I wrote the piece below almost exactly one year ago to the day. I was feeling all sorts of nostalgia flood through me as I came to terms with the fact that my baby was turning one. Today that same baby (I refuse to stop calling her that) will turn TWO. Mamas, the pain is SO REAL. And it’s more intense when it’s your last. So, happy birthday to my baby girl, and to my fellow mothers: let’s embrace every age and allow ourselves to feel alllllll the feels as we watch our babies grow up.
December 7, 2019
In three days, my baby girl turns one. As I was mindlessly clearing my sink of dirty dishes this morning, I glanced at the bright pink bottle brush that was standing upright on the edge of my sink. Suddenly, it hit me: this is it. This sweet stage of babyhood that I anticipated for years and lived through three times is coming to a close. It is not just that I’m turning a new page or starting a new chapter; it is that I am closing the entire book.
I stood there staring at that bottle brush and absorbing this information like it was bad news someone was delivering to me for the first time. I could feel myself start to spiral into a state of deep sadness. It was much more than a pang that I could quickly brush away; it was the kind of sadness that you feel all the way in your bones and leaves your soul aching. The more I stood there letting myself feel nostalgic, the more I wanted to push the feeling away and ignore it. But I knew it would be in vain. Just like we can’t keep our babies little forever, we can’t suppress the bitter feelings that come with watching our children grow up, with having to admit to ourselves that a certain part of our story is now ending for good.
Sweet baby girl: one year ago I was anxiously anticipating your arrival, knowing it was going to be my last time in the delivery room. This was going to be the last time I would be hooked up to an IV, the rhythmic beeping of the monitor being our lullaby, your anxious daddy standing nearby, my mom patiently waiting on the armchair in the corner. Armed with more confidence this time around and hospital bags brimming (I never did learn to keep it minimal), I wondered what you would look like, what your temperament would be, what your cry would sound like, how slowly my body would heal, how long I would feel the baby blues. Although still nervous about the delivery, I also embraced an attitude of “come what may.”
The time of year was special: it was December. Downtown was all lit up, a chill was in the air, and I had spent the past several weeks wrapped up in cozy fleece, sipping on hot drinks with my feet constantly up and clad in fuzzy slippers. Our house was decorated with lights and elves and greenery; the Christmas shopping was finished (presents were even wrapped and under the tree). Your nursery was clean and mostly tidy, although things were a bit different this time around because you weren’t the only one who was going to be occupying the room; your big brother would sleep on the other side in his big-boy bed. But I didn’t think too much about that part because I knew for the first several months of your life, you would be in my room, nestled snugly in my arms.
It had been a long, hard nine months. The paradox of this particular pregnancy was that I was simultaneously over-prepared and laid-back. I knew the things that needed to be given greater attention and the things that I could let go of because they were out of my control or simply didn’t matter as much as I once thought they did. My pregnancy with you had taught me how to focus on the right things and surrender to everything else. While maybe my most difficult pregnancy, it had also been the most freeing.
I constantly wondered how your arrival would affect the dynamic of our home, how your sweet presence would touch the lives of your older siblings. I envisioned your coming being the missing link to our family; with you we would finally be complete.
This past year has flown by faster than I could have ever imagined. Every phase of my daughter’s babyhood has caused me to reflect a little more than in the past, probably because I knew this day would come far too soon. These past twelve months were a glimmer of time that some part of me thought I would have forever, though the better part of me was fully aware that it would all feel like a blink of an eye—that eventually I would find myself face to face with the harsh reality of time running out.
An object–one that once had no significance other than cleaning my baby’s bottles–suddenly took on an entirely new meaning, reminding me to never take for granted the fleeting stages of life.
Just like we can’t keep our babies little forever, we can’t suppress the bitter feelings that come with watching our children grow up, with having to admit to ourselves that a certain part of our story is now ending for good.
So today I am allowing myself to be sad. In fact, I will let myself be sad for the whole week as I reflect on and cling to each and every moment of this past year, from the soft breathing noises she made as a newborn, to the wobbly first steps she made this past week. The transition from crawling to walking seems to be a physical manifestation of leaving the world of babyhood behind. And for me, it’s more painful to witness this time because I am totally aware that it won’t happen again. As I have watched my baby girl the last few days standing on her own two feet without swaying, I have become more conscious of the fact that we are approaching the last sentence of the last page…and in just a few more days, the book will close forever.
Nostalgia can be painful, but suppressing reality and becoming indifferent to time passing, in my mind, is worse. I would rather stare at that bottle brush and feel the uncomfortable pangs of longing for the past, than try to stay busy in order to avoid those tough feelings that come with inevitable change. Even though the twinges I feel are difficult to bear at times, I know that fully experiencing them—tears and all–will allow me to appreciate the value of time passing, to be aware of the precious moments of the present time, to recognize the joy in a season.
It will not be easy, but this week I will pack away the bottles for good. I will throw away that bottle brush. I will tuck away snapshots in the back of my mind of rocking her silently in the night while she slowly emptied the milk from her bottle, and there they will stay forever. I will watch her take three steps in a row and I will quietly say so long to the baby years.
And then I will smile, take a deep breath, and get to work, because after all, I’ve now got a very busy toddler on my hands.
Please send the article Lindsay Collinwood wrote about an end to babyhood to Joanna Gaines magazine.