Oh my darling boy. How have we gotten here so quickly? You are now one year old. I can’t even get my head around that. How have you been in our lives for a whole year already? And at the same time, how can it only be a year? I can’t even remember what life was like before you. I almost don’t want to remember… because even though I had much more money, a slimmer waist line and more free time on my hands, my life wasn’t as enriched as it is now. I wasn’t as fulfilled. I didn’t feel anywhere near the same levels of joy and pride I now feel on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Yes, you’ve been bloody hard work at times, but it is always, ALWAYS, worth it.
I had such an idealised view of how you would enter this world. I envisioned a calming environment, dimmed lights and instrumental music. I hoped for the soothing effects of a water birth, with the promise of the ice lollies I’d heard talk about in the Meadow Birth Suite. I had a CD I bought especially – it’s still in its cellophane wrapper! And a massive sized bikini, come to think of it. I don’t have a dramatic going into labour story. No unexpected breaking of waters or sussing out if that twinge was a contraction or not. At ten days overdue, I calmly made my way to the hospital, not knowing what to really expect. The midwife booked me in for the first induction slot of the day because I told her I’d baked flapjacks and I was happy to share them around.
From the time of my induction, it took 55 hours before you were in my arms. 55 hours before our lovely student midwife could pull my surgical gown down as far as it would go so I could hold you as close to my heart as possible. That first precious skin to skin contact – oh, it was just the start. Just thinking about all the cuddles we’ve had since brings tears to my eyes – every single one of them precious and perfect. Even the ones at 3am. Oh, those 3am cuddles, Pickle. I thought they’d be a distant memory by now! Who needs to sleep through the night, eh?
I’ve watched you grow and learn. Little by little, every day, something new happens. You’ve learned how to smile. How to laugh. How to hold your head. You rolled from back to front. Then front to back. And then rolypolies all over the floor. We’ve seen your commando crawl turn into a proper crawl, your mummers turn into veritable words and associations, your flapping arms turn into waves and claps. We’ve seen you stand. Side step. Walk. We’ve seen you explore the world around you and discover how you fit into it. You’ve pulled every item off the bookcase in our lounge at least ten times a day for the past few months. You’ve played with the TV remote. The PlayStation controller. The Amazon Fire Stick. You know to hold a phone up to your ear. You know how to recognise a yoghurt pot and just how good the contents taste! You know that by raising your arms and wrapping them around my neck for a hug will always make me melt. You know blowing kisses will make me smile. And you know exactly how to make me laugh.
You know the sound of LPD coming home from work. And seeing the excitement not only etched across your face but clear in the waving of your arms and kicking of your feet brings me joy every day. You’ve made him a Daddy. And what a Daddy he is. He may prefer to watch 80s throwback cartoons on Netflix rather than CBeebies but I have a sneaky suspicion that you two will always have some weird quirks and tastes that I’ll never fully understand. Before you were born, I bought LPD a little bumblebee cookie (because for some unknown reason, he always said he wanted to dress you up in a bumblebee outfit – he hasn’t yet!) and a card to congratulate him on becoming a Daddy. I tucked them away in your baby hospital bag. I don’t know why, but when they wheeled me off to theatre in a blur of consent forms, consultants and monitors, it was the cookie I thought of. If the worst were to happen, I wanted LPD to know it was there. I wanted the moment he became a Daddy to be as special as possible.
Seeing you and Daddy play together is my favourite. He teaches you some strange things. He’s taught you to pull my ponytail. He’s taught you to blow raspberries. He’s taught you to lift up his t-shirt and pat his belly! You two are so alike, and I’m glad. I hope you take after him. I hope you are as kind. As patient. And as thoughtful.
It hasn’t always been straight forward, this parenting game. There are times where I’ve doubted whether we’re doing the right thing for you. There are times I’ve compared you to other babies. I’ve compared how you sleep. How much you weigh. How well you’re moving, sound-making and gesturing. How much you cry. How often you’re ill. I’ve compared you not to judge other babies or to judge other Mums, but to try and assess whether what we’re doing is working. Whether we’re allowing you to flourish or if we’re holding you back. And what did I conclude? That there’s no such thing as normal when it comes to babies! And that I should trust my own instincts more. What works for our family is only for us to decide.
Without a doubt, this has been the best year of my life. Yes, there have been some low points. There have been times I’ve been so tired that I’ve almost poured orange juice in my cup of tea. I’ve hardly had any time to myself and I can count the number of evenings out I’ve had probably on one hand… but I’ve laughed more on a daily basis than I ever have done before. I wake up with the best view every morning: my two boys. And I may be knackered and slightly apprehensive about how much I’ll actually get to sleep when my head hits the pillow each night, but my heart has never been so full of love. And you know what? I’m proud. I’m proud of myself and the way I parent. In a way I hadn’t even imagined. And I’m proud of you, Pickle.
So very proud. How could I not be? Happy Birthday my darling, boy. I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for us all.