Harley turned one, which meant that it was up to me to organize her first birthday party. As she grows older, I’m sure she will be able to make her desired theme a bit clearer to me, but at this point I went with something I know she loves – Pandas. She adores Kung Fu Panda in all its forms – whether it’s the movie or that Netflix series, she is completely entranced by it. Also, she always enjoys when I read to her Neil Gaiman’s Chu’s Day, all about a Panda whose sneeze causes, um, pandemonium. So, I figured a panda themed birthday party would be a good bet for her, and fairly easy for me to pull off.
To be clear, I knew that all those attending would be little people and their parents, so I wanted to keep it fairly low-key and relaxed as possible. I also decided that I wanted to do it at a venue, choosing a lovely restaurant that has a full kids’ play area complete with child minders, as well as nice food and great coffee for the parents. I will be telling all of you more about my favorite picks for restaurants that meet these criteria in the next few days/weeks. So, the food and location were sorted by the venue – easy parking, a variety of platters for kids and adults, as well as whatever drinks they had available. What fell to me? Making the panda theme a thing.
Today, my tiny little preemie princess turns one. ONE! How has a whole year gone by already? How is it already her 1st birthday?! It’s that usual conundrum of time moving so quickly when we look back, and yet feeling like it was standing still at times. Those first few months were so slow, so hard. She seemed to be in the hospital for ages, needing time to grow and become ready for the world. Then we got her home, and that was a whole new kind of hard. The days and weeks blurred together like a weird exhaustion-induced fever dream. And all of a sudden I’ve woken up and my little baby, my tiny princess is a year old.
I had so many plans for this post, for all the words that I wanted to write about Harley, about how far she has come, about what this year has been like. And yet, I’m finding myself just sitting here, listening to her breathe while she sleeps on my chest, feeling the weight of her tiny body against mine. This is the new normal, this is my life now – I am the safe place for a tiny person. I am her mommy and she is my baby and that is our life. Until she wakes up, of course, and then I become her jungle gym, food court and general entertainment system.
A year ago today, I was very pregnant, very uncomfortable and (unbeknownst to me) very sick. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Harley’s first birthday. It’s bizarre to think about, crazy to think back and wonder where the year went. I have so many things I want to write about her, how she’s changed and grown and all the rest to celebrate her birthday. But, on the anniversary of the last day I was a woman and not a mommy, I want to look back on all the ways a year of motherhood has changed me, but I think I can sum it up in one story.
Last night, I baked. This is a big thing for me, because I don’t normally bake. I’ve made the odd baking mix thing, and I’ve made cornbread/muffins from scratch, but I’m not one of those amazing women who knows how to whip up pancakes or scones or cakes or any other kind of baked goods. But, I knew I wanted a smash cake for Harley’s first birthday, and I wanted to be the one to make it for her, to introduce her to sugar and cake and all the rest. However, because I never bake otherwise, I figured I should test out the recipe I found so that her smash cake wouldn’t be a flop on the day. So, there I was last night, figuring out this whole baking thing, mixing and reading and wondering if I was getting it right. Harley started crying in the middle of it, so I was cracking eggs and measuring sugar while holding her on my hip. That, my friends, is motherhood.
Harley used to hate bath time. She was so tiny, I used to give her baths in the kitchen sink. I’d make sure the water was perfect, I’d be sweet and gentle with her, but she just hated it… until she could sit up. Ever since she was able to sit on her own in the bath tub, she absolutely adores bath time, and it has become an important part of our daily routine. There is so much that can be gained from bath time, and it can really help to establish a helpful sleep pattern.
I remember I used to love bath time. I had a couple fun toys; I remember an awesome wooden paddle boat with a rubber band around a wheel so you could wind it and then it would paddle off down the tub. That was the best, obviously, but I also had rubber duckies, and random bottles and containers that I could fill with water and pour out. My mom would sit with me and we would chat and laugh while I was playing in the bath, and then we had silly routine conversations about the names of body parts that we would play when she would dry me off and get me into my PJs. Surprisingly, it all plays an important part in helping a little person to grow and learn, as well as unwind and eventually fall asleep.
I feel like every other article I read is about moms burning out, about how overworked we are, about how depleted we are. There was this excellent one about post-partum depletion and the bounce back myth that says we need to stop expecting women (and ourselves) to get back to “normal” after having a baby. Another great read was this one about a working mom who finally put herself first, opting to get sleep and exercise and slow down a bit instead of working insane hours and then giving the rest of her life force to her family. Considering how much I’m seeing these articles shared on social media, I figure I’m not alone in feeling this way.
It’s not meant as a complaint, or a rant, or some sort of feminist tirade, but I do feel that we put unrealistic expectations on women. I know I put unrealistic expectations on myself. I still fully expect myself to be able to work like I did before I had a kid, to perform well at my job. I also want to be a stellar mom, spending quality time with my kid to help her grow and develop and learn. (Oh, and apparently the intensive motherhood that I want is great for baby but leads to higher rates of unhappiness amongst moms.) I still want to be a loving and helpful wife, make coffee in the mornings and dinner at night and be keen for alone time when Harley is asleep. Oh, and I also want to get back into shape, exercise and eat right. Plus, I know I need time to read books, watch series and play games. But there aren’t enough hours in the day, are there?