Today at 1:34 AM you turned one. You have been alive, outside of my womb, for one whole year now. (But you were alive and inside my womb for 38-ish weeks prior to that!)
Do you remember what life looked like a year ago? Well, yesterday you forgot that you like grapes even though the day before you couldn’t shovel them into your mouth fast enough, so if your memory is a little fuzzy, that’s okay. That’s why I’m here. Because I remember it all.
A year ago, we were cuddling in my recovery room, number 309, and everything was white and sterile and loud, but quiet at the same time. There were all these machines and people buzzing about us, even the few times when you or I were asleep, and time seemed to creep by and zoom past as we got to know each other.
Though you were a big, 8-pound-4-ounce ball of heavenly chub, in my arms you felt fragile and tiny. The most precious thing I’ve ever seen. And I couldn’t believe that you were mine.
Because I loved you so much, I didn’t know how to hold you. You can tell because in the pictures that were taken right after you were born, I was holding you in a way that I never held you again. Once I got to know you, every inch of you, I learned the way you love to snuggle. But, at first, I was just so scared and so new at being your mommy and I didn’t know if I was doing it right. Thank you for giving me the chance to learn.
That first night in the hospital was an exhausting one for me, and probably you, too. While your daddy slept, you and I (after sixteen hours of labor) stayed up together learning how to nurse. When your daddy woke up in the morning, I got to tell him about how much you loved to nurse and how (much to the nurses’ dismay) you and I both preferred for you to sleep on my chest as opposed to in the bassinet. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I was so tired that night was because every time a nurse came in I’d pop awake and pretend I wasn’t sleeping — just cuddling you while VERY STILL — because I didn’t want her to tell me to put you back down.
Adjusting to life with you at home definitely took some time. It was several weeks before you learned how to sleep at night and, even still, you would only sleep in bed with your daddy and me. I didn’t mind, though.
As a newborn, all you really did was sleep and eat. And cry. A lot. We found out early that you had a bit of colic, and your tummy was very sensitive. Because I breastfed you, I had to eat a very bland diet in order to keep your tummy happy. As much as I loved cheese and ice cream, I did it gladly, because I love you more.
Though you smiled in your sleep when you were only three days old, it took you a while to social smile. On Labor Day, you actually FOR REAL smiled at me for the first time and do you know what? I instantly burst into tears. And then my crying made you cry. I’m sorry about that. But after six weeks of colic, that fleeting grin was enough to send me over the edge of joy.
And then, there was a period there — between four and nine months — where I felt like I couldn’t keep up with you. It was almost as if you started each new day by hitting another milestone, something that made my heart simultaneously swell with pride but break with longing. As proud as I am to watch you grow, it also hurts a little, because every centimeter you grow pulls you that much farther away from being a baby. Being my baby.
At 6 months, you got your first tooth, sat up on your own, and tried solid food for the first time. Your first taste was carrots and you absolutely loved them! However, now, you’re a bit more picky when it comes to carrots. Though you do like them, you seem to hold out for more tasty options like sweet potatoes. (At the time of writing, sweet potatoes are your favorite food, followed closely by apples, bananas, pasta, pickles, yogurt, and — of course — mama’s milk.)
At 7 months, you said your first word. It was “dada” which makes sense. You love your daddy so much — he can make you giggle like no one else on earth. And he loves you too. So very much. Your second word was “nana” and your third — finally! — was “mama”.
At nine months, you learned how to crawl and pull up. And you have been unstoppable ever since. You can zoom across our house in seconds flat and get into everything on your way. You are funny, though, because you like to crawl a little bit, then stop and turn around to make sure I’m still there watching you.
You are cautious like that. Though you are capable of going far and doing much, you approach each new situation with trepidation and analysis, very carefully examining each and every aspect of the new. This is the case when I take you to a new friend’s house, or introduce you to something weird like grass and flowers. Because you trust me you don’t cry. But I can see in your eyes that you are wary and skeptical. I admire this about you, and I believe this will come in handy when you are a teenager. (Lord, help me.)
You are also very particular. You like the things you like and you want things to stay the way they are. This is why, despite taking two two-hour naps a day and sleeping all night in your crib, you refuse to sleep in the church nursery or in your Pack n’ Play at a friend’s house. If things aren’t just right in your world, you notice. I think that — just like your blue eyes — you get this from me. It is a blessing and a curse and I’ll do my best to try and help you navigate this. If you find yourself an advocate for social justice with a burning desire for people to DO RIGHT and TREAT OTHERS RIGHT, know that this is where it stems from. But, if you don’t end up an advocate for anything else than a consistent bedtime routine, that’s okay, too.
I know a lot has changed in the past year, but I am so very grateful for the one thing that hasn’t. To this day, just like it was when we were in the hospital that first night, your favorite place to sleep is still my chest. You fell asleep there this morning as a matter of fact, and every time you do, I thank God for one more snuggle. If the way this year has flown by is any indication of how fast the rest of life is going to fly, I hold few things closer to my heart than these moments.
Dax, a year ago, you turned my whole world upside down. You took what I knew about life and love and you shook it all up and rebuilt it into something beautiful, something I don’t fully understand.
Thank you for letting me be your mommy that day a year ago, and thank you for continuing to let me be your mommy today.
I love you more than words could ever say. Happy first birthday, booger.