If there is one thing I have come to know about motherhood, it’s that characteristic bittersweet feeling. That moment when my heart can sing and ache at the same time. It reminds me so much of the hour of birth and all the intense physical pain that accompanies that divine moment when you finally meet a sweet face for the first time.
It’s that two-sided pleasure and pain principle that shows up again and again. And now, as I write this and you are at the end of your first year, I feel it all over again. So much joy and excitement for the person you are becoming, but oh, the ache and nostalgia for your tiny newborn body! It stings my heart to remember your curled up fists and squinty eyes and the newness of getting to know you in those first weeks and to know that special time has passed.
I know this is only the beginning of your story, but it already astounds me to see how much you’ve changed. Last summer you just seemed like an extension of me, but now you hold your own space in the room. Trying to walk, moving from place to place. Pointing and laughing and communicating. I love watching you grow into your own person.
I worry sometimes about the usual second-child mess-ups that happen around here. I can’t count the number of times you have eaten Cheerios off the floor or crawled your way to the dog bowls as I’m cooking dinner. Three years ago, I chased your brother around with a dslr camera that weighed more than him, but now it’s all I can do to pull my phone from my back pocket and catch a quick moment in between chasing the two of you. But we can see a stubbornness in you already, at least ten times stronger than your brother’s. And although most parents will think I’m crazy for saying this, I love it. I know you are going to hold your own one day, and there are bright things ahead. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the world is different for women and the lessons that are uniquely ours to learn. Keep owning your own space and following your own lead, Norah. There is a big world of possibilities out there, and these choices are yours to make.
It’s so strange for me to try to remember our little family without you, and I ask your brother often if he remembers when you were in my belly. He always casually assures me he doesn’t, so it seems the two of you will never have memories that are not intertwined with the other person, and I love it that way. He’s taught you a million terrible habits already, as big brothers are expected to do…. how to blow spit out your tiny mouth, or squeal in a way that horrifies my eardrums, or splash far too much water out of the tub … But he’s also taught you to hug like you mean it, and the two of you will throw your arms around each other and squeeze like it’s your job. He can make you laugh like nobody else, and to see the joy you guys bring each other is such a gift to me. I have moments of such overwhelming gratitude for these two little souls entrusted to me.
Fifty-two weeks have passed in a blink, but I can remember the night of your birth so well, Norah. Always the planner, I’d packed battery-operated votives in my hospital bag, thinking I’d use them as I labored through the night. Your swift arrival had other plans though, and we were settled in our postpartum room by 10pm. Dinner eaten, nurses and family gone, your dad snoozing away on a cot in the corner. We lined the votives up along the windowsill, and I held you all night long. It was so quiet in that room and the candles flickered a bit and an entire city was hushed outside the window.
I remember the stillness of that night and the feeling that we were the only people in the world, you and I. Mother and daughter. Even then, at something like six hours old, you’d already taught me so much about myself and what I’m capable of, the wonder of my own body and spirit. I know it won’t always be this easy; mothers and daughters are complicated. And those adolescent years ahead when we will fight and roll our eyes and have the usual growing pains? I’ll fall asleep remembering the quiet peace of your first night, what a gift it is to have a daughter, and all the joy and companionship that lies ahead.
So here you are, my girl. Your own little mind and soon enough your own big dreams and your own future in front of you. Magnificent things will happen to you – and scary ones too. But life is sweet, and one day you will find your way to exactly where you should be. As Rumi says, “What you seek is seeking you.” I can’t wait to watch you find it one day.
Happy birthday, Norah. My daughter, my heart. I love you!