I can't believe my baby is turning one tomorrow--mostly because it feels like she should be at least five by now. When I compare pictures of her tiny, squirmy newborn self to the grinning, babbling, bordering-on-independant spectacle she has become, I feel a certain reverent awe, but even more than that I feel grateful. Grateful to have the first year behind me.
My emotional growth is comparable to Em's physical growth. The last twelve months have tripled my patience, understanding, and resilience. I've cried enough tears for Em to take a bath in, but I've also experienced an entirely new version of joy--the kind you earn with hundreds of fractured-sleep nights. If the reward matches the effort, it's no wonder parenting is so undeniably fulfilling.
I spent most of Em's first year thinking that being a mother meant I had to stop being me. I didn't realize motherhood was just one more facet of my ever-developing self. I learned the hard way that I'm no good to Em if I don't take care of myself. It's not selfish to insist on having time to exercise, recharge, go to a book club. It's necessary. It's smart. It's the only way you'll have anything to give.
As a child, I never thought about my birthday as the day my mom actually gave birth to me (that was much too gruesome to consider). But as a mother, Em's birthday will always remind me of how I felt driving to the hospital, anxious to meet the little creature that had been kicking and somersaulting in my belly for so many months. Tomorrow I'll be glad that I'm not in labor.
My husband and I recently discussed why being parents is so cool. We concluded that it's because parenting is akin to living life over again. You get to watch your kids experience things you loved. It's a solution to nostaligia. Remember the almost unbearable excitement you felt as a kid on Christmas morning? This time you get to be the one creating that excitement.
So happy birthday, sweet Em. May the rest of our years together be less tumultuous than this one :)