Well, here we are. Your twelve-month, one year letter.
It’s late, admittedly. Very late – the tardiest of all your monthly birthday letters since you’ve been born. I could list of a variety of excuses, our busy schedules, the lack of free time to let go and just write – but the truth is, I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write this last of your letters from your first year.
I had an opportunity here and there to open up a blank document and type, to at least start writing and figure out where to go as I went along. Once or twice, I swore I had the angle, the message figured out, and I just needed to sit down and let the words spill out. But I haven’t, until now, and the reason is, mostly – I’m not certain what all to say.
Or rather, perhaps – I’m not certain I can fit the wealth of emotions I feel at your one year birthday into just one single letter. How do I cram the longest, shortest, most challenging, most emotional, most taxing, most rewarding year into one digestible letter?
I thought about this often, in the evenings. As I got you ready for bed and sat with you in your rocking chair, I tended to think about this letter and what I’d like to say to you to celebrate your birthday. I find it hard not to get reflective, in the evenings, when your day is winding down. I sit with you in my lap, in our rocker, and you have some milk, and then we nurse, and your eyes start to get heavy, your blinks longer. Your free hand scrabbles for my hair, my shirt, my necklace, whatever you can reach to anchor you as you slip towards dreamland. The light from your windows fades from deep amber to blue-ish, and shadows pass across the rug.
I would sit, and we would rock, and I had to think about how many hundreds of bedtimes we have done together before, and how many more to come. I would think about the many ways that bedtime has changed, for us. When we first came home from the birth center, we all pretty much lived out of the den. I found getting out of bed in the middle of the night difficult, at first, and so I slept on the couch, back on the days of those three hour stretches, easier to get up and rejoin the real world from my exhausted sleep. And then you were sleeping in your cosleeper, then the canopy of your pack-n-play. There were all the many, many nights your papa and I bounced you to sleep, all the many, many nights I nursed you to sleep – waiting, and waiting, and urging myself to be patient and not rush you to fall completely and deeply asleep so I might set you down. I remember all those little transitions, trusting you first to sleep not in one of our arms, but in a cosleeper or a pack-n-play – then to sleep alone in your nursery – then that bigger transition to crib.
How much change a year has brought us – how much change even the last month has brought us. This last month leading up to and meeting your first birthday has felt like one of the biggest months yet. Suddenly, at one year old, there are all these expectations, and although your papa and I might have preferred to keep you our little baby a bit longer – we tried to push ourselves over that one year hump and start treating you more like a big girl. This past month has been all about those expectations, those transitions – now you drink cow’s milk, and not out of a bottle anymore. You nurse, but not as often. You’ve started daycare, two days a week. You put yourself to sleep at night – a hard one, to be sure. We just didn’t feel right, trying it before now – and I’m so glad we waited, because at one year old, sleep training has gone so well. The first few days of naps and bedtimes were a little difficult, but within a week, it seemed you’d gotten the hang of it. Now you fuss for five minutes or less, most nights, and drift comfortably into sleep. It’s made those bedtimes easier, calmer – your poor mama doesn’t need to reserve some stamina to get you through what was a longer falling asleep process.
I guess, with all these transitions, all these changes that seem to come slowly at first, and then all at once – now, your papa and I feel like seasoned parents. We know we can, have, and do make mistakes – but hopefully not many, not major, not often. We know that we will face more challenges, on this journey of parenthood. We know, now, that there’s no magical period when being a parent to a most precious child becomes effortlessly easy, and stays easy. We know, now, that as soon as we get settled into a groove, feeling confident – a new challenge will present itself. But we know that we’ll find a way to handle it. We know that these new stages and these new expectations and these new skills you’re expecting to master always seem difficult, at first – for all of us, you and me and your papa combined. But we also know we will sort it out, we will find a path through it. Just like that sleep training – your papa and I are gaining the confidence to know what we decide to do for our baby is what’s right – not what some other parent would do, not necessarily what our parents did, not what a book or an article says, not what worked for some other baby. We know that we know you best and love you most, and although we may feel unsure and scared, we will always do everything we can to make the best decision for you.
And what success we have had as parents cannot be claimed solely by us, your parents. The truth is – now that we’ve had a full year under our belts, Ariadne, darling – you have been one hell of a good baby. We have been so lucky with you – although you’ve had small illnesses and challenging emotional growth periods, and long days into long nights that stressed us or drained us – you’ve been so darn good. You’re such a happy, cheerful, charming girl, so often, so consistently. You’re so content to play and have a mama-papa-auntie-marmee nearby for comfort. You’re so amused by watching and learning about the world. You take comfort so easily in your dear ones’ arms. You love laughter and you exude joy. You are playful and light and full of sweetness. You grow bigger and smarter and more mischievous – but always what is so obvious about you is your goodness and joyfulness.
You are, at one year old, a delight. You are a thick mop of shining, golden-blonde hair that flops down in your eyes as your crawl and toddle and bounce and clamber all over the place. You are big hazel eyes and little nubbin teeth and rosy cheeks. You are constantly talking, with sounds for animals and I want, little songs and what sound like magic spells. You giggle and chortle and occasionally cackle like a villain in an old-time movie. Your face lights up with glee when your papa and I come into the room after a long absence. You reach for us with short, chubby hands, and cling to us so tightly when we lift you into our arms. You want to hug your boppy, your bunnies, your babies, Kitty – you want to press your little hands onto other babies’ faces – you want always to be a part of whatever is going on, in the noise and the conversation and touching everything and constantly learning.
You are a joy, and you are my heart’s greatest joy. There is no day so bad that it isn’t improved by coming home to see you. There is no night so long that I’m not still glad to be awake with you in the morning when night passes. The thought of you can, still, so often, bring me to tears. When I really think truly and deeply about the love I have for you, the love you have given me, the healing you have brought to me – I’m brought to tears because I feel certain I don’t deserve any of it, and certain it might be taken away.
And yet, here you are. One year old. And I have been your mama for one, long, short, breathless, amazing, exhausting year – and will be for so many to come. We have so many more milestones and challenges and adventures and lessons to experience together, and that, on your first birthday, is what has me most excited. I think I have, like many mamas, dreaded this first birthday, this end to that magical first year – not because I didn’t want you to grow up, but because you turning from a baby into a toddler meant you would soon be a child, and then a teenager – and we would creep closer to the day you didn’t really need me so much anymore.
But I know now that you will always be my baby, in my heart. I know no one will ever love you quite the same way I do. And I hope you know that – I hope you grow up knowing you are so loved, have always been so loved, and there’s really nothing you could do to change that. You are my baby, forever, and I am always, always, your adoring mother.
All my love,