|Erinn, just a few hours old|
As my youngest child’s first birthday was approaching, I started to brainstorm some ideas for a post that would best commemorate it. When my oldest turned five last month, I nearly had a nervous breakdown every day in the two weeks leading up to the celebration. I was a mess.
When I wrote my post for her 5th birthday, I was streaked with tears by the end and full of nostalgia for the times we have already shared. I’m still not sure what exactly pushed my buttons on such a deep emotional level with that birthday, but she turned five nevertheless.
|Erinn at her one-year photo shoot|
Of course I set out to create a post for my baby that was just as meaningful, touching and heart-string-pulling as the one I wrote for the older one. But every time I went to sit down and write the post, no words came. Perhaps I set the bar too high, or placed too much pressure on myself, to make Erinn’s birthday piece as memorable as Emilia’s.
Then my close friend Lori posted a gorgeous first-birthday piece for her daughter Halle with idyllic references to a sunny spring day at the park — and the bar went up a little higher. I re-read a piece Rachael wrote about her adorable Abby turning one and it was good. Really darn good. I’d love to say that both writers took all my ideas about embracing motherhood, and enjoying babies, and living every moment to the fullest, so now I have nothing else to add, but that would be a stretch. My brain was void of quotable passages long before I got choked up reading those pieces.
The truth is that there are infinite lessons, one for every second of every hour of every day, that I have discerned since my little 7-pound, 11-ounce girl used her first breaths to cry just one year ago today. Like all human babies in their first year of life, she has changed by leaps and bounds, from one moment to the next. While always amazing to watch, this is not shocking.
What has surprised me the most are the changes I’ve gone through on a personal level. I’m not new to being a mom. Between my daughter and stepkids, I have watched three little ones go through various stages of baby- and toddler-hood. I’d like to think I’m a seasoned parent in the pre-K age group and yet on more occasions than I can count, Erinn has directly or indirectly enlightened me. A few examples that stand out include:
- A deeper understanding of my stepkids’ mom. Before Erinn, I only knew one way to raise a baby: alone. My oldest daughter’s dad and I never had long talks about what a child together may look like, or act like, or how we hoped to share the duties of child rearing when she came. After she was born, we never collaborated, or went to doctor’s appointments together, or texted each other cute pics of the baby while the other was at the grocery store. Before I had a baby with a committed partner, I didn’t have a whole lot of empathy for my husband’s ex (not that she wanted it) or put much thought into how losing a parenting partner must feel. She and my husband co-parent quite well, but several nights every week she is not able to tuck her kids in, or pick them up from school. Some nights they are asleep before she gets the chance to FaceTime them. I’ve never had to meet someone halfway and pass off my children. I’ve never had to split a holiday, or birthday, or ask for permission to take a summer vacation that extends over my prescribed days. In my mind, I used to think that I knew how their mom felt because I too had been a single mom. I now realize the two situations are not the same and it has made me more understanding; I get it now and it stings a little.
- Acceptance of the things I cannot change. If you are new to this blog, let me tell you a little something about my precious Erinn: she is a pistol. A few moments after she was born, I glanced back at the scale where two delivery nurses were getting ready to weigh her. She locked her legs in a standing position. It took about a minute for the nurses to get her in the more newborn-appropriate angle they needed for an accurate weigh in. I could hear her wailing in the nursery during her bath, among all the other serene
newborns, as I was wheeled to my recovery room. She muscled her way out of all swaddling. She threw pacifiers on the ground. She is a firm bottle refusal advocate. The Baby Bjorn we bought brand new looks like it has been passed down from one kid to the next because it is so faded and ragged from baby-wearing (nearly) around the clock. I researched her personality on the Internet and discovered she was a classic case of a high needs baby. When our other kids are going to bed for the night, Erinn is often just getting started. The hours that she is most delightful are unfortunately the ones when my husband and I are the most exhausted. As my husband often says, she is a handful. As the other kids often say (presumably they overheard this), Erinn is “really something.” At some point I stopped worrying about what she “should” be doing when it came to feeding, sleeping and general activities and refocused that energy on enjoying who she is instead. She is slowly gaining some independence and veering away from her mommy-centrism. Before I know it, she will have a “Keep Out” sign and caution tape on her bedroom door. I don’t need to change who she is to be a good parent to her, or my other kids. I just needed to accept that not every moment is a challenge that as a parent I need to accomplish; sometimes it’s okay to just let your kids be who they are at that moment in time. They won’t stay that way for long.
- The bonding power of a baby. Before Erinn, our family was disjointed. Due to my optimistic nature, I never liked to think that. But it was true. Our kids had no common thread tying them together as siblings. My husband and I had no flesh-and-blood connection to each other. I had trouble bonding with my mother-in-law because her grandchildren had a different mother; my child was adopted in, and embraced, but there was still something out of sync. I could have rounded everyone up and attended years of family therapy, or read the entire self-help section at the library, to try to find a way to fill the voids that I sensed all around me. Instead, I had a baby. I’m not saying that every interaction in my life is perfect (or that we don’t need therapy) — but Erinn has been the missing piece in so many relationship puzzles. While my first child taught me volumes about standing on my own two feet (with some wonderful support around me), my second has taught me the value of being a part of something bigger than just the two of us.
Each day is a new adventure with Erinn. She keeps my life interesting and pushes me to be a better, more patient and less judgmental person. I like to call her my precious angel (when she is sleeping). I often wonder what this little spark plug of a baby is going to be like when it comes time for me to write her 5-year post. As with my other kids, that day will come too quickly. So for now, I’m just going to revel in her one-year-oldness.
Happy Birthday, my precocious little Erinn. I can’t imagine a better gift to our family than you.
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Tags: 1 year birthday