To my daughter on her 1st birthday…12 Things I want to Remember about Your first Year of Life
1) You looked exactly as you should.
When I first saw you—your face—I instantly saw myself. It was the strangest, most comforting feeling. All those months wondering what on earth you would look like… when you finally decided to come and I saw your sweet face, all I could think was, Of course. How could you look any different? It was like, in a strange way, I had met you before…like I had known all along. You were perfect.
2) My first words to you were: “Your hair is red?!”
This was an unexpected twist. I’ll admit, because I had so many expectations for you to be blonde like your dad and me, your red hair took a little while to get used to. But now—now I love it 🙂 Now, I couldn’t imagine you any other way.
3) I’ll be honest…I was scared of you.
Those first days in the hospital were so easy. I remember thinking, this is going to be a piece of cake! But then we got home… and when you cried, I didn’t know what you wanted. I didn’t know if you were getting enough milk, and if your poop was the right color. I thought when people said they wanted to bring their newborns back to the hospital they were joking—but I felt that way too. I was always afraid to wake you…to the point where some evenings your dad and I would text each other from different rooms of the house, afraid to make too much noise 😛
4) If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Look at that red hair! And those blue eyes!!!” we would have a down payment on your first car.
You turned SO many heads with your pretty hair and strikingly blue eyes. You ate up all the attention…and so did I 😉
5) If I had a dollar for every time your dad and I said the word “cute”, we could probably buy your first car, in cash.
We were obsessed with your every move, and beamed over your smallest accomplishments. Every time dad would come in the house for lunch or at the end of the day, I would just explode telling each detail of everything you did. We were so proud and amazed. I’m not even sure how many Snapchats I sent when you were learning to crawl– we just couldn’t get enough.
6) There were days I wanted to quit.
I almost threw in the towel the day you fell on the dresser knob and almost knocked out your front tooth. When I saw the blood through your screaming mouth I convinced myself I couldn’t go on…and for sure couldn’t have more kids. And the nights when you wouldn’t fall asleep in those first days, I fought back regret for taking on this extraordinary responsibility. I don’t think anyone can be ready for the realty of parenthood! I felt so ill-equipped and weak. But…
7) I have never been more dependent on God.
Although the memories are quite fuzzy, I can recall sitting in the rocking chair feeding you in the middle of the night, nibbling on my Cliff Bar, praying incessantly. “God! I need you. I can’t do this alone…please give me the strength to be a good mom and the wisdom to know what to do…” How quickly my confidence leads me away from these moments and makes me think I can do it alone. Sweet baby girl, I will try harder to be dependent on God even when things aren’t hard.
8) I missed your dad.
Those first weeks were mostly tough because I missed my best friend, my husband. Suddenly all OUR time became YOUR time. We barely talked about anything besides you, and our groggy, overly-tired selves were often rude and short with each other. But, as you started to sleep more and become more predictable, we started to find each other again. Our marriage is different than before you–harder, but somehow better. It takes time and intentionality, and some days we still fail miserably, but my sweet daughter, it is our commitment to you to always put our marriage first.
9) You brought so much joy to the world.
You have made so many people smile in these 12 months. I can’t even count the number of passerbys that have stopped in grocery stores or church to tell me how happy and smiley you are. Once in a Ruby Tuesday, an older couple stopped by to tell us they thought you emulated pure Joy. Oh Annika Renae, I can’t wait to see how God grows that part of your personality, and uses that to spread His love to people around the world. I know that Joy people see in you is more than just a sweet baby smile, but the TRUE Joy of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure all moms feel this way…but I have a deep knowing that you are destined for great things… powerful things…world changing things. I can’t wait to cheer you on.
10) You changed me.
Confession: Pride and selfishness are my biggest downfalls. I thought I had everything figured out—that becoming a mom would come as naturally as becoming a wife did. Nope. I was a hot, tired mess. I couldn’t reason with you, convince you of things or force to you to follow my directions. Instead, I had to become humble, flexible, vulnerable and reach out for LOTS. OF. HELP. I had to admit I didn’t have it all together, and be ok with letting people see my weaknesses. I would find myself putting on a show of “got-it-all-together-mama” and wonder why. Why was I so afraid of failure? I never knew how much I would need other moms—especially my own. All the answered questions, calmed nerves and validation of emotions… I would have felt so alone without it. You caused me to find myself, to seek Jesus and be honest with those around me. This is a work in progress, but I’m sure your toddler years will continue to refine this in me 🙂
11) I tried to still be me.
Yes, your life is changing mine for the better, but I tried to retain me, the me I want you to know someday. Sometimes I would catch myself canceling plans and saying no to things I loved. I found my life beginning to circle around yours. Sure, this can be necessary at times, but it can also go too far. I began to think about the woman I want you to see as your mom, your model for womanhood, and realized I didn’t want it to be some wattered down version of myself whose personality and passions died with your birth. This is a tricky balance, and I’m sure I’ll never have it all figured out. But Annika, I want you to see the Chelsey that loves worship and adventure and writing and travel and good beer. The one that stays up late giggling with visiting girlfriends and makes her marriage, family and friends a priority, even when sometimes that means you get to hang out at grandmas or go to bed a little early. There will be days you won’t understand, but I promise, it is best for both of us.
12) I never knew I could love you so much.
This seems cliché, but its oh, so true. I never knew my heart had the capacity for this kind of love. You have my heart girl, forever. I love you more than words can say and my heart leaps thinking about our year ahead. I can’t even imagine how I will feel a year from today. As I watched you fall asleep in my arms tonight, I was overwhelmed with every kind of emotion– thank you for being you, Annika. God created you perfectly in HIS image, and you have already brought so much of His light into this world. I am beyond blessed to be your mama. You will forever be my baby girl, my boo-bear.
Parents: I would love to hear if you have any memories or tid-bits you will never forget, or don’t want to forget from your child(ren)’s first year of life…share in the comments!