Seven-and-half years ago my daughter entered the world. It was the most magical experience. She was delivered via c-section, and I had to wait a bit of time before I could see her. I was so ready to have her in my arms, to kiss her, and to see her face again after seeing it ever so quickly when she came out. And when I laid eyes on her, she was as perfect as I remembered. Even though it's been almost eight years, I still remember how terrifying and exciting my first year of motherhood was. I remember the first time I held her. I remember her first feeding, the time on the clock when she first fell asleep. I remember watching her as she slept, so silent, so peaceful, so blissfully perfect. And I remember just staring at her when she was awake. The world around me melted away, and all that mattered anymore was the baby girl in my arms.
Everyone told me how hard adjusting to new parenthood would be, and how I'd miss a lot when I became a mother. Looking back, I agree with some of that, but I also transitioned from teenager to mom almost right away so I hadn't even begun to explore adulthood yet. I didn't have much to miss. Adulthood, to me, was becoming a mother. Even in the years since then, the birth my daughter marked the time in my life when my life truly started. I gave birth to her and I thought I was ready for adulthood. I remember being in the hospital a day after she'd been born. I turned to my then-husband and said, "I want to do this again!" I was so sure that there was nothing better than bringing a tiny human into the world. I was filled with a confidence I didn't know I had — one that told me motherhood would be only exciting.
I spent so many of those first years wearing stretchy pants and shirts that never fit well, a child on my hip and another wrapped around the lower half of my body, needing me, wanting me, depending on me.
Needless to say, that was only half true.
The first two weeks at home with the baby were bliss. My ex-husband and I would lay in bed or on the couch with her, constantly amazed at every tiny movement she made, every sound that came from her, every stretch she made. Feeding her was my favorite, once I figured out that I wasn't going to breastfeed. I couldn't get enough of watching her dad feed her and sing Beatles songs to her — songs she now sings back to us, seven years later.
Even though believe in growing and evolving, and even though I love where our family is headed, I make it a point not to forget where and how we started.
I didn't realize that we had entered into a new stage of life until my son was born 14 months later. When Riley was born, it was bliss. But Beck's birth was different. In the days and weeks after we brought him home, I noticed myself feeling protective of my time and space with my young babies. I wanted to do everything. I thought I had to. I didn't want to share them with anyone else. Visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles suddenly felt invasive. I wanted to hold on to every last second with them that I could. I knew it would disappear sooner than later, and that our time together — especially in the early days — was so sacred.
Fast forward seven-and-half years later, and my two children shuffle back and forth between two homes. I'm still best friends with my ex, but now our family not only looks different, it feels much different than how we first started out. Our world is much broader, and there are so many more people who are important pieces of our family. It used to just be the four of us, but now our web has grown. And even though believe in growing and evolving, and even though I love where our family is headed, I make it a point not to forget where and how we started.
I haven't forgotten the weeks when I promised myself I'd have dinner ready, the laundry done, and the house cleaned but couldn't because both kids napped at different times, ate at different times, wanted to play with different toys.
I haven't forgotten the nights I cried because I couldn't figure out why my baby was crying, the hours I spent wide awake in bed next to my partner, fighting sleep. I haven't forgotten the weeks when I promised myself I'd have dinner ready, the laundry done, and the house cleaned but couldn't because both kids napped at different times, ate at different times, wanted to play with different toys. I spent so many of those first years wearing stretchy pants and shirts that never fit well, a child on my hip and another wrapped around the lower half of my body, needing me, wanting me, depending on me. I can't tell you how many Sunday mornings we skipped our plans and stayed in bed instead, amazed by our two babies who grew so quickly, who changed so fast.
Becoming a parent at an age when I assumed I'd be traveling the world was earth-shattering. But I was so much more ready than I ever thought I'd be. And when I look back and remember the brilliant moments, they completely outshine the terrifying ones. When I watch my kids play or see their faces light up when their dad comes over, I'm grateful for where and how we built the foundation of their lives. Who we were in the beginning might not be who we are still, but we haven't lost what made us a family. That first year with Riley and then later, when Beck joined — they were terrifying. I worried if I was doing good enough and if I was good enough, if I was feeding them enough, if I could do this, if I could be everything they needed. Somehow, day by day and year by year, I made it through. It was terrifying, but my first year of motherhood truly made me feel so alive.