I hear my baby crying.
I look to the clock and realize it’s late. The weight of fatigue is aching in my bones and my body sighs with the familiar tiredness that comes with the ushering of another evening. Another 24 hours past. Yes, it is late. But it is her usual hour of the night where she seems to sleep a little lighter than the other hours of the evening, and she becomes more unsettled.
Usually, I’d quickly run over and attend to her. Pat her back gently over and over again until she calms down and slowly drifts back into whatever dreamland she was in before what I like to call her ‘witching hour’ began. It almost always works. And within a few short minutes, she is sleeping soundly again and I will go about the rest of my night whether it is prepping her food for the next day, replying client emails, editing photos, or just spending time with my husband catching up on our day and relaxing in front of the TV.
However this evening, she was a little more restless than usual. So I decided to pick her up and cradle her in my arms.
For some reason, tonight, I felt an intense need to just hold her.
It is the eve of her first birthday. Yup, we made it to a year.
364 whole days.
My, how far we have come since those early newborn days when the rawness of motherhood weighed on my shoulders so heavily it bore tears on my back from the burden of trying to ‘get it all right’ and the uncertainty of how things would pan out with raising a high-needs baby. Would this ever end? Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard? When will this get better? Will I ever love my child? Why can’t I breastfeed? Am I abnormal? Why doesn’t my baby eat like other babies? Why can’t my child sleep better? Am I ever going to feel like myself again? Those were just some of the haunting questions from the beginning that plagued those fragile few months. Questions that now, thankfully, are just mere shadows. Remnants of another time.
Motherhood seemed so scary in those days. So terrifyingly alone despite being surrounded by so many people. However, a year of motherhood has somehow slowly forged a strength and a wisdom that continues to grow as I navigate through this season of life with Sienna. Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning. Every day in fact. But I am no longer that frightened woman who had all the baby preparation checklists crossed off, yet felt so naked under the buckling pressure that comes with the birth of your first child.
And then, while I was hugging her little frame in the bend of my arms, I realized that I had been holding on to the thought that my little girl would not look like how she does in this very moment much longer. Her baby features such as those incredibly round full cheeks we have become so familiar with, her little double chin, the folds of skin in between her arms and legs that I’ve come to love and adore so much, will soon be changing as she rapidly grows into toddlerhood… and then childhood… and then the teen years… and…. You get the picture. They grow up :(
How does time pass by SO quickly? Especially when at the beginning, it crawled so painfully by and the minutes would seem like hours, stretched between more hours.
I wasn’t ready for her to grow up.
And I guess that’s why I was holding on to her more these days. Because I don’t know for how much longer she will let me do this. You know, to just carry her. Sleep in my embrace. Or have my arms still be the most comfortable and easiest place to slumber away those tired eyes.
The irony of all this is, I used to resent that she would need me so much. Everyone around me commented that my child was crazy clingy. Overly so. They still do. It used to make me annoyed. Resentful. Bitter at times. Crave independence. And be jealous of those mothers who could push their baby in prams, or sleep in their own cot, or be able to go out on date nights with their husbands when I was stuck with a child who seemed forever chained to my side and constantly cried. Who never slept anywhere but my arms, and whom I could hardly bring outside because she would always wail, and would never sit in the stroller that her daddy so carefully handpicked just for her before she even inhaled her first breath.
Then something funny happened. One day, I started to like her more. She started to smile. Then I began to love her. She learned to respond to my voice. And then, we got to 1 year and now I cant bear the thought of putting her down because I know one day, I wont be able to hold her like I do now. She will get too heavy. And physically my bones will not be able to bear her flourishing weight. And of course, she will eventually prefer her friends over her mama.
So when she crawls towards me in her usual fierce stealth and proceeds to lift her hands upwards motioning to be picked up, I will pick her up. And I will scoop her into the cove of my elbow when she cries at night. Because I know it’s her mama she is crying for. It is me she wants. And I am telling myself every time it’s okay because with everything in regards to kids, it is only temporary. It passes with the pages of time. So I will embrace it. Celebrate it. Love it. For it doesn’t last forever, and one day I know we will miss these days with a piercing ache, when our babes needed us this much. Craved us so intensely.
