An “I love you” as you turn one:
I wrote my first book for your sister before she turned a year old.
I shared and bared so much that I don’t plan on publishing it.
The story of my life up until that point, as well as the story of her first year, and my love affair with your dad—the love that’s been in my life for over half of it—is something that I hope you might appreciate someday too.
Our little family really did feel complete after having you.
To be fair, your big sister, your dad and I were already a family. I always wanted a sibling for her, but I felt happy with the three of us. And then I wanted you.
I wanted your up-all-night newness, your baby bracelet wrinkles, your tiny but loud mouth.
You were a completely different experience from the very beginning.
Your birth was fun. People think I sound insane when I say this, but I actually had fun giving birth to you.
My seventh month of pregnancy brought with it a bruised a rib, and the muscles around it went into spasms for over 16 hours straight, and then on and off for the weeks leading up to your birth. It was the most excruciating pain of my life (and this does include two rounds of natural childbirth). I was left, afterwards, being unable to do much of anything. I couldn’t even drive my stick-shift car. I couldn’t dress your big sister. I needed 24-hour help with her and I have no idea what I would have done without your grandparents and your dad. More, I was terrified of how this constant pain—and how nearly any small movement like breathing or coughing would set off more muscle spasms—would impact your birth. I’m still shocked that it didn’t affect our delivery of you at all.
Your dad parked the car outside of the ER doors and I was holding you in my arms within 30 minutes—your poor dad looking shocked at the whole experience.
I had only told him four hours earlier, when he got home from work, not to pop open a beer because I was in labor. I whispered this to him so that your grandparents and big sister wouldn’t hear me in the other room. I didn’t want a big show of the fact that I had quietly been in labor all day.
You arrived and the word that everyone has used to describe you has always been the same—and I mean everyone. This word is “alert.” You are so alert.
You don’t miss a thing.
I’m sure, too, that you don’t miss when I lose my temper or how imperfect of a mother I am. I hope you also don’t miss the palpable love that I have for you and your sister. I might not be the best mom in the world, but I’ve never loved any role so much in my life. Being your mother is an honor, a joy and, quite literally, a dream come true, even if it can be frustrating and overwhelming at times as well.
I’ve loved your father since I was 14. I’ve had personal wishes and goals outside of our “us,” but I always knew I wanted to marry him and have a family. To this day, when I stop and look back at our over 21 years together—when I pause within our normal stay-at-home mother day to look at you and your sister doing normal kid things—I can seriously feel my heart swell at how my girlish fantasy is my life.
I did not, however, envision how difficult parenthood would be—if everyone truly understood how hard of a job this is, although the world touts it constantly, children would not be born so easily, so thank God this truth stays miraculously, plainly hidden.
You are one at the end of this week. One years old. This has been the fastest year of my life.
This year has flown by at such a speed that tears come to my eyes and my love-swollen heart silently sobs. How on earth are you one, my dear?
Yet I’m overjoyed you are a year old. I am so enjoying watching you grow and learn and play—and figuring out new pieces of who you are—that I can only pretend to envision what our next year just might bring. I hope it goes more slowly.
How can I tell you how much I love you? How is any gift, or birthday cake or party enough to display to a child the enormous amount of love that a mother carries inside of her? It’s not.
I can only hope as we walk through life that you will see my imperfections loudly enough to not make the same mistakes in your own upcoming years, but, equally, I hope you see how hard I’m trying.
I’ve never worked so hard at anything in my life.
I think this is where much of the frustration comes from—to place so much effort and importance in my mothering you, but know, all the while, that I’ll never do a good enough job.
Being an intrinsically flawed human being and a parent is a difficult combination.
So I give myself forgiveness and grace because I want you to see and learn these things too. This world is, for me at least, not always an easy place to be, but whenever I treat myself and my inherent lack of perfection with love, I’ve found much more overall ease and happiness.
Even from a writer the words “Happy birthday” and “I love you” seem shallow compared to the wishes and emotion I want to convey to you. Nonetheless, since no words are good enough, and since these ones are traditional: Happy birthday, my baby. I do love you.