On Monday, my baby boy turns one.
How has he already been with us a year? And has it only been a year? It seems like a lifetime and a nanosecond all at once.
Over the past few days, I’ve found myself strangely reminiscent of the lead up to Jackson’s arrival. I’ll have a brief little thought: “This is when the PUPPS got the better of me,” “I was still sleeping in the chair,” “the heat was still killing me,” “we had determined to induce,” “I was spending my days in the pool,” etc. I wasn’t expecting the flashbacks, to be honest, and find myself wondering if they’ll intensify over the next couple of days. As long as I don’t spend too long thinking back to the crippling back labor or the car ride(s) to the hospital, I guess it won’t be too bad.
I also find myself more emotional than I thought I’d be. I’ve not had many “my baby is growing up” tears–no crying when I put away the smaller baby clothes, or move on to the next size diapers, or many of the other growth milestones. But I seem to have a lump in my throat this week that seems determined to stick around. I think that’s why I’ve not written much this week (among other reasons), because I’m emotionally stuck on this milestone.
In the months leading up to Jackson’s arrival, I started to ask the “OH GOD What have we done?” questions. What if I wasn’t a good mom? What if I didn’t like being a mom? What if I resented the change in lifestyle? What if I didn’t love him the way I was “supposed” to? I think, to an extent, everyone has those questions. Even if they’re excited, there is this HUGE change barreling down on your life. Add in hormones and you’ve got yourself a recipe for self doubt.
Then he was born. And, I’ll be honest: I didn’t have the immediate, heart bursting, soul consuming love. Oh, I cried when they showed him to me. And I LOVED him, marveling over his little fingernails (they were long!) and holding him close while he nursed. I wanted to protect him, and shield him from the mean nurse who took him for his blood tests, and damn if that pitiful cry when he was in the blue box didn’t do me in. But it was a little…quiet. It was “I love you, but I don’t know you yet.” So I continued my questioning…my “what if I’m no good at this?” self doubt. Then, about 3 weeks after we brought him home, I went to check on him while he was napping, and…there it was. An overpowering, intense, almost PHYSICAL moment of love. I was alone with Jackson, looking down on him sleeping, and I burst into tears, completely overwhelmed by the wave of heart-bursting emotion.
And that’s been a good indicator of the past year. I’ve cried more this past year than probably any other time in my life. Tears of joy, of stress, of laughter, of heartbreak, of love, of anxiety, of relief, and of guilt. The contradictions continue, as I find that being a mom has been the hardest and yet the most easy, natural thing I’ve ever done. I question myself but I find my instincts to be pretty spot on most of the time. I have more fully formed fear now, but I also don’t feel constrained by that fear. Everything has an impossible weight and heft, and yet is also effortless. I’ve been fundamentally changed, and yet I’m exactly the same. I don’t know, it’s motherhood, what can I say, it’s all a contradiction.
All I know is I hope I don’t forget the little details about Jackson’s first year. I don’t want to forget about his little fingers twirling my hair in the middle of the night. Or his gaze in those early days of breastfeeding. Or the joyous, infectious laugh he belts out when he’s being tickled. Or how he’ll be calm during a diaper change if I read him a book. Or the way it feels when he lays his head on my shoulder. I don’t want to forget the hard parts–the biting, the sadness over leaving him to go to work, the teething, the epic struggles to keep him contained. I don’t want to forget the firsts, but more than that, I don’t want to forget the always’. The way he always staggers to his feet in his crib after sleeping to be picked up, even when he’s not fully awake. The way he always squeals with delight when he sees the cat. The way he always only cries for a minute when he hurts himself, if at all. The way he always, always, always, has his legs moving. The way he always makes us laugh.
This year has been quite something. My ideas on what it would be like to be a mom came nowhere near the reality. It’s more. In every single way possible, it’s more than that wisp of an idea. And I’m only a year in.