For those of you keeping track at home, Owen is nearly a year old. In five days, to be exact.
My baby is about to turn one.
In a wildly cliché turn of events, I blew my nose and it’s been an entire year. Like, I haven’t even tossed that Kleenex into the trashcan yet. That’s how fast the last year has gone. One year ago today, exactly, I was hot and pregnant and still had a month to go. I ate a giant Boston creme donut for breakfast and Todd enjoyed a Packers game at Lambeau with my dad.
We laughed because, ha ha, what if I went into labor while Todd was two hours away at a football game? But I still had a month to go, it was fine. In five more days my water would break, and the rest is history, as they say.
You guys motherhood is an actual cliché. Everything they say about the passage of time is true.
I’ve got enough pumped milk stored in the freezer to coast through the next few weeks while we begin introducing regular milk, so last Wednesday was the very last day I pumped at work. I’m now only nursing morning and night while we navigate this new normal and cling to the small, cozy routines of morning and bedtime.
I’ve joked for months about how I’d be tossing that piece of shit breast pump into a fire the day I was done with it. I’d been pumping, literally, since day one. With Owen in the NICU, I had no choice but to hook myself up to the hospital grade pump (living the high life) every two hours to help my body produce and maintain a supply.
Our early weeks of nursing were a difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming hellfire of triple feedings and hour-long events. I had to nurse, pump, then bottle feed him what I pumped. Every three hours he’d cry in the middle of the night, and I’d crawl out of bed, a zombie, preparing myself for another marathon feeding. I slept in 90-minute increments for a month-and-a-half.
When I returned to work, I pumped. Every three hours, like clockwork. Since December I’ve stressed over ounces and meeting schedules. Worried I wouldn’t pump enough for the next day’s bottles. Angry if a meeting cut into pumping time. I lugged my bag of shit into a supply room day in and day out like a dairy cow.
My boobs have been lopsided for months. Owen tended to favor one side over the other, and I never thought (or knew, entirely) to be sure to switch sides, whether he liked it or not. So slowly, over time, one side just became a dud while the other filled and emptied over and over. It’s my work boob. It’s carrying the load — literally and figuratively.
Now I have lopsided boobs.
And I’ve hated pumping.
Yet last night, as I tucked my freshly-washed pumping bra into a drawer and put my pump parts into the dishwasher for a final time, I felt a pause in my heart. I knew I needed to pack up the pumping bag and store it somewhere, but I had a weirdly hard time bringing myself to do it.
Is this really it?
For a year I’ve been (quite literally) attached to that machine. Hours accumulated. Hundreds and hundreds of ounces pumped. Listening to the drone of the pump while I scrolled my phone and posted pictures of Owen on Instagram, while simultaneously fretting over how much milk dripped into the collection bottles.
I set out with this arbitrary goal — my own motherhood milestone — and I’m here now. I feel equal parts free yet devastated that this long, strange, formative chapter is over. Day by day Owen is less dependent on me and what my body has been able to offer him. First I grew him, then I nourished him, and now I need to let him flourish with only my guidance.
HOW DO I DO THAT?
But no, really. I have no idea. My undying need to control my existence and everything around me has no idea how to let go and trust the world to do right.
Owen, on the other hand, IS NOT WORRIED.
He likes everything. He likes (almost) everyone — save for the occasional man and most other moms at daycare that are not his own. He is happy. He’s not worried about the loss of breastmilk because he loves milk. He loves water. He loves food. He loves e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
I’d been warned about weaning from breastmilk to regular milk because babies often don’t like it. Or they refuse a bottle. Or refuse sippy cups. Babies refuse sleep, refuse other people, refuse whatever they don’t want.
Owen does not refuse. He’s accepted bottles since day one, he is wildly enthusiastic about sippy cups, sometimes even getting its contents into his mouth rather than all over himself. He’s been sleeping like a dream for a few months now, maybe waking up once in the night every few weeks. Usually a new tooth is the culprit.
HE HAS 8 TEETH, BY THE WAY. Eight. Four on top, four on bottom.
He’s just so damned adjusted and happy and … easy.
I honestly don’t know how we got so lucky. I was a neurotic pregnant person and I continue to be a neurotic mom. How he is flourishing as an easy-going baby is beyond me, but I’m so glad it’s happening.
He’s already grown out of his infant car seat and graduated into a convertible seat, of which we’ve christened “the spaceship.” He takes two good naps a day, adores his daycare provider, goes to sleep like a dream by 7 p.m. every night and will play with any toy as long as he can shove it into his mouth.
He hasn’t quite nailed down a crawl, though, and instead prefers to army crawl. Or roll. Sometimes both. If he wants to get somewhere, he’ll get there. I stress, often, as I watch babies months younger than him crawling and standing. Some babies his age are starting to walk.
He was late to sitting up on his own, too, but now he does so with ease, most recently gaining the strength to lay down, roll around, and sit up again all in one fell swoop. He can stand, albeit shakily, if we prop him up against the couch or a table or otherwise anything stable he can hold onto.
I try not to worry that he hasn’t hit these milestones, but do you know me? Worry intensifies when it comes to your own child. I thought I worried about myself too much, and then I produced my own human.
So, needless to say, a year is approaching and the emotions are big. I’ve been collecting photos from his first year (in case you were wondering, there are literally thousands), and sifting through them is wild. He was so tiny. We were so tired. The newborn forest was so very thick. But, wow, it’s been a good one.
I always wanted to be a mom, but I didn't expect to love it to the extent that I do. I’m tired, but I’m fulfilled. The days are busy, but getting easier. It’s bittersweet to watch him continue to grow more and more out of his baby stage, but with each week life adjusts ever so slightly back to normal. And Owen becomes more and more of a tiny individual.
We did it, which is what I mostly can’t believe. Todd and I found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant all those many, many, many months ago, and now we’re here as a family. I’d say the first year has been more challenging on us as a couple than anything else, but every day we learn new ways to understand each other and our new roles as mom and dad, husband and wife.
It’s impossibly hard sometimes, never made easier by postpartum anxiety and darkness, and anyone who says otherwise has got to be lying.
You, out there, you are lying. This stuff is not easy. But we do it.
I’ve not written in months. Far too many. Todd’s building me a new website, so eventually this space will be fresh and new and I’ll continue to chronicle our lives WITH A TODDLER.
Oh my god.
But there are still so many stories I want to write down about our time between then and now. and I will.
For example, Owen started swimming lessons two weeks ago. SWIMMING. LESSONS. We put him in tiny swim trunks and splash and sing songs and blow bubbles and it is every bit as adorably pointless and precious as you’d ever, ever expect.
He is the best joy imaginable.
Months and months ago — hell, when he was born — I said we have a perfect baby. I stand by that statement.