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Happy First Birthday!

December 14, 2013

Dear Asher,

One year ago at this hour I could not comprehend the life that I was about to bring into the world. I had just a few hours left before I became a mother, your mother. I had a lot of expectations about what it would be like, and most of them were wrong. The level of joy that I anticipated fell far short of what I experienced, as did the level of hardship. But even in the most challenging times, simply looking at you would give me a sense of awe, and I would wonder what I had ever done to deserve you. Now, as then, I pray that I can live worthy to be your mother.

I wanted to call you Asher as soon as I knew you were a boy. I loved the sound of it, I loved that it was both traditional and unusual, and I loved that it meant “happy.” Your dad held out until the day after you were born. I thought it would be strange to hold you and not have a name for you, to face this little person who was first called “Baby Boy Shaggybritches” on the hospital records. But you were such a tiny thing that it seemed impossible to saddle you with a name. Your dad prayed to know if Asher would be a good name for you. He felt right about it, and he was right. If I had to describe you in a single word today, I would say you are happy.

Like any new mother, I could stare at you for hours and try to drink in your perfection. You had very big hands with long, delicate fingers, and long skinny feet like a rabbit. Your legs were strong, and your dad and I were amazed at how you could nearly support your own weight as a newborn. (“See, Ragnar, I told you he was a kicker!” I would say.) Even in your tininess, we could see you had a good set of shoulders. Your enormous eyes would study the blurry shapes around you, and your visitors would say, “This kid is going to be smart. You can just tell.” Everyone (except perhaps your dad) said that you looked like me, and I nearly exploded with pride. When I compared you to my baby pictures, I thought, “Yes, he looks like me. Except where he has upgraded.”

Oh, those eyes

Oh, those eyes

I never doubted that I wanted you, but at first I doubted that I was good enough. Breastfeeding was hard. I would almost go through labor again before experiencing pain for that duration. But I wanted to do what was best for you, and I persisted. I fixated on your all-too-visible ribs, your matchstick legs and flat tummy, and thought, I am starving this child to death. He is perfect, and I am failing him. Add to this my insecurities about my new mommy body—my belly that was not a cute “baby bump” anymore. My body was not mine. Not only did I not recognize it as my body, but I couldn’t feed it, shower it, rest it, or even clothe it without pain. And of course I couldn’t get a thing done. Your dad took such good care of me; he did the dishes and laundry and shopping and cooking, all while working full time. But he couldn’t do everything forever, and it took me awhile to assume those responsibilities. He was frustrated. I was frustrated. I wanted to do better. But above all, I was so, SO tired. I never knew what it was to be bone tired before. I never knew how dark the world could be when I’d barely slept for weeks. Nothing was good enough. I was not a good wife, or homemaker, and I couldn’t even feed my baby. My self-worth took a nose dive.

For several months, he looked perpetually hungry

For several months, you looked perpetually hungry

But things got better. You began to sleep, and so did I. You smiled; I melted. I could leave you for little spurts here and there while I made breakfast, or even showered. I got a stroller and started running again, made myself get out and see friends. Inch by inch, we both gained ground. I attended a weekly breastfeeding group to monitor your growth, and a successful weigh-in could give me a high for days. You got a little chub, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But then my thyroid, which had been running double-time after your birth, crashed. I did not have enough milk for you, and you nearly stopped growing. At six months, your weight was 3% on the chart. I struggled not to take it personally. We had our ups and downs, clear until you were weaned at ten months. I felt like a failure at first, not making it to the golden mark of one year (today!). But your happy demeanor meant that you wouldn’t tell me when you were hungry. You never did nurse as much as other babies. And, if I were to assign you a second descriptor, it would be “active.”

As soon as you could crawl, you had to follow that red light under the crib

As soon as you could crawl, you had to follow that red light under the crib

You are a go-er! At three months you began to roll over, at five you could go both ways, and at seven you were crawling. It was an army crawl, but still. I wondered if you would ever crawl like a “normal” baby, but once you did (at nine months), I kind of missed that ridiculously inefficient scoot. You were so excited by it, thrilled at your new ability to see and then do. You took your first steps at 10 1/2 months, and were primarily walking by Thanksgiving. At a year old, you are almost running. This has come with a large serving of bumps and bruises, but you are tough and cry less than I do when you get a boo-boo. You have always been eager to be set down, even before you could crawl. I am greedy to take any cuddles you give me, because most of the time you would rather play. I’ve learned a few tricks recently that will help me in this scheme. First, you are your father’s son: You love back scratches and will stay for a few minutes when I offer them. Second, if I make a book fun (silly voices and actions) you will actually stay on my lap for more than two pages and let me cuddle you. Third, a cuddly blanket helps you to stay put until the bottle is empty–sometimes, anyway.

Belly-crawling through the grass to get me!

Belly-crawling through the grass to “get” me!

You are expressive. Though you like to study things out when placed in a new situation, you acclimate quickly and let everyone know how you feel. Since you were tiny, you have entertained your admirers with your repertoire of expressions, which I have eagerly photographed.

