Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Baby At One

I wrote this post a while back, but apparently it didn't post. So here it is now, late, but still true. I love you little boy.

Today my baby is one-year-old. It is hard for me to believe. This past year has gone by so quickly. Some milestones have had observable progress made toward them before achievement; others have come out of nowhere.

While I've observed and celebrated the achievements, I have not noticed them. Or, at least, I haven't paid attention to what they mean. My baby has been making steady progress toward childhood.

In my mind he is my baby. I have his sister running around, 23 months older than him, with all of her advanced skills. She is able to converse, moves without toddling, and is so, so much bigger than him. Looking at her I fail to notice how big he is. Perhaps not in comparison to her, but still, he is not a little, pink human larva, as my husband calls babies.

He has a definite personality. He is fearless, but not without sense. When he climbs, and he does climb, he watches for, and notices, danger areas. He loves to joke with me by waving and saying "bye bye" and he often greets me with a ritual soft bite on my nose. Three days ago, with only one previous attempt, he walked across the room. None of this "taking two or three steps then falling" stuff for my boyby. No, he spent his time perfecting his balance while cruising so he could skip the humiliating bits where a baby falls and move straight to walking around.

When I look at him I am forced to acknowledge that he is no longer a baby.

But looking at his as a child isn't quite right either. He still has a desperate need for me at times. True, these moments may be rarer than they once were, but they are undiminished in intensity. When he grabs me around my legs and lifts his little face heavenward, squished up in wailing sorrow, he needs me to pick him up just as much as he did in the days following his birth. Perhaps even more.

For he has been out in the world. He knows there are Mommy-less moments. Sometimes he seeks these moments out. After all, he can't play with his sister if he's being held like a little baby. But sometimes the big world overwhelms him. Sometimes he's been on his own for too long. In these moments he comes to me and holds his arms out. I pick him up and snuggle him close. If he needs that little something extra, he bobs his golden head at my chest. This, I've come to learn, means "I would like to nurse." Or, perhaps more accurately, "I need my booby now!"

Before I had kids I was pro breastfeeding. But only until perhaps age one. After all, at some point it just gets creepy. Then I had kids. Looking at my little boy, no longer simply a baby, not yet wholly a child, I realize it's not that easy. Nothing magical happens on the first anniversary of a child's birth. He is much the same as he was yesterday, except now when I fill out his age on a sheet I will write "1" instead of "0."

His need for me is not appreciably smaller than it was yesterday. He looks, acts, smells, and feels the same. It is only when I compare him to the baby he was a month ago that I can see the changes.

He still sleeps with us at night. He seems to need my presence as he sleeps. It is not the same as when he was a newborn, when he needed to be held. Now he sleeps next to me, with perhaps a foot, arm or the top of his head touching me. But if I hold him as he naps, he gets a much longer rest than if I set him down.

I have tried to enjoy these napping moments as I know they will not last forever. I see the chores that need doing, and part of me would like to set him down to sleep while I "accomplish" something. Sometimes I do that. It is no longer a sure thing that he will wake, as it once was. If I set him down I can usually count on 30 minutes to do my own thing before he senses my abandonment and wakes to protest.

Today he fell asleep in my arms. I started to think about all the things on my "To Do" list. The laundry that is sitting in the basket, the rooms that still need to be tidied and cleaned before our combined family birthday party in a couple of weeks, and so on. Then it dawned on me. This is his birthday. One year ago exactly, I was upstairs snuggling this beautiful baby who had made his appearance, rather precipitously, only 12 hours before. I kept smelling him and stroking his hair and petting his cheek. I was still getting used to the idea that I had a son. I was a mother of two.

As I thought of this it dawned on me. This is the first and last opportunity I'll have to cuddle my baby boy as he naps on his first birthday. All the stuff I have to do will still be there later. At least I assume it will be. It's been there long enough already. But this baby is growing. Eventually he will no longer nurse to sleep and be most content while lying in my arms. Eventually he will be too big for it to be an option, even if he wanted to. But for right now, my arms are his favorite cradle and my breast his favorite pillow. I have decided to grant his request for as much snuggling as he wants.

After all, it's his birthday.