The Last Firsts

I can’t imagine a bigger thief than time. The fact that one year can pass by so quickly is both amazing and upsetting. At this time last year, I was preparing for our baby boy’s impending arrival. Swollen, grouchy and uncomfortable yet embracing those final weeks.

Man I miss that bump…sometimes.

Somehow I am currently preparing for his first birthday in a couple weeks while trying to figure out where the last twelve months have gone. So check in on me friends, because I am struggling at the thought of never having an infant of mine in the house again.

You would have thought that I mourned this phase once already when we sold all of our baby items after our second daughter was a toddler. We (and by we, I mean my husband) were sure there wouldn’t be another baby for us. Whatever I didn’t pass along to family and friends, I sold at a garage sale. It didn’t sting at the time for me, though, because I secretly knew that there would be more one day.

Maybe that’s why this time feels different. We have officially committed to the completion of our family, and the realization has set in that we will never again live out those beautiful first year milestones with a baby. As my son’s first birthday approaches, I find myself hopelessly longing for those precious and fleeting moments once more. It all caught up with me at once. These are our last firsts and there is no redoing them.

Basking in newborn splendor as the summer sun crept across the corner of my bed early in the morning. The up-all-nights that had me running on fumes and coffee for days on end. The first time I saw his face and our first nap together in our birthing suite. The first sleepy smile and the first time he slept through the night. His first bath, first trip, first foods, first tooth. The first time I heard his rolling laughter and the first time he army crawled across the living room floor rug. The last time he used the bassinet and the first time he went to the crib. The last time he wore newborn clothes before packing them away. The last time I used my pump and the final time I fed him a bottle before transitioning to sippy cups. The very last time I walked out of the hospital as a new mom, and the final moment we welcomed a brand new baby home.

No more dirty burp rags scattered throughout the house. No bottles drying on the drying rack or empty formula containers on the counter. No jumperoo, play mat or walker under the living room window. The spaces in our home that were once totally occupied with baby necessities are freeing up as he grows, and it is a bittersweet reminder of how quickly time is passing by.

Looking back I think of all those sleepless nights I was quick to wish away, the challenges that tripped us up and the times I desperately wanted things to be easier. Life goes by fast enough without me rushing along the rough parts. There is room for growth in chaos, too–a lesson hard learned this past year. So don’t worry mamas and daddies of the itty bitty ones; we’re all just wingin’ it.

Side note: babies were easier in my twenties. 

Gone are our baby years, yes. An incredible season that has come to an end. Transitioning from one stage to the next is busy and beautiful. In an effort to shield my mama heart, I am trying to not dwell on the finalization of our baby years by welcoming gratitude for having them in the first place. Walking the very fine line where change is good and necessary, but also surprisingly hard. Such is the contrast between grasping the things that keep him a baby and letting go (ever so slightly) so that he can grow into the wild toddler I suspect he will become.

Before I know it, another stage will pass. More rapidly than I will ever prefer; just like his sisters before him. And that’s okay because I can take all of this with me. Every memory. Every milestone. Every little thing. I write them down, share it here, put some in a slightly neglected baby book and refer back to it all anytime I want to say, “…look how much you’ve grown.” That’s the best part. Being able to say we did it all together.

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Baby boy, I am so excited to celebrate your first trip around the sun. We love you beyond words! 

Birthday Revelations

I turned 30 a few weeks ago.  For years I can recall family and friends wallow in sadness about leaving their twenties behind; about how everything would so different. Gone would be the days of pulling all-nighters and slacking off. Although that is exactly what I did the night before my birthday, and I paid for it many days over.

It seemed that turning 30 was the official mark of adulthood; no more screwing around. Then there was this lingering expectation that people around this new age would have their lives in order at that point. I was genuinely puzzled by this.  Who made these rules? No, seriously who?  I have a few questions. I expected to feel something similar as my twenties came to a close. But I didn’t, which makes sense because I have never mourned the passing of another year.

I was excited for my birthday, and I would tell me friends that “I am going to own my thirties.  They’re going to be some of my best years.” They would look at me with disgust for my eagerness to reach a new decade, wondering how I could feel excited about getting older. For the past ten years, my life shifted and transitioned more than I was ever prepared for. There are many things from my twenties that I am not proud of, but there were also invaluable experiences that I am so grateful for. Within those years were monumental, life-changing moments that shaped me into the woman and person I am today; the good, the bad and everything that falls between.

