Today, my baby girl turns a year old. In the past 365 days I have learned so much.
While my beautiful girl child always has seemed especially intelligent to me (ahh the beauty of the biological bias), I’ve learned that there’s only so much communication, especially with eye contact, that one can expect from their fetus like creation in that first few months.
But despite the undeveloped brain of these new humans, newborns can and will thank you for those hours you spend up with them.
They’ll thank you for that perfect swaddle.
That willingness to keep pumping, latching/unlatching, warming up bottles, mixing formula, freezing and thawing breast milk, walking them around the room so many times you see a trail forming.
They’ll thank you with moments of quiet alertness in which they’ll stare and grunt at the flower pattern on their Rock N Play like it’s the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and that will be amazing and fabulous and make ALL of it TOTALLY WORTH IT.
They’ll thank you with that first smile in their sleep.
They’ll thank you with every pound gained and inch grown (but if they don’t gain and don’t grow as fast as you might like, pay attention, of course, but try not to worry so much! That’s what I’d tell my 365-day younger self. Less worrying. More Netflix.).
They’ll thank you just by continuing to breath, the rise and fall of their tiny little chest the thing you’ll look for most, the thing you’ll pray for before you fall asleep at night, or in the middle of the morning, the thing that will make every day so much more worth living than you ever thought possible.
And while all of that isn’t much of a thank you at all, in the conventional sense at least, it will feel like the most fulfilling and heart warming thank you of all time each time they cry out for you and settle into silence in your arms JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE THERE. Just because you are YOU.
In 1 year, I have also learned that the internet is equal parts terrifying and empowering.
When it comes to researching on the internet for cures for things like baby acne, I’m a pro.
I’ve scoured the world-wide web for that needle in the haystack, that kernel of overlooked medicinal wisdom to sooth my girl’s pimply skin, her sleepless nights, her ability to distinguish my arms from everyone else’s as early as week one.
As a result of my internet sleuthing, I’ve spent days convinced that my baby girl had a dairy allergy, a nut allergy, a dog allergy.
I’ve spent days convinced she had a host of developmental delays all because she didn’t cry as much as they said she should or cried too much.
I’ve spent hours spun up in my own neurosis all because some message board out there somewhere said I should be concerned.
Don’t believe everything you read I’ve learned and lived in this last year. Don’t waste so much time fretting. Babies are mysterious, befuddling, raw beings sent to make us worry ourselves sick. That’s just how it goes for most first time moms, I’ve learned.
I’ve also learned that the world really can be a beautiful place.
I’ve found love and support in the comments here on this blog. My digital tribe. My virtual village. I’ve been wrapped in support on Facebook, Twitter, and even Baby Center birth clubs as I try to figure out my bewildering baby girl, support that has reignited my hope for humanity and made me proud to be raising my daughter in the digital age where it’s not all trolls and cyber bullies, despite the sensational headlines you may read. The bad guys are out there, sure, but the good guys still win most of the time.
I have learned that the more you love, the MORE you love.
The other day, while dishing about parenthood with the other bridesmaids in a wedding I had the honor of being in, I said, “I didn’t know I wanted kids until I thought I might not be able to have them.”
This was the truth.
Until I thought I might not get to experience parenthood and childbirth because of endometriosis and the complications it presents, I took the idea of parenthood for granted.
And, to be honest, I didn’t think I liked kids, even when I was trying so desperately to have one.
Kids, in their unpredictable feral-ness. Kids in their fascination with all things Disney. Kids and their crying.
But something happens to you after 10 months of body changes, weight gain, and 36 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing. Your capacity for love grows so large and life filled that it inflates your entire being like a hot air balloon, one that could be powered by love alone all around the universe. That’s how it felt for me, after I gave birth to this miracle that is my daughter.
Like, suddenly I too wanted to be the Catcher in the Rye, saving all the world’s children from Fuck Yous on the walls of high schools everywhere.
I wanted to adopt all of them. Give all of the money to all of the orphanages. I wanted to coo at every baby in the supermarket. Play peekaboo with every delighted 6-month old at every restaurant table next to me from now and until the end of time. Save every single baby from neglect and abuse and the meanness of the world. And hug every mother who ever was, especially tight.
I still feel like this now, all overflowing with love, even a year later, but without the hormonal fervor and uncontrollable crying that accompanied it post birth, thank God.
My daughter gave me this beautiful gift, she widened my capacity for love, stretching me out from within the confines of my prior self-serving existence, and thrusting me out into the world, anew, an instrument of it. She didn’t make me perfect all of a sudden, of course, just better, SO. MUCH. BETTER.
Thank you, baby girl. And Happy Birthday!