Wednesday, February 10, 2016

First Year

My baby is one.

Another solid year of babyhood is forever gone and it brings me to the strangest place.

On the one hand, I am devastated. That went so fast. I will never again witness her gummy smile or her first laugh. She is so much more mobile now, so much less likely to fall asleep on our chests or lie propped up on the floor and stare at us intently as we shake a rattle for her.

On the other hand, I am elated. She is coming into her own personality and is expressing more and more what she likes and dislikes, figuring out just how she is going to relate to the world. She is sharing her soul with us and teaching us things. She makes us laugh. She gives us kisses. She walks up to us and holds out books, asking us silently to snuggle up and read to her. She is such a beautiful person and I am so crazy grateful to get to know her so deeply.

The first year of babyhood was so different the second time around.

I was extremely aware of how quickly it would pass and I was very aware of the importance of savoring moments. I was also very busy with another baby and found it so much harder to focus on and savor moments. It took a lot more intentional effort.

There were times that I let our house get out of control because I wanted to just be a mama. I wanted to snuggle her all day if that was what she wanted, to curl up and read my babies book after book, and take them on stroller walks and to push them in park swings.

There were also times that I got so impatient, that I acted like my baby was on the same level as her big brother. I sometimes expected her to be patient and entertain herself while I got chores done when she was truly just too little for that. There were times I felt so frustrated or isolated by the strict schedule that babies sometimes create. I would try to force something, try to go out to eat as a family even though I knew she was going to cluster feed from 5-6 and fall asleep at 6:30. I would sometimes try to make library story time happen or meet up for a playdate at times that weren’t very convenient because I was ready to be in this stage we’re in right now.

I sometimes struggled to find what every mother seems to struggle to find: BALANCE.

Now we’re coming at a first year a third time, coming up fast in just three months, and I am so curious to see how I will approach it the third time around. I will have gained even more wisdom about how quickly it all goes and how important it is to cherish and savor it. I will also be busy with two other little ones and I will be enjoying their childhoods too. They’re in these exciting stages where I want to see every facial expression and bottle up every moment of it.

Last weekend we went to Toys R Us and the boys had finished their picnic lunches. The baby was not quite done with hers and Ryan asked if he could just take Baby A in without us. “NO!” I practically shouted. “I want to see his face.” Ryan shrugged and agreed to wait though he didn’t see what the fuss was about, but once we walked inside he got it. All the bright colors, the prospect of choosing something special to take home with him, all of it overwhelmed him with excitement. His eyes lit up and a huge smile broke out as he exclaimed, “WOW! I love dis place!” (Actually, it was a monster nightmare that resulted in a huge tantrum and Ryan and I very seriously vowed to never take our kids into that store, or any other that encourages children to value materialism, again… but that’s another story for another day)

This year my son will be old enough and ready to enjoy fireworks on the 4th of July and I will have some decisions to make. Take the baby out and deal with a little screeching in exchange for the look on my boy’s face? Stay home to keep the peace but miss his excitement?

We’ll have family visiting us or will be meeting up with them in fun places and I’ll be in the frustrating place again, where I need to go sit down and nurse for 30 minutes at a time. Everyone else continues to enjoy the zoo or the park or the beach while I sit on a bench wishing someone would come check on me so I could have them hand me my water bottle. I feel thankful for the moment of peace with my tiny baby and I feel so sad and left out to be curled up on an uncomfortable bench while everyone else enjoys my other children’s happiness without me.

Ryan and I will plan an at-home date night and I will end up nursing and soothing until 9pm, or wiping a runny nose and checking a temperature, or will finally get one child asleep only to have to go soothe another after a bad dream. I’ll forget for a moment that our marriage has survived the newborn stage before and will survive it this time too. I’ll forget that we will have independent little children before we know it or that someday we’ll be free to spend every single night together but wishing one of our children would stop by to say hi.

We’ll get a little extra money and try to satisfy a wanderlust itch with a drive that should take just a few hours and instead takes half a day. I’ll nurse while everyone eats lunch and then I’ll be hungry and car sick and grouchy as I wait to eat until we’ve started to drive again. Then someone will need a bathroom break or a diaper change. Someone will scream about being stuck in their car seat for too long. We’ll sigh and grumble and say we’re just not quite to a good place for adventures yet.
In the moment, these things stress me out. They make me feel sad, tied down, hot-and-itchy. But the reality is that these moments are just the tiniest little piece of babyhood and they are gone so fast they’re very quickly nothing but a not-favorite memory.

I think more than anything, that is my focal goal for this third first year. I want to remember that the beautiful moments so heavily outweigh the frustrating ones and that those are nothing in the long run. I know there were times I felt frustrated or sad or even angry during both of these babies’ first years of life but I barely remember those moments now, if at all. I want to push through those moments quickly this time around and be as aware as possible that they really aren’t as bad as they feel right then.

If that fails I will get a tattoo on my hand that says “Hey, at least you’re not pregnant.” That’ll perk me right up.

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