On Your First Birthday

Maddie in hospitalYou, my baby, are turning one this week. The cake is made, the decorations bought. Yes, the celebration is on. For me though, the celebration is bittersweet. Besides the obvious joy of you embarking on childhood, there are also a lot of selfishly good things that come along with your turning one — no more formula, you can have honey to soothe coughs, pureeing baby food will become a thing of the past, and I am one step closer to sleeping again. This was enough to help me get through Riley turning one; in fact, with her I looked forward to it. But you are my baby, and I know that I will not have any more. This time, it means saying goodbye to all of the ups and downs that make up a baby’s first year of life for good. As we celebrate, I can’t help but also lament those things that I’m going to miss about you, Maddie.

1) Toothless smiles. That time you smiled, I mean really smiled, and your mouth was all gums. I spent my days doing the most embarrassing songs, dances, and games just to get that gummy smile to come out. Even the stress of teething was eased by the enhanced cuteness of your smile with each single tooth. I’ll miss that.

2) Your shoes being painted on your socks. Slipping on those adorable painted-on mary janes completed every outfit. They were your go-to shoes. Easy to slip on and endearing. Soon we’ll be wrestling to get out of the door with even one shoe strapped to your foot. Shoes aren’t so adorable anymore. I’ll miss those socks.

4) Lifting up your belly to unfasten your diaper. You progressed quickly from being an easy diaper change to rolling all over the place. Now, diaper changes typically start with you sitting up, which requires the lifting of your plump little belly to unfasten it. I’ll miss that little belly and all the little rolls that accompanied it.

5) Snuggles. Morning time when you want to relax on my chest for just a little while longer, your little hands rubbing the sleep out of your eyes. During the day when you just need a rest and lay your head on my shoulder. Nighttime as you suck your fingers and drift to sleep. I’ll miss all of those.

6) Milestones. One of the best parts about having a baby is that you are never the same month to month. There are so many milestones along the way in this short first year of life that I am privileged enough to witness and in some cases help you achieve. Sitting, successful tummy time, eating baby cereal, crawling, smiling — all of it is new and exciting. The look of pride and the accompanying grin as you achieve all of it is priceless. I’ll miss those.

7) The stumbling progression to walking. From the moment you first pulled up on the coffee table and began to cruise, I knew that walking would soon follow and life would never be the same. Then you began standing on your own, swaying with your little arms out for balance. Then the many, many falls on your little diaper-cushioned bottom until you finally master that one first step. It’s the anticipation and the inevitable glory that make this so much fun. I’ll miss that.

8) Baby smell. No, I’m not talking about the dirty diapers, the formula-scented spit-up, or those gaseous toots you were famous for around four months. It’s that mild, understated smell that babies have. For those who haven’t smelled it, it’s hard to explain, but for those who have, it’s hard to keep from smiling while remembering it. I’ll miss that.

9) Unencumbered excitement. Whether it’s me returning to daycare at the end of the work day or spotting your missing ball across the room, your entire body reacts to the joy. The joy bounces your legs, which bounce your torso till it escapes from your ear-to-ear smile. This excitement can pull me out of any bad mood and reminds me that days are full of small things to celebrate. I’ll miss those bounces.

10) Being needed, all of the time. It’s the thing about having a baby that tests a Hand in handmom’s patience but is also, hands down, the greatest part. You needs me for everything — to be fed, to be dressed, to be calmed down, to share in excitement. Every accomplishment you have, you look to me for praise. Every boo-boo you get, you want me to comfort. The mother-daughter bond is strong and interdependent. But, as you pass your first birthday, you will begin your journey to independence, and it’ll be my task to help you get there. I know that it’ll be a joy to watch. I also know that I will miss the days that you needed me for everything, and I was easily able to meet your needs. I will deeply miss that.

If I’ve learned anything in my journey of motherhood, it is to take the time to acknowledge what is hard and enjoy all of the other times. This birthday, I’m finding this lesson especially important. Sometimes what is emotionally hard as a mom is a great accomplishment for our kids. It’s part of letting go. So this is me letting go of a phase of my life, and my baby’s first year. I can’t wait to see the woman she becomes.