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This is one

Mary Clare turned one a week ago and it was a wonderful day. She slept in until 7:30 am and we had breakfast together. I put her crown on which she promptly took right off. I should have seen that coming! In the evening, we had some family over for pizza, cupcakes and presents. Mary Clare loved her first cupcake, it was fun to watch her experience her first sweet treat. She had no interest in presents. Babies are more interested the wrapping paper than anything else. The day was otherwise pretty routine. I found that a one year old really doesn't understand that their birthday is any different from any other day. In a lot ways, a first birthday is a day for mom and dad more than anything, cheers (mocktail for preggo over here) and to say, we made it through the first year...mostly unscathed!

We decided to get her a few little I said, she has no clue what presents are. We got her one of those first cozy arm chairs - she loves to stand on it, look out the window and point...MC is not doing much sitting these days. We also go her this push car for walks around the neighborhood which she likes way more than her stroller. I also came across one of my favorite books at Home Goods. And what kind of former kindergarten teacher would I be if I didn’t get my kid a book for her birthday? I also decided I would write her a birthday letter that described all her favorite things, some special moments from the year, the words she was saying, and other fun tidbits. We will do this for her every birthday and save them for her to read when she's older. It's a really special and easy gift you can give to a child.

So as this day approached, I experienced some very emotional moments. As I was picking out her birthday card, I was suddenly crying in the Hallmark aisle, as I realized this was the first of many birthday cards I would buy for her. During your first year there are a lot of “firsts.” As the year wound down, I realized a lot of those firsts passed by without a lot of fanfare. I realize there will be so many more firsts to come for Mary Clare. Beyond that I took some time these past few weeks to dig into a few important questions. Who is this little girl? Who am I?

SO who is she? In short, Mary Clare is SO MUCH FUN! She is happy and goofy most of the time. She laughs and has a sense of humor. She gets a real kick out of it when someone looks at her through a paper towel roll or a toy with a hole. It’s an easy way to get a hearty belly laugh out of her. She's very ticklish, she squeals with delight when you tickle her. She's very independent and persistent - qualities that will serve her well but at times can be hard for mommy to handle. When learning to walk, which she is doing in full force, she refused to hold my hand. She wanted to do it on her own...and she did. She does not want to change her clothes or her diaper and it can be likened to catching a greased up pig. She loves putting shoes and socks on and tries to get her hands on any socks or shoes she can find, no matter how dirty. She doesn’t like being confined (read: hates the carseat and stroller for long periods of time), this girl is on the go! Walking has been a big game-changer for a little girl who wants to go, go go. Now she really can without much help needed. She has been chatty for quite a while but now she’s really forming some clear words. She says, “okay,” “this” (dees), “come on,” "banana" (nana), “dog,” “flower” (fla), “water” (wawa), “bottle” (baba), “mama,” “dada,” and of course “ducky!” Since she was very tiny, she has been very observant and the more she grows the more she continues to notice. She is a bathtime lover and has always had a big place in her heart for her duckies.

Watching her grow this year has been the most incredible experience. Just the other day at the grocery store, Mary Clare screamed with glee in the dairy section, and a stranger said to her, “you made grocery shopping so much fun for me today.” As we walked out of the store, I told Mary Clare how much joy she brings people just by being who she is. I think my favorite thing about her is seeing how her joyful nature makes other people happy.

Who am I? It’s been a heckofa year for me. As you likely know, I have had my share of emotional and mental health struggles this year. I came out on the other side of postpartum depression and anxiety and am managing antepartum (yeah, I’m pregnant again) depression and anxiety with lots of hard work, a comprehensive course of treatment and the unending support of my husband, family and friends. Those experiences leave me feeling stronger, more grateful and happier. It also has left me with some guilt and shame. I regret that during those first months, I was unable to bond with my daughter and that I lived in a constant state of wishing time would pass. Over the past year, I have given birth to myself again, to the woman I am as a mother. In a lot of ways, I am not who I thought I would be as a mother. I imagined this huge shift would happen the moment they placed my baby in my arms. That I would suddenly be 100% selfless and it would be second nature to put someone else before me. I realize now that yes, motherhood is about sacrifice but it is also about self care. It sounds paradoxical but without self care there really is no way to put someone else’s needs before your own. I know I can only be the mother my daughter deserves if I am taking good care of myself, inside and out.

The biggest lesson I learned about motherhood this year is, it takes a village and that means you need to ask for help. In order to take good care of myself and not lose my identity outside of motherhood, I needed to ask for help, from everyone. I'm so lucky to have a family who is there for me and Mary Clare in every way. I found that in order to feel like I have an identity I needed a creative outlet. That has taken shape through this blog and through working part time as a consulting curriculum designer. It has taken shape through making new friendships, maintaining longtime friendships and making time to relax. By maintaining this identity, I am fully present and enjoying my daughter.

Motherhood is no doubt the most important job I've ever had and it's something I would never change. I love being a mom. However, at this time in my life, I need to make sure my life does have other facets so I can feel that way about being a mother.

I am so grateful and at ease as we celebrate this milestone for our babe. Mary Clare is the best thing that has ever happened to me and it’s only been one year! We have a lot more in store and I am going to do my best to take my time and enjoy each little moment because in the blink of an eye, a year goes by!

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