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Looking Back: Dear Jack, on the Eve of Your First Birthday

It's hard to believe Jack turned 18-months-old last week. Here's a look back 6 months in time with a letter I wrote on the eve of his first birthday.

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My precious boy just turned 1 ½ years old, which has me looking back on 2018 wondering how it flew by so quickly. Instead of reflecting on the new year to come, I’m going to reflect on the past one with a letter I wrote on the eve of Jack’s first birthday—a short, but somehow very distant—6 months ago.


To my dearest Jack, on the eve of your first birthday,

As we went through your bedtime routine tonight, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness realizing it was the last time you’d go to bed an infant. I suddenly felt I needed to document every moment – your last bath, last time brushing your teeth, last time choosing a book to read but then chewing it instead, last time cuddling in the dark singing lullabies – before you do it all tomorrow as a 1-year-old.

Having spent too many years wondering if you’d ever be more than just a dream, it’s mystifying to realize you’ve been in this world with us for a full cycle around the sun. This time last year, I was lying in a hospital bed hoping to get what I thought would be the last good night’s sleep of my life before being induced the next morning.

It was 3 weeks before your due date, but I was told it was your time to enter the world, so enter it you did. It wasn’t so much like you’d arrived; more like you’d burst forth into a cold, bright, giant place that you somehow knew would take good care of you.

I was wrong about never getting another good night’s sleep, but only thanks to an amazing support system, sleep training, and excellent mental health care. The lesson: ask for and accept help. It’s essential; it’s life saving.

You’ve Taught Me So Much Already, Dear Child

You’ve taught me to love in a different way than I’ve ever loved before—to love through infinite joy, crippling exhaustion, abundant frustration, and dimpled grins.

You’ve taught me to observe, to notice the little things—the lovely curtains, the rustle of the wind, the random coin tucked deep behind the couch, the stray kernel of dog food on the floor. Mostly, you’ve taught me to observe you, to observe myself, to observe our world.

You’ve taught me more about myself than 33 years of life did. You’ve taught me to value personal space, personal time, independence, and self- fulfillment. And you’ve taught me that sometimes, the best fulfillment comes from giving up things like personal space and time. You’ve reminded me of the importance of doing my part in creating a better world for you and your generation.

Oh, What A Year It’s Been

It’s been quite a year. Full of tears of joy, sorrow, anxiety, fear, exhaustion. A year full of laughter, smiles, raspberries, mommy jungle gym, freeze dance, books, meltdowns, biting, and doing literally everything you’re told not to do.

I told you in the bathtub tonight that you’d begin a new year of your life tomorrow, and you made one thing clear: just look up; it’ll be beautiful.

Precious, precious boy—you were worth the wait, you are even more than your daddy and I could have dreamed of, and nothing you do can change that.

Happy almost birthday, little love,

Mama

When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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