The Last 1st Birthday

Birthday cake with 1 candle and the word one.

It happened. My baby turned 1. To be more specific, my youngest baby turned 1. “Baby.” Is she still a baby now? Something tells me she’ll always be my baby. My forver baby but bound and determined to grow up and leave me like the rest of them. I’ve mourned a little over all my kids’ birthdays. Another year to celebrate. Another year to miss the littleness and see it slipping right through your fingers. There’s something special about your last baby though. It’s like getting a special set of glasses with lenses that help you really see the roses in the weeds and wilderness of those hard little years. Not with the overwhelmed- barely-making-it-by glasses you wore with your first kids. No. Lenses that see how quickly it goes and how precious it all is. The Last 1st Birthday really does change things.

I am a big believer in two things. Well many things. But for the purpose of this article these two things. First, that however many kids you have is the exact right amount you’re supposed to have at that time. And also that the amount of stress and chaos you experience with however many kids you have is the actual total amount of stress you could handle. None of this “Oh you have 2 kids. Well wait until you have 3. THEN you’ll understand real stress.” No. If you have 1 kid, you’re maxed out. If you have 6 kids, you’re maxed out.

In light of that though, having our 3rd child has definitely been different for me. Maybe it’s the 4.5 year age gap between our 2nd and our 3rd. Maybe it’s that I had her in my 30’s and I’m settled into who I am as wife, mother, and woman in general. Maybe it’s because my Army husband was in a less-stressful job when she was born. I don’t know what the reason is. But it’s definitely been different.

My last baby has given me those last-baby glasses. And that became even more clear on her 1st Birthday. With her siblings I mourned their 1st birthdays. The night before they turned one I rocked them to sleep. I stared at their faces and I cried. The night they turned one I laid them down and sat outside their bedroom doors and sobbed. I cursed time and clocks and the moments of their sweet little lives ticking endlessly by without even the slightest gentleness left for my fragile feelings. With the last 1st birthday I thought it would be the same. So I waited with bated breath for the same mourning to happen. And did, but it was different.

The last 1st birthday made me more joyful. It made more more content. It made me cherish it all the more. While she scorned her first piece cake I was able to just look at her and not worry about anything else. I took a few pictures but I really just sat and enjoyed her. When I rocked her to sleep I was able to think about her first year of life and all the magic she’s brought to our family. I thought about her birth and what it was like bringing her home to her brother and sister. I thought about how she lived in a black out Slumberpod for the first several months of her life. I thought about how she started cutting teeth the exact day we started our cross-country move. I rocked her and I recounted her year and all her firsts. And I realized…I was happy. The few tears I shed were tears of joyful thankfulness for all her firsts instead sobs over all of my lasts.

Sure. It was my baby’s last 1st birthday. But it was the first day of her second year of life. It was the first day I imagined her as a toddler and how fun she’ll be to chase around. It was the first time I thought of all the fun we’ll have on the go. It was the first time the 1st birthday made me hopeful for what’s to come instead of sad over what’s being lost.

There’s something about that last baby. The way you snuggle them and breathe them in more deeply. The way middle of the night feedings feel less like death and more like stolen quiet moments for just the two of you. The way you see your older children step in to help feed, soothe, snuggle, and play. The way they frame your family- finishing it off with the exact right personality that was always meant to be there.

So here’s to last 1st birthday’s, friends. Here’s to our babies growing up and living lives that are full, even when we know it will leave our own houses empty. Here’s to celebrating. Truly celebrating those birthdays and not seeing them as tick marks counting down the days we have left. But instaed seeing them for what they are. Little doorways to the future of this little person we can’t wait to watch blossom and bloom.

So to my baby: Happy 1st Birthday. I can’t wait for many more.