Happy New Year, everyone! We celebrated with champagne and a decimated carrot cake and took way too many pictures of one certain birthday boy. And then I put Cian to bed an hour later than his usual bedtime and promptly burst into tears. Absolute, ridiculous, sobbing tears. It was weird. But I think they were a long time coming.
Let me clarify: Cian has been the happiest baby of three really happy children. He has been loving, and lovable, and easy, and good-natured, and the best, best pint-sized dinner date you could imagine. It’s just the sleep–the sleep, the sleep, the lack of SLEEEEEEEEP–that’s been the kicker. He just started sleeping through the night this week (does a 5:30 a.m. wake time count?). He’s still an irregular napper. I cannot tell you how utterly miserable, crazy, distracted, impatient a person can be made when she has not slept. If you’ve been there, you may forget. If you haven’t, you don’t want to experience it. Pulling an all-nighter once in a while is one thing. Going months without sleeping long enough at night to even have a proper dream? I wouldn’t recommend it. Nor would my family.
I still remember being pregnant. I still feel that excitement I had going in to meet Cian. I still remember the anticipation and the worry and the BELLY. It was like it was yesterday, and yet here I sit, watching the toothy smile of my 12-month-old–my TWELVE-month-old!–all-out belly laughing as his sister does a goofy dance in front of him. You don’t need me to tell you how I don’t take him for granted. You don’t need me to tell you how I sometimes think of how close we came to a much different birth than the one we had, and start breathing funny. You know that. I told you about it. It’s done. But it feels like it just happened. Not a year ago.
You’d think I’d be ready for this, the easy part. You’d think I’d be ready for a day where I didn’t need to breastfeed, or worry about what time he’d be crying for me at night, or could look forward to the independence that comes with having older children. But I’m not, really. Not now, anyway. Because as hard as this last year was, as exhausted and overwhelmed and so, so at-wit’s end, I don’t want it to end. I’m not ready for the baby to not be an infant. I’m not ready to be a mom of kids, rather than a mom of “little ones.” I’m not ready to ease out of the crazy jumble into what I fear will be a monotonous jumble. There’s a magic in these early years. I’m afraid of that magic growing cold, losing its sharp angles, once the life of school drop-offs and homework and home-and-school committee emails start. Right now? Right now I have a baby on my hip and two little girls holding my one free hand and the anxiety of a house filled to the brim with coloring books and blocks and toy cars and Legos and princess dresses. I have writing I worry about not doing, laundry I joke about not folding, friends I apologize to for not seeing.
It’s baby feet, and wisps of hair, and tiny fingernail clippers, and bite-sized food. It’s milk dripping onto the dog, and marker-stained fingertips, and the smell of diaper pails and slept-in sheets. It’s little teeth, and giggles simply because I hiccuped, and a face that’s always, always reassured as soon as it sees mine near. It’s easy fixes and kisses on foreheads and Band-Aids on scuffed knees. It’s chaotic and exhausting and so, so draining, and yet…it’s easy, really. It’s simple.
And I’m not ready for it to be any other way but.
Cian is one now. He scoots around like his knees are skateboards. He disappears into cabinets, behind furniture, over his sisters as they play together. He has that belly laugh that I want to remember forever. He lies with his head on one of my shoulders and a hand draped over the other. He smacks his lips together to make a kiss. He eats like he has to play in a bowl game the next day, rocking back and forth in his high chair, his eyes growing wide, when he sees me preparing food that he likes. He loves to sit on a lap to page through a book, chase the cat around the living room. He giggles when he sees me open the car door, and all-out guffaws when Saoirse walks past his car seat on the way to hers after school. He swipes Quinn’s stuffed animals, calls “Ma” from his crib, crawls to the door whenever he sees one of us walk in. He’s just so, so, loving. He’s starting to look like less infant and more child, wants to pull himself up, thinks the best activity in the world is pulling dirty laundry out of a hamper.
He isn’t a baby anymore. He is an absolute, genuine, delight of a human being.