The Bittersweet First Birthday

If you ever need the definition of the word bittersweet, just ask the mother of a baby who is approaching his first birthday.

What an excruciating combination of emotions that monumental day conjures up. Possibly the most sentimental woman in the world, I begin a full month before the big day with wails to my long-suffering husband, such as, "Last year this time I was enormously pregnant, and we were thinking he could come any day now," or, "He was inside me! Look at him now... that was inside me!" Of course, reality dictates that I follow these outbursts by plucking Jonathan, my happily playing, soon-to-be one-year-old from his current area of destruction, demanding of him in somewhat accusatory tones why he had to grow up so fast.

As the weeks to B-Day count down I continue to torture myself '- and everyone around me '- by reminiscing about the excitement and anticipation of the final weeks before his birth, conveniently forgetting the aches, pains, hormonal meltdowns and close relationship I formed with the toilet during weeks 36 through 40. The spring weather reminds me of my frenetic nesting of the year before. I add to the litany of sorrowful wails that the house was so much cleaner this time last year too!

Eventually, though, the youngest of my four children turned one. He celebrated the day by breaking into a bag of chocolate-covered raisins, efficiently sucking the chocolate off each one, leaving me to follow a trail of moist raisin droppings that adhere to hardwood floors like cement. He then festively decorated himself and a large portion of the deck by artistically spraying both with a tube of bright blue yogurt. A little later I heard him freshening up. Upon further inspection I discovered him dipping his older brother's toothbrush into the toilet bowl, after which he would suck the water out of it with much gusto. This hygienically challenged escapade was soon followed by his helpfully emptying the dryer, lint trap and all, and making creative little objets d'art from said lint. Not a bad morning's work for a baby whose only mode of transportation is what his older siblings have dubbed the "bum scootch."

As Jonathan cheerfully and systematically annihilated any semblance of order in my house, I marveled that at this time last year he was still figuring out the whole eating, sleeping, breathing thing '- and that I had just met him.

It seems impossible that just one year can take a baby who is basically a stranger and make every inch of him more familiar than the back of my hand. Just one year can take you from wondering how this new person will fit in with everyone else to trying unsuccessfully to imagine your family without him in it. Just one year can take you from trying to teach a baby to latch on to having to pry a condiment out of his hand every time he confronts an open fridge door.

Just one amazing year can take you from the sterile home of perfect order (or as perfect as can be with three other children) that comes of nesting to one of crazy yet thrilling chaos. And so as I deal with the sadness of another babyhood drawing to a close, there is also excitement brewing for all those firsts that I know are yet to come. I'll be okay, I think.

Right now, however, I have to go. My new one-year-old just "bum scootched" past me with a bottle of ranch dressing in hand and a determined expression gracing his still-baby face.

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