When Amelia was a baby, I kept my eye on her first birthday like a sprinter eyes the finish line. It was always in my sight, always my goal. Make it through the first year. Get to the finish line. Keep a steady pace. Don’t. Stop. Running. The summer after Amelia’s first birthday was like one long, triumphant victory lap. From there forward, every time I’d see a mom or parents with a baby, I’d think to myself, “Haha SUCKER! My kid’s ONE. I made it to the other side. Alive, dammit!” And I’d pity them with their drooly, sleepless monster.
And then on July 12, there was Annie.
And we began our love story.
That sounds silly or melodramatic I know. But only through Annie’s babyhood, did I begin to heal from Amelia’s. Annie slept 4 hours straight in the hospital and then for 9-hour blocks once we were home. She fell asleep willingly, easily. She nursed quickly, efficiently and smiled socially at 2 weeks. She cried in the arms of anyone else and settled happily with me—every single time. She’d nurse in bed with me in the pre-dawn hours and snuggle into my body and fall back asleep. For hours. She rolled over at two weeks (!!), sat up at 4.5 months, and took off on her hands and knees by 7 months. She took her first steps the day before her birthday. Everything on time. She turned away mashed and pureed baby foods in preference for adult food straight from Mama’s plate at 6 months. She stayed healthy and we only took her to the doctor ONE time for illness. She’s never taken medication, formula, or a special diet. Everything on time or ahead.
As a newborn, she’d cry every evening uncontrollably. I’d put her in my carrier and walk around the neighborhood with her on my chest. She’d be quiet by the time we got to the end of the driveway, watching the trees, and settling in to sleep by the end of the block. Yes, she cried, but it was predictable, and most shockingly for us, fixable too. Always fixable. Always knowing that I could soothe here was revelatory for me. After that newborn phase, she hardly cried ever and always because she was provoked and always fixable. I took her to Amelia’s gymnastics class every week from the time she was 10 weeks old and the other moms always remarked that they’d never heard her cry. She’d just sit in my lap, happy, laughing, playing. I never worried about taking her anywhere or being out past her nap or bed time because she didn't fall apart or meltdown. I could take her with me to coffee with a friend without sweating it a bit. She’d get tired and fall asleep in my arms, wake up, and smile contentedly in my lap until we left.
She only ever got up in the night once to nurse and then would sleep in. Even during the 3 am feeding, when I looked at her, she'd catch my eye and begin to smile and laugh, sending milk spraying and me scolding through a smile. She was just . . . happy. All of the time. Predictable and flexible, cuddly and loving. And with the best smile ever. Ever.
She can be relied upon for a solid 2 naps a day and when she wakes up, she sits in bed gabbing and laughing until someone goes in to get her. Everyone who spends an hour with her falls in love. They say things like “SO sweet,” “melt your heart,” “easiest baby!” And I always have to chuckle because they’re talking about my baby. When her first tooth came in (on her 7 month-day!), she had a couple restless nights. And that’s it. Very little fanfare and then there were teeth. If a stranger catches her eye, she waves and smiles, her whole face exploding in happy-ness until they have no choice but to melt into a reel of silly faces and noises.
Rather than an a victorious yet treacherous obstacle course finish line, her birthday just kind of . . . arrived. Much to me own ignorance and denial. I still think of her as my little, teeny baby, even as I see her toddling around me. Even when I catch her playing in the toilet or having climbed into the bathtub, or in the dishwasher, I still think of her as the easiest baby ever and my sweet little angel.
Just as my love for Amelia was fierce and protective, heavy and rebellious because of her painful problems, my love for Annie is sweet and giggly, soft and enamored because of her mellow normalness. It’s only been through Annie’s first year that I have managed to grieve and reconcile Amelia’s first year. It is literally through mothering her that I have recovered. Having Annie has made me understand why people love babies. Sucking on her cheeks and getting huge, sloppy kisses have made me inclined to the drooly, raspberry blowing baby-folk. And now that she’s one, I shall look at people with tiny babies and think, ‘damn. I wish I had one too.’
Happy birthday sweet angel baby. You have been the apple to my pie, milk to my cookies, the Annie to my Amelia . . .
and it is impossible for me to love you any more.