The day is done: we have been partied out. The last of the dishes cleared, leftovers put away. Kids in bed. And now the inevitable long stretch of quiet that follows.
I've spent the past hour uploading photos from my camera, re-living our day, and smiling at the recollections. As a third-time-around mom I knew this bittersweet day would come: my precious baby would become a toddler and I would sit here, stumped, wondering where the past year went. This time the wistfulness hits me harder. How can anyone stand moving beyond this phase?
I am not prepared for this: with the baby I've been far more relaxed than I was with my older children. I've tried to treasure every moment, every developmental stage; every smile, babble and squishy-cheeked bit of deliciousness. There were days when I felt I could not get anything done because we'd had a rare bad night or two but I was perfectly content to hold her close, breathe in the smell of her sweet, downy head and sit immobile for an hour or two while she napped. For the first months I carried her almost all the time. Her Reflux was just an excuse: the truth is I loved wearing her in my moby wrap, cherished the option of being able to kiss the top of her head each time I tilted down my chin . . . of drinking in her moments of quiet alertness and of deep sleep. When she became older I would carry her on my left hip, hugging her to me with my left arm, as I went through my day and attempted to perform my daily chores with my other free arm. . . when I went out to visit friends they were ceaselessly amazed how, in the midst of our chatter, she would suddenly rest her head against me and croon herself to sleep. The loud crooning was my cue to begin patting her back or to walk up and down the room a few times and gently rock her. She was the only baby at play-dates who did this. Who fell asleep in this adorable, funny, quirky way.
A baby's first year is a real roller-coaster of emotions and experiences. The whole year can feel like the longest day of your own life. But I still didn't want to rush it. To those with two children or just one child, 3 can seem like a scary number. An out-of-control, chaotic number. But it isn't. Motherhood, the third time around, is that much sweeter. That much more fulfilling. And so much easier. I may have had a few niggling doubts about how I could possibly open my heart to one more little person. But that first moment I held her in my arms, surrounded by my other children, cleared every uncertainty from my mind. "She completes us" I texted back to a friend who had sent a message congratulating me on her birth.
Now, a year on, our little 'apple' (nicknamed by older siblings) is a bundle of energy: walking room to room pointing one little index finger up and shaking her fist to make herself heard, eyes twinkling, bestowing infinite smiles, laughing her new cheeky but darling little laugh as if she's just discovered that the world is a hilarious place, gumming every wire in the house, or quietly (and adoringly!) following her older sister around.
We celebrated her birthday simply. I invited a few close friends over. There was far too much food, too much noise and two cakes too many. I baked a fruit-sweetened, sugar-free smash cake just for her (Recipe found here): a rather sorry attempt at making an apple-shaped cake which, quite sadly, I forgot to take photos of before she began wrecking it. However, she loved it and enjoyed it tremendously as you can see.
So she weaved her way between our guests, moving from one room to another, laughing at everything and even enduring all the torture bestowed upon her by her elder sister: being carried, jostled, made to wear party hats and over-sized sunglasses along with a pair of ratty fairy wings. She kept going for hours and hours, at last falling into deep sleep as soon as the last of our guests said goodbye.
Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.