Today is my youngest's first birthday. It is amazing that a whole year has passed! I honestly feel like the time has flown by. I know it is very cliche to say that, but I mean it. I cannot believe the time has gone by so fast, and it's really a bittersweet feeling.
The first year is a rollercoaster experience. I am not the biggest fan of the newborn stage, to be honest. I love the newness of the baby, and I love how they are so teeny tiny and make the most adorable cooing sounds. But, I get over the sleepless nights after about the second day home. Ok fine, after the first. In addition to the constant feeling of exhaustion, there is also the consistently full sink which is stacked with bottles and bottle parts. Due to the round-the-clock eating, there is just no way to catch up. I have to say, though, that I do enjoy the part where the newborn sleeps for a majority of the day and can be carted around everywhere in the car seat -- asleep or awake! Life was so easy back when I could just take the infant car seat in and out of the car and go about our business as if Charlie were not even a person! ;) He was more like an accessory at that point! Just kidding! ;) (No, but really, though...)
Then they start to get a little older, and things start to get complicated again. Sure, I was getting more sleep since they started pulling the overnight stretch by week 7, but then life got difficult during the day. They'd be awake for longer stretches during the daytime, which you would think would be a good thing... except that their limited mobility meant they were bored easily. All my kids went through this when they were not crawling or sitting yet. They wanted to see new things and play with things, but their bodies could not coordinate with their wants, thus they'd get really cranky and annoyed all the time. This meant, I had to fill in where there muscles were lacking. Chores became harder to keep up with and the older children started to get more annoyed... "It's my turn, Mommy! Come play with me now!" But at the same time, it is so fun to watch them hit all those milestones. The rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, cruising... there's always something new!
I love the baby stage once the kids could sit unsupported. I felt like I got back some of my independence when they mastered the ability to sit. Dishes need to get done? No problem. "Here baby, sit here with these toys while Mommy does the dishes." Done. This stage is great for that purpose. They can interact with the world have a good view on what is going on around them, yet they cannot go anywhere yet. :) This means they cannot get into much trouble, which is great for Mom! The only problem for us is that around this point is when we let go of the infant car seat. (We could have used it longer, but it starts to get very heavy lugging that big seat around with an older infant in it!) Getting out and about is more difficult since the baby needs to be held a majority of the time. Park visits are difficult (babies like to put sand in their mouths and they cannot really do anything but sit in the swing). But the down sides to this stage are masked by those adorable chubby cheeks and baby faces! By this point, the newborn alien look is gone, and they are full-blown adorable little babies. (Sorry, I think newborns look kind of weird. LOL! Even mine!)
Then life gets even more interesting when you start with the introductions of solids. In addition to feeding them bottles all day long, you are now having to sit them down for a few meals each day, too. I swear, for a while there, I felt like all I did all day long was change diapers and feed them. The food would go in and the out and then in and then out and then in and then out... and then it was bedtime. Crawling starts up and then the baby-proofing gets kicked up a couple notches, as they start to get into everything. Crawling up stairs is soon to follow, along with pulling up and then standing unsupported. It seems like they don't do any major moving for months, and then in a very short period of time, they are doing it all! Every day I would turn around to find them accomplishing a new skill. Life is so busy at this stage, because they are constantly on the go. Sure, they still nap twice a day at this point, but those naps only allow you enough time to catch up with all the chores and such that you did not get handled while they were awake (keeping you on your toes while they constantly get into trouble!).
And somewhere in between all those ups and downs, they grow from teeny little newborns to one-year-old toddlers. Just as quickly as they move through all those clothing sizes, you find yourself retiring all the baby items... first the swing, then the Exersaucer, then the Jumperoo... it all gets put away one by one as your little baby starts to fully explore the world. I was of course very excited to get all that big stuff out of my house. It does take up an incredible amount of space, let's be real. But, I think I had the hardest time with letting go of the bottles.
Why the bottles? I don't know. I guess I just looked around one day and realized that the bottles were the last of the "baby things" that had not been packed away or sold. They were the last thing sitting in the cabinet, tying us to Charlie's babyhood. We switched him off the bottle a few weeks ago, but I could not bring myself to actually remove them from the cabinet. I think it just made it all too real, that the baby stage is officially over. I had three children very close together, so while one would grow out of the baby stage, there was always another baby there to step into the role. For the first time ever, there is no one to step in, and I am having a hard time accepting this. Yesterday, I finally got enough courage to pull out a bag and remove the bottles from the cabinet. I did not throw them away, as I had always thought I would. I put them upstairs in his room for now. But I did cry for a minute or two when I took them down. I know, I am ridiculous.
So, today has finally arrived... Charlie's first birthday, and while I should be happy and celebrating his birth, I am actually feeling really depressed about it. I mean, don't get me wrong... I am looking forward to growing as a family and moving on to other exciting adventures that lie ahead. But at the same time, I feel like I am grieving the loss of a stage of life that we will never get back now that our youngest has moved past it. It's a very real, harsh reality that I thought I would be more prepared for, when in fact, I am not. If money were endless and growing on trees, I'd have more kids in a heartbeat! But unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I am trying my hardest to remind myself that there are many reasons why we decided to stop after 3 kids... but right now, none of those reasons are coming to mind. Either that, or I am forcing them to the back of my mind while I focus on how much I will miss having a baby around. In reality, we have to stop having children some time, so I will have to go through this at some point, right?
Today is a rough day for me, and although it is not my party, I will definitely cry if I want to. :-(