A few days ago, my baby turned one year old. As I did with my first, I spent the hours up until the anniversary of their birth remembering where I was, what we were doing, and what was happening. I am quite surprised by what came up for me. With my first, I remember trying to relive only the good moments. And when the tough ones arose, to instead consider that it all worked out, that everyone is healthy and doing well. This time, I let myself sit in some of the discomfort.
I feel as if we are expected to remember the bliss of labor, the happy times. But for me, this first birthday was filled with lots of emotions. Leading up to the day, I was feeling sad. This was rooted in the knowledge that this baby will be my last. Part of me wants to have another child in our lives, but I look at this baby, my oldest, and the relationship that is established without a third is so glaringly clear to me. This baby is meant to be our youngest. So my sadness was in the knowledge that these are the last moments I’ll have a baby. The last moments I’ll have someone less than 1 year old. They started walking two weeks before and I quickly realized that they no longer rely on me quite as much, as they race after me on foot instead of whining to be picked up. The finality of it, as another mom spoke. Those were the words I was looking for.
The sadness was also wrapped up in the memories of being in the hospital and confronting a health system that failed to trust me. Ironically, I remember how they kept asking me if the baby was bigger than my last. They said that statistics showed that moms were the best at guessing the weight. I remember saying that it felt the same. I was sure they weren’t much bigger, and likely not much smaller. I suspect “mom thinks baby is 10 lbs” is in my hospital chart. I know what is missing in that chart – “mom knows that her body is wise and was built to birth children. That pitocin is not working because her body is fighting an induced birth because it won’t work. That if you’d all be patient, it will tell us when it’s ready and what it can and cannot do.” There’s none of that in there though.
I have so many good memories too. It was two full days with my partner, just us. A simple gift to allow us to be together for many calm and quiet moments before being parents of two. My doula was in touch the whole time, and she kept making me laugh. Her first born had a birthday the day I was scheduled for induction so we were thinking we might have a shared mama experience. Not being in active labor, I was able to text with so many people including some friends from afar. I remember the massive amount of love and support that was incoming on my phone. It was even hard to keep up. I remember seeing the night nurse, who 5 years before had delivered my daughter. I remember the moment she walked in, it was like seeing a ghost because I had no idea she was there or even working. It was such a special gift to see her. I remember the feeling in my body shifting from worry to grounded. I remember feeling my heart burst open and feeling ready to tackle the day with my partner by my side.
These memories all fed into when baby woke up this weekend on their actual day of birth. When I went to get them from bed, the sadness completely left my body. The day had arrived and there was no stopping it. All that was left was joy, gratitude and love. Many mark a first birthday as momentous because the baby is really shifting into toddlerhood. Medical providers mark it as a day of relief because the risk for SIDS drops even more dramatically. We marked it as a day of survival. It is the day that marks the moment that we spent an entire year as a family of four. We all made it, figured out most of it, and we continue to live in this life with love.
All day, I remembered what we were doing, what time people came to visit, when they took me back for surgery, when they were actually delivered, when my daughter met them, and when we finally had quiet. It was all perfect and fun to relive.
After I put them down to bed and said good night to my daughter, I sat on the couch and looked at my partner and said, “It was about this time a year ago that I thought I was going to die.” He pulled me close and said, “It was scary.” This moment marks our partnership for us. It reminds me why we chose one another and continue to choose one another every single day. There was no need for, “You’re alive, or you made it, or you’re okay.” Just a simple acknowledgment of that shitty set of minutes, hours, fear, marking it as a page in our story. A year later, we can’t rewrite it, as much as we’d like to. We can simply remember that it’s just a single page. A single page in a much longer story of our lives.
We then had another piece of birthday cake and started to straighten up the house for the birthday celebration the following day.
This past year has been momentous, and not just because we all survived. But because we chose this year to move our lives towards our dreams. We had always been walking towards them, but this year we decided to run. Full speed. And to take charge of our direction. We had a new baby, moved to another state, I quit my job, and together we are living a life that is simple yet so full in every single moment.
To reflect on the baby’s last year is impossible to do without considering all that came with it. When I look at this little person, our family, I feel the radiance of love brought forth into this world.
My daughter is full of confidence, care, and power. She is the tiger she always wanted to be. When she was three, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said, “a tiger.” When I look at this baby, it’s starkly different. No less power or strength, but simply a different way to live it.
I cannot wait to see what happens this year in both of their lives. To see where they both step next. As a parent, I feel I am often tasked to be a teacher, a guide, someone who is supposed to set the trajectory for their lives. Instead, I live a couple steps behind. Close enough that they can turn and leap into my arms when and if they ever want to or need to. But far enough that I can just simply watch them grow.
This year will have so many more moments for this family. I continue to write and venture out into the world in a new way of being professionally. My partner is now at home, in the woods, living a life outdoors and in a place where he regularly reminds me feels like home. My daughter is navigating school and what it’s like to spend many hours in a cage, while you’re a wild tiger. This baby is journeying through exploration, new experiences nearly every second, and what it means to take off on their own.
A year full of so many things. A couple days living through last year is reminding me that pain is important. It’s part of how we got here. And it’s important to let it live as an experience rather than trying to push it away. I’ve found that when I allow the pain to live in my story, it has less power. It instead just has life within the rest of my life. I am able to remember moments for all of their emotions which feels like such an honest way to love.
When I started this blog, the words “In a world of chaos and wonder, we must evolve,” came to me. I’ll admit that I didn’t really know how to explain what it meant. I tried to re-write it and I even thought about replacing it. But those words simply rang true, even with no explanation. This past year, I have started to see why those words sit at the top of this page. Why they are so important in my life. These words are defining this writing, where I have been, and where I am going. I still don’t have the words yet, but I am working on them. I am writing until they come. I am living until it maybe starts to make more sense. For now, all I know, is that my heart, my body, my family are exactly who and where they need to be. One year is a long time for a little person. It’s their whole life. Today, I’m thinking it might be mine as well.