No matter how much you love being a parent, you can't deny that it's challenging. Simply surviving the first year of your child's life is an achievement. Being acutely aware of that fact, my partner and I made a solid, concerted effort to find ways to celebrate ourselves during our kid's first birthday party.
One of the benefits of having family that live in different parts of the world, is that you can often end up with multiple celebrations. Our son had three first birthday parties. One at the zoo in the United Kingdom with my parents, one back home in Canada with his other grandparents, and one with my birth group where we celebrated eight babies at once. We did all the usual things people do when they celebrate a child's first birthday: I made a cake, we bought banners and decorated our son's highchair, he wore a cute little outfit and a birthday hat, and, of course, we all sang "Happy Birthday" to him (and probably off-key, but oh well.)
After all that celebrating, it was important that my partner and I recognized our own achievement over the last year. We sat back with a celebratory glass of wine, gave each other a well-deserved "high five," and remembered all these "firsts" we got through together:
We Got Through The Sleepless Nights
At our son's birthday we looked back over the last year and reminisced. Once you are out of those crazy first few months that make up life with a newborn, it's easy to forget that you managed to operate on almost no sleep whatsoever. That ability alone deserves some special recognition.
We Managed A Year Of Breastfeeding
For us, breastfeeding was important and it wasn't always easy. My husband was an amazing support and made achieving this milestone so much easier. #Teamwork.
We Got Through The Baby Stage
Once your child turns 1, they are "officially" out of the baby stage. Sure, they still like to be carried in their parents arms, probably aren't toilet trained yet, and, let's face it, will likely always be your baby, but they're a toddler now. That means an entirely new fresh hell awaits you, my friends.
We Somehow Balanced Work And Parenting
Once you're responsible for raising another human being, it's really difficult to put the same amount of effort into your career that you did pre-baby. However, my partner and I did it.
It definitely took a while to get back into the "groove," and we had to work on the logistics, but once the year was up we had managed to combine employment and parenting. Yay for us!
We Got Our Social Lives Back
Having a baby can make it appear, at least to your friends, that you have disappeared into a black hole of diapers and baby talk. However (and thankfully), by the time your baby hits a year old you should be back into your flow; spending time with friends, reigniting you passion for sports or hobbies and hopefully finding a reliable babysitter to make the whole process easier.
We Made The Transition To A Crib
Some parents are happy to bed-share with their children indefinitely. While I really admire that philosophy and think it has a lot of benefits, it's just not for me.
I need my space, so when my son was 6 months old we transitioned him out of our room. It wasn't easy and we had a rough week of sleep training but, in the long run, we were glad we had our bedroom back to ourselves.
Getting Our Mojo Back
Some people feel back to their old romantic ways almost as soon as the baby is born. For others, it takes a little while longer. Because I breastfed on demand, the first year of my son's life made it difficult for me to feel like my body was truly my own. I felt touched out and, as a result, really valued my alone time.
By the time our baby had his first birthday I was back into my groove; feeling more than "just a mom" and ready to reconnect with my man. We started to have regular date nights and remembered what it was like to be a couple and not just mom and dad.
We Survived A Flight Together
By the time my son celebrated his first birthday, he had been on four transatlantic flights. Before we traveled with him, we were petrified at the notion of being stuck on a plane with a screaming baby and a whole cabin of angry passengers giving us dirty looks.
With a few preparations, however, we found it really wasn't as bad as we imagined.
We Made A Family
Through all the trials and tribulations of bringing home a new baby and adapting to all the new expectations that come with your new role of "parent," it can be easy to forget exactly what you have actually accomplished.
In that short year that simply flew by, my husband and I made a family and a year full of family memories.