Sometimes I look at you and wonder: how did we get this far already? How are we here? How are we at one?
How did we get past the first few days of breastfeeding, when everything hurt? Or when feeding you took up more than half of my day? Or the first night home? Remember when you cried for hours and hours because you were hungry but my milk wasn’t in yet? Of course you don’t, little girl, but I do. I will never forget that night. It was the first night I felt completely and utterly inadequate as a mom. I did not know what to do. And I did not want to keep holding you because I was tired. I felt like a bad mom when I gave you up to my mom who helped so willingly through the night.
What followed were days and weeks and months of moments of feeling like an inadequate mom. Like the first time you were sick right before Thanksgiving. Or the first time you got vaccines and you were pathetically sad and in pain at the tiny age of 2 months old. I was even more pathetic just watching you, not knowing how to help. Remember when I thought you were teething at three months old? And then again every week since then? Well, you just popped your first tooth nine months later. Finally, I’m not a liar when I say “she’s teething.”
I could go on and on about all of the moments where I didn’t know what to do. Where I felt inadequate. Where I winged it best I could.
But here’s the thing- all of those moments have built me up. Do I question myself as a mom daily, still? Yes. When I find myself distracted by my phone, I question myself as a mom. When I find myself a little frustrated because I can’t go to the bathroom in peace and yep, you just ate toilet paper again? Bad mom- that’s what I call myself in my head. But more moments than not, lately, I believe this is exactly what I’m meant for. And I believe that I am not, in fact, a bad mom. I believe that just maybe I’m a good one.
Because through the hard parts, through the ear infections where you screamed and screamed, the hand foot and mouth disease that had an active baby down and out just laying on her mom all day, the hours spent trying to figure out a better sleep and nap schedule, the awful month of clogged ducts, there have been the sweetest moments, and so many of them.
Like the days where you would fall asleep on me early on, and I wouldn’t want to put you down, so I just used it as an excuse to watch all the seasons of Jane the Virgin. Or the rare moments you fall asleep on me now and I wonder how long you’d nap like that if I let you (the answer is less than a minute, really). And the time when you first laughed. When you started army crawling (or your version- which looked like the worm) the day you turned five months old, and how in the couple weeks before you were one you decided it was high time to start walking. The moments when you put your head on my shoulder because you’re being shy or when you dance like crazy or hide behind us to play peek a boo or laugh when we chase you.
These moments, all of them, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. The hard ones and the sweet ones. All of them have grown us into who we are this past year, you and I (and your daddy, too)
Looking back on this year, what I realize is that I am more “me” than I’ve ever been. You, my dear, have helped me grow into myself. You’ve made me a more creative, joy-filled person. You see, in having you I felt an intense need to become better because I want to be the best version of myself for you. I want you to grow up seeing your mom thrive. Seeing me create things and come up with new ideas and start projects and actually finish them. I want you to know that you are capable by seeing the example of a mother who believes she is, too.
Sometimes I fail at that- believing I’m capable. But I keep going because of you. Because you need to know you are capable and how will you know this if you have no example of a woman who believes she is, too.
In one year of motherhood, I’ve realized this: This role is the best role. To mother is to create a life, and then to foster it. To foster growth, creativity, confidence, learning, love, kindness, the list goes on. And to foster these things in you, I must foster them in myself.
One year of motherhood has changed me more than anything else. The me before motherhood? She’s still there, but really I think she’s grown to be almost unrecognizable. Because she’s grown to be so much better because of you.
And though you didn’t know it, all along, you’ve done it. You’ve made me better. And I know as the days of feeling inadequate in raising you roll on, and the days of feeling confident, too…as they blend together into weeks and months and years, you’ll continue to grow me. I can only pray that I do the same for you. I pray we make one another better through the sweet moments and the hard ones. Through the cuddles and the tantrums (yes, we both have them).
More than anything, one year of motherhood has taught me this: This role is hard and beautiful and everything I didn’t know I wanted and needed. And you? You are extraordinary, my daughter. I only hope I can help you see that year after year after year.
Cheers to this past year, this first year- and here’s to the many more ahead- the many more that are full of the unknown. The many more that, to be honest, kind of scare me. Here’s to continual changes, and a big, brilliant, growing love that leaves me with words that are hard to string together and broken sentences like the ones I’ve just written.