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Ohmygosh you're cute!

Ohmygosh you’re cute!

Blurry, but great.

Blurry, but great.

I don't even know. But it makes me laugh every time!

I don’t even know. But it makes me laugh every time!

Mugging!

Mugging!

Pleased as punch to be along for a hike

Pleased as punch to be along for a hike

Too happy for an early wake-up

Too happy for an early wake-up

"You don't say?"

“You don’t say?”

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Fierce!

Fierce!

At first, you mostly smiled with your tongue out

At first, you mostly smiled with your tongue out

Trying solids for the first time

Trying solids for the first time

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You did this every time I put him in his car seat. Or moved you suddenly

You did this every time I put you in your car seat. Or moved you suddenly

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I will have to keep a close eye on you. You are confident and friendly, almost to a fault. Any stranger could (and would!) scoop you up and take you home without a decibel of protest from you. You love to go to the pool, where you flirt and make friends. If I’m not saving you from drowning, I’m chasing you across the deck as you pursue one of your new fans. I could take your around the world and you would be happy as a lark. In fact, I did, and you were.

I love your current size. You have ballooned to a whopping 23 pounds and 30 inches, much of that in just the last three months. You tanked up and shot up when I started feeding you formula, and I anticipate that you will be “up there” on the growth charts at your one-year wellness appointment. You are just big enough that I can throw you in the air, drop you on the bed, bounce you on my lap, spin you around, and let you ride on my head or shoulders. But small enough that it doesn’t wear me out. And I can still mush on you like a teddy bear.

You are the perfect age! Though I sometimes miss your lack of mobility, your newfound capabilities make you extremely fun. I never knew having a kid would be this fun! Everyone told me to enjoy my fun and carefree days while they lasted, and it’s true that your dad and I have not had a night out by ourselves in a year. But you are a new and very special kind of fun. I am tickled to death every time I go downstairs to switch out laundry, and when I return your chubby legs are dangling below the bars of the gate at the top of the stairs as you wait for me to come up. I might have been gone 10 seconds or five minutes, but you are nearly always there with a wide smile when you see me. (Your legs are usually bare, because you abhor the process of getting dressed and I don’t demand that you be re-clothed every time I change your bum.) I stomp, STOMP, STOMP! up the stairs with my scary monster face and growl. I bare my “claws.” And you giggle in anticipation of the tickles and kisses you will receive.  I blow raspberries on those little legs, which makes you squeal and arch. And makes me laugh.

You love to pull the cord on the ceiling fan and watch the blades take off, then pull again and watch them slowly putter to a stop. You will stand at the door of my bedroom and watch, transfixed, until they are still. You are learning about light switches. I am trying to teach you “no,” mostly because of your advances on the Christmas tree. I want you to learn to sign “more” and “all done” at meals, but mostly you just yell really loud if you want more, and start squishing your food in your fist if you’re all done. I tried to put a latch on the garbage can lid today to keep your hands fish-skin-free (true story!), but you soon walked in with half the latch in your hand. I didn’t stop you this afternoon when you tried to empty your dad’s sock drawer. Even when you’re a stinker, you are SO MUCH FUN!

Up to something!

Up to something!

Laughing at the air coming out of the vent

Laughing at the air coming out of the vent

Pulling the socks out of Daddy's drawer

Pulling the socks out of Daddy’s drawer

This mom gig is a lot better than I thought it would be. I worried that I wouldn’t really enjoy it, that I’d get bored and miss my job and not be “fulfilled.” But between you and me—not trying to impress anyone here—being your mom is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I thank God every day that I can stay home with you. I wouldn’t miss your growing up for the world!

I’m not the best mom in the world. I probably play Words With Friends more than I should and don’t roll the ball with you as much as I should. I should push veggies more. It just occurred to me that I should probably start brushing the two teeth you got last month. And I’m a little embarrassed about your general pantslessness. I need to get the house properly baby-proofed, and not rely on bungee cords. But in general, I think I’m doing okay. I’ve figured a lot of things out in the last year, and I think we’re in a real sweet spot right now. You are probably the happiest child I’ve ever been around. After, “His eyes are so blue!” the thing I hear most is “He is so happy!” And while that is mostly to your credit, I’d like to think I have something to do with it. I’d change a hundred things about myself, but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about you. You are perfect, and I wish I could keep you like this. I can’t, so I hope I can at least do a better job of documenting your second year than your first. I think this one will be easier.

I love you more than words can express, my tricksy little hobbit! Every day I pinch myself to think that you are mine. I hope this is the first of many very happy birthdays!

Mom

P.S. You’re absolutely gorgeous! And I’ll keep saying it as long as you’re little enough to not complain about it. Who could argue? I’m jealous.

Ash5mobeaut

I wish my skin was this perfect

I wish my skin was this perfect

Again and again with the eyes!

Again and again with the eyes!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    December 14, 2013 4:43 pm

    I think Asher is a lucky boy 🙂

  2. December 15, 2013 11:56 pm

    I second Michael’s comment. Asher is indeed a lucky kid, and this was beautiful.

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