To My Baby, Who is Now One

To my sweet baby girl,

Yesterday, you turned one year old. The day before, I had the stomach flu and I barely got to hold you. I barely got to nurse you or feel the way you kick your legs with excitement when I pick you up or have your warm, solid weight in my arms. But for that one moment that I did? I wept.

I wept as you nursed and smiled at me, gripping one breast in your tiny hand and strumming my spaghetti strap with your other. I wept as I traced the roundness of your chubby cheeks and perfect little ear as I said goodbye to the baby that you are. The one who pulls my hair and laughs about it. The one who squawks like a baby bird any time you see food. The one who has two beloved stuffed kiwis and a soft white lamb that you carry around in your fists and your mouth as you army crawl from place to place. (You’re still not crawling for real and that’s okay.) I said goodbye to the baby who bites my nipple when you’re done eating. To the baby who reaches up for me every time I walk by. To the baby who just learned to clap and does it so proudly on command. I said goodbye to the baby, my precious sweet fourth baby, whose hair is just growing in and whose cheeks are still plump and round and who has rolls on her thighs that are to die for.

As I laid you in your crib at bedtime, I knew it wouldn’t happen all at once. You would wake up the next day, on your first birthday, with that same hair and cheeks and rolls. You would still love your kiwis and probably bite me too. You would still look like a baby. You would still feel like a baby. And if we’re being real here, you will always be my baby. Even once you have babies of your own. But little by little, I know you are growing, you are changing, you are gaining independence. You are needing me less.

The last year has gone by so fast and I spent so much of it preoccupied and distracted, processing your birth, wishing for another baby (just one more), managing three other children who are so much more demanding than you. Did I cherish you enough? Did I hold you enough? Did I tell you “I love you” enough? Was I enough for you?

Whether the answer is yes or no, one thing is certain: you have added so much joy and sunshine to our family and every day is better with you in it. When you awoke on your first birthday, you stood up in your crib and squealed at the sight of me. I knew that you would do that as you always do. (One day you won’t, but I knew you would then.) I hugged you and kissed you and wished you the happiest of birthdays and wept a little more because your party had been cancelled (ahem, stomach flu) and you wouldn’t get the celebration you deserved. You didn’t care because you were still surrounded by the people you love the most, but it hurts a mama’s heart.

Yesterday, you turned one as predictably as the sun rising. I knew you would stand in your crib and squeal. I knew you would still have barely-there blonde hair and round cheeks and squeezable thigh rolls. But the rest of your life? It’s yet unwritten. Who will you become and what wonderful things will you do? Will you have a younger sibling or not? Where will you go in your life? What fantastic places will you visit? What incredible, unexpected things will become your passion and set you on fire? Baby girl, your life is just beginning and I am so excited to see it unfold.

I hope that I treasured every detail of you in your first year, my darling, but I’m going to work even harder at it in all the years to come. I know they’ll fly by. I know you’ll be graduating in a flash. Please, please take your time with this whole growing-up thing. Don’t be in a hurry. Childhood is wonder and awe and magic. Enjoy it and I’ll be right there beside you, holding your hand when I need to, letting you fly when you’re ready. It’s going to be a wonderful life.

Happy first birthday, sweet girl! May you always know how loved you are.

Love forever and ever,

your mama