She is not the easiest baby, and I am definitely so far from being the most perfect mother. But we love each other imperfectly, and in that irony that is what makes us perfect for each other.
So, as the last page of her first year of life makes a slow turn, I think about what kind of girl I want her to grow up to be… and these are the letters and words that form in my heart before this mamma of hers gets too old to remember. This letter is for her…
My dear baby girl,
The world is a big and scary place. But your mother knows that you will grow up to be all sorts of wonderful. However before you get there, you will come upon crossroads, and questions, and people who will tell you many things.
Of all those things, your mama just wants you to remember a few…..
First, remember that you are always beautiful. Whatever size, shape, or height you grow up to be, know that God made you that way purposefully and with intention. You don’t ever need to fix anything about your appearance. Remember that physical beauty is not everything. The world will tell you otherwise, and that you need to have perfectly symmetrical features. That your eyes should be a certain width and size. That your nose needs to be of a particular height and thinness. That the dresses you’re wearing are too large and that the gap in between your thighs is not wide enough. That you should be eating lettuce and starving your body to be beautiful. That you are less than amazing because you lack those very things.
Please know they are lying.
The truth is, beauty is seen in how you treat people. It is translated when you love those smaller and lesser than yourself with grace and abundance. And it is felt when you are friends with someone not because they have 150 thousand followers on their instagram account, but because you genuinely love their presence and care about what makes them happy or sad.
And you are incredible not because of the clothes you wear or how small the numbers on a scale say you are, but because your eyes can tell a thousand and one different shades of color and can see better than the best camera that exists today, because your voice has the capability to speak multiple languages and sing lilting or off key notes, because your hands have the nimbleness to hold a needle and thread the smallest of loops yet also carry the weight of a sack of rice from the car to the kitchen for your daddy one day, and also because your mind…your beautiful mind, is so intelligent because it has the potential to compute a million mathematical puzzles yet paint a rich tapestry of hues and shapes on a canvas. Just knowing those connective nerves in your brain are already teaching you how to form your first spoken words now as I type this letter to you amazes me.
Next, work hard and be responsible with all that you are given. But don’t ever get too busy chasing after money that you lose time making memories and doing life with those whom you love. Life and youth disappears faster than the next beat of your heart and no bank account you build is large enough to replace what time robs you of. Before you know it, you are old or loved ones have departed this life, or people have forgotten you.
Lastly, my baby, I want you to chase your dreams…. Yes, go after them… But don’t be fooled by the pursuit for fame or the ‘glamorous life’ to the point where you lose sight of the bigger picture or forget the more important things on this side of heaven and the other. It is an exhausting and often empty deceptive quest. They will tell you that it is all about how many people behind a screen follow you. But I will tell you my dear, that the only numbers that matter are the ones on your phone whom you have dialed and called up today to ask how their day has been. And how many people you have prayed for. And how many friends whom you can trust with your very life. Remember that popularity is not how many people whom you can gather on a computer to say they love you – that, my babe is a hollow representation of what a real leader should be. The secret is that people will be drawn to you instead by the hope you shine when you show them you are strong. And kind. And compassionate. And loving. And humble. And genuine. You don’t ever have to pretend you are perfect to earn the respect of those around you. Instead, shower your path with humility, and dignity, and be real about your flaws and imperfections because people are not looking for another plastic unattainable figurehead. Instead, they are looking for someone whom they can see as a sister, a friend, and find a fragment of themselves in, a trusted confidant. Hold yourself to a standard of grace and love always. And seek, relentlessly and steadfastly seek, to be that proverbs 31 woman that her children call blessed to have as their mother. And whose husband is proud to call his own. And whose friends are honored to call their sister. This is the kind of woman that God adores. And if the God of the universe says that is what pleases Him, we listen :)
Happy One year old, my dear Sienna Rose :) Your daddy and I love you so very much.