My sweet baby girl turns one today. I just can’t believe it. It has been quite the year. Somehow, it has been the longest year ever to pass by in the blink of an eye. Whenever there is an anniversary like this, I always think back to where I was and what I was doing the previous year, and if I am where I thought I would be in a year.
A year ago, I was in the recovery room after Penelope’s delivery, doing lots of skin-to-skin time with my tiny little newborn. I wish I could say that I was basking in the happy afterglow that comes after a birth, but my happiness was tinged with worry. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. I was, however, completely in love with my baby. She was sweet and cuddly right from the beginning.
When she was born, I thought about what her first birthday would be like. I imagined that I would be back at work, and would have to fit her birthday party in around my work schedule. I pictured making her birthday cake and how we would take photos of her eating it and making a huge mess. I wondered if she would be walking yet, and what words she would be saying. How would she and Charlotte be getting along? I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I was dreading our house being under siege by a toddler again- that oh-so-exhausting period when these little ones are moving around; crawling, cruising, climbing, toddling, and getting into everything; not knowing that virtually everything they want to do would kill them without interference from someone older and wiser.
And now here we are, a year later. I have extended my maternity leave and so am not back at work yet. Charlotte and I will make her a cake, though she won’t be able to eat it (it brings tears to my eyes to type that sentence). She’s not walking; she’s actually not yet sitting up on her own, and she isn’t talking at all yet either.
What is even better than I had imagined, though, is Charlotte and Penelope’s relationship. Penelope absolutely adores her big sister; everything Charlotte does is fascinating to her, and Charlotte can always bring a smile to her face. And Charlotte is wonderful with her baby sister- she is always hugging her and kissing her, and she does so gently and lovingly. When Penelope had the NG tube, Charlotte would always help me as I retaped the tube- she would distract Penelope by singing to her and stroking her head to keep her calm. Despite all the time Charlotte gets left at home when we take Penelope to her various appointments, she is never jealous or resentful. This loving sisterly relationship has gone well beyond my wildest dreams of how the two would bond.
Penelope herself is a wonderful baby. She has a bright smile that lights up the room. She loves to cuddle and to be held. She likes playing with soft, crinkly books and biting on anything plastic. Actually, it doesn’t have to be plastic- those chompers have taken bites out of my finger on more than one occasion. She is, surprisingly, quite self-regulating. Nursing her was a nightmare those first seven months, but it was because she was smart enough to limit her feeds to volumes that she could handle without choking. When she does something out of the ordinary, it is money in the bank to bet that something is going on- teething, virus, whatever. She is a creature of routine. She now sleeps through the night, which is just so amazing. I love her so much and wouldn’t trade her for anything.
So, yes, things are not at all how I thought they would be. This past year has been fraught with heartache and challenges. But there has also been a lot of joy- like the first time Penelope smiled or the first time she rolled over- and a lot of love.
And on this day, I am thinking ahead to next year, Penelope’s 2nd birthday. Will she be walking and talking by then? What difficulties lie ahead of us this year? I don’t know. No one knows. But there is one thing I know for sure; no matter what Penelope is doing, no matter what milestones she has met or missed, no matter what her capabilities are, she will be very, very loved, by a lot of people, just like she is this year. And that is more than reason enough to celebrate.