Baby girl took her first breath at 10:33 on a Wednesday night. She was “late,” born one week past my due date, after a short but intense labor. When she was placed on my belly, I could hardly believe she was here, after all the waiting, the struggles and failures, the hormones and emotional extremes. She was here, in my arms, at last.
Compared to the protective bubble of our hospital room, taking her out into the world to get her home felt somehow dangerous. I rode next to her in the back seat for months, just so I could watch her, comfort her if she cried, be there just in case. At home, I found myself swinging wildly between moments of awestruck wonder and joy at this new little life in our care and sobbing in pain and feelings of failure at not being able to properly feed my baby girl. I was sleep-deprived (still am), which only intensified every emotion, for better or worse.
But she was here, that was all that mattered.
Slowly, the experts were able to help with the feeding (a snip of her tongue–twice–and lip, which was probably more traumatizing for me than for her, though you wouldn’t know it from her screams), and we graduated from the breastfeeding clinic after three long months of pain, never to look back.
Sleep, on the other hand, would take much, much longer to figure out.
But she was thriving, sleep or no sleep.
She was strong from day one, lifting her head to look around. Soon that was followed by pushing herself up from the floor, then rolling, grasping her feet. She showed interest in everything around her, reaching for and grabbing toys or our fingers or clothes, putting whatever she could manage into her mouth. Then she began to really see, to inspect everything, turning objects in her hands to look at them from every angle. She started to communicate–not just crying, but cooing, babbling, and now talking! She wants to comment on all she observes.
In the last year, I have watched in utter amazement as she has developed from a tiny, needy newborn to a walking, talking toddler. There will probably never be another year during which so much will change so rapidly.
And it’s not just baby girl’s physical and cognitive development that have changed, or the influence she’s had on our previously childless life. It has been a year of highs and lows. For all the joy she has brought us, outside forces have added to the stress inherent in ushering a new life through her first year on the planet. Hubby first struggled with and then lost his job. Saba passed away, just weeks after we returned from baby girl’s first visit to Hubby’s homeland, the first and last time she would see her grandfather in person. The Montreal winter kept us shuttered inside, isolated from the weather but also from interacting with the world and people around us.
We’ve had lonely days, days when we needed help, when we wished we weren’t here on our own, without family or friends. There were days we were hit with bad news, sometimes whole strings of them, one after another.
But we’ve had so many good ones, too. Moments, even, that could turn a whole day around. Like baby girl’s first smiles, first laughs. The day the breastfeeding clinic told us she was latching well and gaining weight and they didn’t need to see us again. The brief–too brief–visit from my family, when hubby, baby girl, and I played both tourists and tour guides to our new city. We’ve traveled and explored and had private, quiet moments at home. She has learned and grown and charmed those around her.
And we have celebrated all year long–that she is here, that she is ours, and that we have the opportunity to guide her through this life. No amount of pain or worry or sleeplessness can diminish that. We are the lucky ones, and she reminds us of that every single day.