working parent? Is it because there was only one of you?
Maybe it’s one of those reasons. Maybe it’s all of them. Maybe it’s none.
For me, it wasn’t about survival. It was about time moving too quickly for me to soak in the special moments I’d dreamed about for years. It was grasping at your milestones as they slipped quickly through my fingers, or missing them completely as they passed by, unseen, because I wasn’t home when they happened. It was first fighting through a hormonal haze, then postpartum anxiety, long enough to enjoy just being with you, playing with you, watching you grow and letting you learn. It was trying to stop time—like trying to stand still in a fast, strong current—because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to experience any of these moments again with another child.
It was about realizing that incredible, completely unconditional and all-encompassing love can walk hand-in-hand with inescapable and debilitating grief. I spent twelve months watching the “other” dates come and go, but with you playing in front of me, and sleeping on me, safe in my arms. I had to reconcile the idea that without those losses, you wouldn’t exist. Perhaps, subconsciously, I navigated this year somewhat guarded—afraid you’d be taken from me, like the ones who came before you. But you’re here…you’re alive, you’re healthy, you’re happy. I can’t honestly say that I wish those prior two years of heartbreak never happened, because every moment I’ve spent with you I would never want to give back.
When you were born, I’m not sure I looked ahead at that first year and spoke of what I wanted for you. I think I was still a little too tangled in the past, and scared to move beyond the present, to really see this day being possible. Now that I’m more or less past that stage, maybe I can say…
I want you to continue to learn and change at your own pace (but fast enough that your future BCBA auntie doesn’t panic). I want you to explore the world, and I want you to tell me to let you explore the world. I want you to have an amazing summer, learning to swim with me and enjoying the outdoors with your amazing nanny and loving father. I want us to read books every night, and to keep giving each other hugs when we see each other at the end of the day (you really have become the best hugging baby), and never stop making each other laugh.
And I want to keep on trying to show you and tell you how much I love you (even though I’m sure you’ll never truly realize it). I want to do my best in raising you to be a good person, in showing you right from wrong, in teaching you love and compassion. Above all, I just want to be here—to tickle you in your ticklish places and laugh with you, to snuggle you close when you fall or get hurt, to take you to new places to explore and learn, to care for you when you’re sick, to clap and sing and dance with you when you’re happy, to comfort you when you’re scared or sad.
I want to move with time, not fight it. I want to live in the present and look forward to the future, not cling to what’s already passed.
I think I’m almost there.
Happy birthday, my sweet baby. ♥