First Birthday

One year ago today I saw you Earthside for the first time.

I remember thinking that you were so much lovelier than the other wrinkly, shriveled newborns I’d seen before. You were perfect, and I was lucky enough to be your Mama.

Looking back on pictures, you were just as wrinkly and shriveled, with big owl eyes like your Mama and your Papa’s furrowed brow. But dammit, you were mine, and you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

You came out of the womb with your eyes open. Your Yaya swears that the first time she held you you looked deep into her eyes, into her soul. You carried this eerie, innate wisdom, the wisdom of generations of wrinkly, shriveled, feisty, big-eyed grandmothers and great-grandmothers. You’re clever and curious and observant and thoughtful, you’re the parts of me that eroded away with the heartache of growing up.

We brought you home in a red onesie with white flowers on it that was too big for you. Being mid-May I’d expected warmer weather but it was a cold and rainy day when we left the hospital and the only blanket we had was a thin muslin swaddle. You cried the whole drive, your hands clenched in little fists. No matter how much I stroked your face and cooed your name, you still screamed. As soon as we got home your Papa went to pick up some essentials and I remember sitting on the couch after you fell asleep in my arms, terrified to breathe or move or blink. I couldn’t reach my phone from where I was sitting so instead I watched you sleep for the better part of an hour. At one point one of our cats clawed at the bedroom door and I almost cried trying to waddle over and let him out without waking you.

The first night we slept in the living room. I’m not sure why the living room felt safer than our bedroom, but we pulled your bassinet right up to the side of our big grey couch and woke up every hour on the hour to make sure you were breathing. The second night we migrated, with a noise machine, an album of lullabies, a nightlight, a fan, and a humidifier all going at once. I remember lying in bed unable to sleep from all the light and noise, but you blessed us with two long four-hour stretches of sleep that were wasted on my tossing and turning.

When you were about a week old we decided to try sleeping in shifts. What this meant was that your dad rocked you to sleep every time you woke up at night, and I woke up with you at 4am and complained about it for the rest of the day. One particular day I changed you, fed you, burped you, rocked you, changed you, fed you, burped you, rocked you, changed you, fed you, burped you, rocked you, all before the sun was up. You eventually fell asleep on my chest in my rocker in the nursery and I cried. Somehow you slept through getting splattered with tears, but I cried and cried and whimpered to myself, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I’m not a good mom, I can’t do it.” I didn’t realize that it won’t be the rest of my life, in fact it won’t even be the rest of the year that you’d need me like this. Already you’re so independent, you need me so much less, and against my better judgment I miss those early mornings skin to skin in my rocker in your nursery. I miss the feeling of you in my arms, your cheek squished against my chest.

And now you’re a “toddler”, although your toddling is still a work-in-progress. I’m not sure where the past year went. I’m not sure when people stopped ooh-ing and ahh-ing at you in grocery stores or on hiking trails. I’m not sure when you became such a big girl.

Watching you grow is magic, my love, but it breaks your old Mama’s heart just a little bit. When you bang on the glass of our deck door and yell “KITTY KITTY KITTY” at the neighbor’s cat, when you stand up unassisted and clap along with your favorite song, when you give me big sloppy smooches, I’m so proud of you, little Moonbeam. I’m so impressed with the perceptive, lively, loving little girl you’re becoming. But I don’t remember when you started developing this vibrant personality and I find myself wishing I’d installed security cameras in every room of the house so I don’t forget a moment of your life. I’ve already forgotten so much.

I feel blessed to know you and to love you. I’m sure every mom feels this, but to me it’s new. It’s a novel concept to me. There has never been a love like this and there never will be again. I’m so excited to keep watching you grow, little lovebug. I’m so thankful you are my daughter, and that you chose me to be your Mama.

Happy birthday, my love.