Exactly one year ago, Chris and I sat in my hospital room, trying to settle down and have one last quiet night before our lives were turned upside-down.
Tomorrow, my silly little girl will turn one. I now have a toddler running around my house, hiding combs in my winter boots. When I try to evaluate how my life has changed over the past year, it's easy to think of the inconveniences: I rarely get to wake myself up in the morning; leaving the apartment is a giant ordeal; I can't go to the bathroom without a small creature scratching at the door; my carpet is perpetually covered in Cheerios; I can't sit down at the computer and write my dissertation while she's awake, because she wants to climb on my lap and bang on the keyboard.
But I'm so thankful that our family has grown by one small person. She's so joyful: every person she meets is her new best friend, and every spoon, potato and Kleenex box is an exciting new toy. She's thrilled about the existence of books, and I'm thrilled to have a small creature with whom I can snuggle on the couch and share my love of reading. She wanders the house singing (mostly she sings "doot doot doot" with occasional trumpet sounds). I love watching my parents and in-laws interact with their grandchild, and seeing her bring out softness and sweetness in all of them, beyond what I've seen before.
I haven't changed as a result of motherhood as much as I presumed I would: somehow, a part of me expected that I would suddenly become a proper and level-headed Mom, full of wisdom, and not as ridiculous as I usually am. Instead, I now realize that my child will likely make poop jokes at inappropriate times, and that it will be entirely because of me.
I resist the idea that parenthood is some absolute and necessary experience of adulthood and womanhood, just as I cringe when parents of multiple children state or imply that those with one child haven't experienced "real" parenting. But this small person (who I still can't believe is my very own to keep) has changed me during this past year. I've started to learn how to love and accept this child on her own terms, to see her own personality and not just some person I want her to become. That lesson teaches me to love myself as well.
Happy birthday, Little Bug. Here's to a great second year.