The months leading up to my thirtieth were very challenging.  During those months, I spent a lot of time focusing on where I was at in my life and what I wanted to doing that I already was not. I was facing big, ugly stuff and overcoming endless hurdles. Challenges that forced me to dissect many smaller facets of my life. Which led me to this blog, this place I hold so dear to my heart, and how it became one of the main areas I devoted my mind to during that time. And it is funny because I spent basically zero time blogging while this was all going on.  I’ll explain.

Since I started blogging, I have genuinely enjoyed it.  It has been the gateway to my scattered thoughts and has healed my worried heart many times. Blogging was something I never thought I would do.  Hell, I was not even real positive about what a blog really was until I had Tessa.  But here I am, nearly six years later, pouring my heart into my little piece of internet real estate.

If you have been a dedicated reader here, you know that much of what I write about or to is Tessa; the motivation behind the blog.  I had not experienced the lows of writing until I learned that my blog was ticking some people off.

Hmmm…maybe I am a real writer after all…

Things were said and assumed about me and my character; but it wasn’t until my thoughts and words were being used against me or shared negatively in other blogger groups or posts as examples of how not to write or rather what not to write about surfaced, that I stopped writing. Fear of opening my heart, sharing too much, saying the wrong things and having my words policed in other forums held me back. I retrieved from blogging and withheld my desire to journal until I could figure out what I was ever really trying to say in all of this writing.

I know that it is impossible to please everyone and that is not the reason I write in the first place.  I am a big fan of a little idea I like to call don’t like it, don’t read it.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me think about things. So bravo haters, you win.

Dr. Seuss always gets it right.

I had a lot of “come-to-Jesus” talks with myself.  Perhaps it is not my place to share things about my daughter’s life with the rest of the world the way I have been doing it.  Does this make me a bad person?  Does this mean my character is flawed? I don’t really think so. As a mom, I was simply reacting to what my heart felt like it needed and wanted to do. And selfishly, I needed lots of healing and blogging provided that for me.  Especially before, during and after my daughter’s battle with leukemia.

As my blog grew, I caught myself writing just for the sake of writing; hoping to meet arbitrary deadlines. Most of the time I was trying to promote advocacy and inclusion for my daughter, but I walked straight into seriously unfamiliar and rocky territory.  All I wanted to do was shout out to the world, “Love my kid and accept her,” but–if I am being honest–the world doesn’t owe me or her that. Clearly my intentions have been misunderstood a time or two. In advocating for her, I somehow put boundaries up around her without knowing it.  We do not need to prove anything about her, nor does she of herself.

I guess maybe it took confronting myself through ugly times to reevaluate the end goal here. In these revelations, I have decided to shift the tone of my blog. Down syndrome and cancer have held a huge place in our lives, but they aren’t our entire lives.  There is so much more to me than those two things.  It took a lot for me to realize that I can write about other things, too. For instance, I can go on about how I shamelessly pin things about raising chickens on Pinterest (there is some interesting stuff out there by the way).  Or I can talk about the exhaustion of being a working mom or about health and fitness.  I can spill for days on the perks of country living or my daily struggle with anxiety and PTSD. And that is exactly what I plan to do. Who knows…maybe a new blog name in the future.

There will still be days where I talk about extra chromosomes and cancer and how they have impacted my life, but I will not apologize for my personal feelings or experiences regarding either because I do think it is okay to speak for ourselves and share our stories.

The day before my birthday, I walked to the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta while on a work trip.  I paid $43 (ouch) to walk around the aquarium by myself and watch the animals do their thing, trying to get plenty of pictures to take back to my girls.  There were at least twenty different elementary schools there with their students, and I looked like genuine creep taking a selfie with a penguin…but YOLO!

While I was there, I sat down in a massive viewing room. I thought a lot about the direction I hoped my blog would take and what I truly wanted to write about in the future as I stared into the big blue wall of water. I also thought a lot about the direction I hoped my life would take, but fully accepting that my plan is already in place. I am really just along for the ride. The rest of the aquarium was rather noisy, but I sat among the crowd in total tranquility as an enormous feeling of gratitude washed over me.

Turning thirty showed me that I do not exist because of the approval of others. It opened my eyes to the idea that I can feed my soul in more ways than one, and that the most meaningful relationships I will have in my life are happening right now. Most importantly, it provided me with fresh perspective and the chance to wipe my slate clean once more.  Cheers 30.  Let’s do this!