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.
In the past year, I have learned so much – about parenting, about babies, about marriage, about love, about myself. One of the biggest things I realized is that I am stronger, more patient and more resilient than I gave myself credit for. Of course I can still work after being up all night with a teething kid. Of course I can take care of a baby during a 2-day road trip. Of course I will continue to be sweet and loving with her, even as she refuses to sleep at 11 o’clock at night. Yes, I lose it sometimes – I get frustrated and tell Dean he needs to watch her while I just sit in another room. But my fuse is so long now, my heart is so big – she just has to give me that mischievous smile and my heart melts even as I want to kill for unplugging all the wires.
In the middle of the night, I can dodge the toys littered across the floor. I can cook and eat and work while balancing a baby in my arms. I appreciate when I get 20-30 minutes for a shower and me time. I live for nap time when I get to live in my own thoughts, in my own head. And I also live permanently tuned into any noise Harley might make, one ear always perked up in case she needs me.
At the same time, I’m also more impacted by the horrors of the world. I get tearful about stories where kids go missing or are killed. I even welled up with tears watching Finding Dory. I feel such a bond with Harley, and any news of war or other horrors makes me feel so protective of her, and every other little one out there. I realize how I would do anything to protect her, and it’s a fierceness inside me that I’ve come to cherish.
Amidst all the awesome strength, faster reflexes and super hearing, I’m also incredibly tired. Some nights are better than others, but I have been bone weary for so long, and it’s a feeling that only those with kids can understand. I remember being tired at university – I’d stay up too late partying and then have to go to class or something, or I’d work late into the night on an assignment so that I could get up early and hand it in. But this… this is something altogether different. Now, I’m woken up without warning at any time of night, forced to stay awake for an indeterminate amount of time to take care of a tiny person. At a certain point, she decides she’s done sleeping – and I don’t get to shuffle through the day as I did as a tired student. I need to be awake and aware so that I can keep track of her as she tries to crawl away, or eat random things she finds on the floor, or cries for a nappy change or food. I need to be aware and attentive, no matter how little I’ve slept, and it is utterly exhausting.
I’ve also come to appreciate Dean even more. He is my partner in this, and I honestly don’t know how single moms can do it. He is my extra pair of hands so that I can cook, or take a shower, or even lie in bed for a few extra moments on the weekends. But he’s also the one who still thinks I’m beautiful, even as my body changes shape from breast feeding. He’s the one who still offers adult conversation over wine, as we keep tabs on the baby crawling around the garden. He is the one who makes me feel loved, supported, empowered. He still makes me laugh every day. It certainly hasn’t been easy this year – a baby puts a lot of stress on everything and everyone around them – but we have come through better, stronger, closer. We are a team, and it feels even more that way.
So, it seems that a year of motherhood has made me stronger and more vulnerable; more patient and more tired; more loving and more busy. Not all my friendships have survived this year, but those that have feel even more special to me. I have learned more in this first year of motherhood than I have in so many years preceding it. And I can only imagine how much more I will change in the year ahead.