Yesterday Charlie "celebrated" his 13 month birthday. Last year, when March 28 rolled around, I remember thinking, "Really? It's only been ONE month?" In so many ways, it felt like we had been a sleep deprived, hungry, irritable family of three for much longer than one month! When April 28 finally crept up, I remember feeling the same way. In many ways, I felt so guilty because everyone would say, "Don't they grow up too fast!? Just cherish every second! They get big so fast!" (Bla bla bla.) I found myself thinking, "Isn't it time for him to go to kindergarten?" and "I can't wait until Charlie heads off to college--then I'll finally be myself again! I'll get to read books and play in the garden and go out for happy hour like I used to!"
I honestly was not prepared for the rigor and emotional instability that came with a newborn. I dreaded logging onto facebook on Fridays because everyone would post things about how they loved the weekends and I would think to myself, "Who cares? It's all the same as yesterday. And it will be all the same as tomorrow and all the rest." It was so hard to see into the future--to imagine having a clear head, non-throbbing breasts, an appetite, and a quiet house. While I will never regret taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, there were many days that I did not love spending the entire day with my little, 100% dependent, swaddled up, baby.
I think a few factors played a part in this.
First of all, it was winter. And mostly very crappy outside--while we did get out, it was never for too long.
Second, I lacked confidence in parenting a newborn. I never felt like it was natural for me--even immediately in the hospital--I didn't even think to count his fingers and toes or look at his face. I just held him and even that felt somewhat awkward. I knew we were bonded and I loved him more than anything, but I lacked a feeling of connected-ness that I had been told would happen instantly. I think in many ways, I kept hoping that feeling would just one day arrive and consume me, but it didn't.
Third, Charlie was a colicy baby. There. I said it. After 13 months, I can finally admit that he was not just "fussy" but he most likely had colic. He did not cry constantly, in fact, his days were pretty good--but he was never a baby to just chill out on the floor or in the swing or in a bouncy seat--even for a few minutes. (These moments usually produced deafening wails)
So our moments crept slowly by. And by. And by. And then one day, as Mason was heading downstairs, Charlie giggled. This was not an accidental giggle--but a real, smiling giggle. We were elated! (Not only because he had another emotion other than grumpy--but because it's the best sound in the world) Shortly after that, he began smiling more, and cooing, and reaching for objects, and looking around, and holding his head up, and rolling over, and sitting, and eating rice cereal, and laughing, and reaching, and eating solids, and pointing, and scootching, and eating finger foods, and crawling, and cruising the furniture.
And now, 10 months later, I find myself in a completely different position than last year at this time. I feel clear headed, happy, confident in my abilities to parent a child and raise a family. I feel like a decent (and sometimes even good) wife and friend to my husband. I (mostly) love spending time with Charlie as he grows and explores and discovers the wonders of childhood. From the time he was 3 months old and hit the incredibly GIGANTIC, HUGE, milestone of "hanging out" (one night for 30 minutes without crying!!), each "stage" has become my favorite. I loved how alert he became when he could sit up and look around, I adored interacting with him as he started communicating better, and now I can't get enough of "chase" and "peek-a-boo" games.
Not too long ago, someone asked me if I missed him being a little tiny baby. I probably answered too eagerly, "No!" However, in some ways I'll always hold a little nostalgic sappy spot in my heart for those days (probably more as I get older and forget the sleep deprivation and emotional lows that came with those days) but I really am cherishing the "now". In 18 years, I might think this time went by too quickly, but for right now, I feel like it's moving along right on pace. I wouldn't want to slow things down because then we would be 'stuck' in a phase and I am quite enjoying the constant changing and growing.
When Charlie heads off to college, I'll be able to look back and reflect on which stage or age was my favorite (and therefore might wish I could rewind time a little). But for now, I love to watch him become a toddler and dream about the kind of little boy he will be. I am not wishing away the time, but I do look forward to hearing him string words together and communicate with us. I am excited to learn about his interests and curious about the way he will handle his world. I can't wait to find out "who he is" that makes him different from Mason and me. But for now, I'll just enjoy looking forward to tonight when we spend a half hour crawling up the stairs over and over and over. And one more time.