A year and one day ago, I was 39 weeks pregnant and more swollen and uncomfortable than I’d been in my entire life. And at that point, it felt like I’d been pregnant my entire life because when you’re that pregnant, you can’t remember a time when you weren’t.
I forgot what it felt like to move about my day at a normal pace, to go more than 30 minutes without peeing, and to sleep without a twenty-five pound gremlin crushing my spine and playing soccer with my organs. I forgot that I was growing a beautiful, budding baby and could only remember the scene from “Alien” when the alien bursts out of Sigourney Weaver’s stomach, so, naturally, I was terrified of labor. I forgot that in a very short amount of time I’d have to care for devote myself to another human being because I was too busy trying not to pee while I sneezed or laughed or talked or sat very, very still.
A year ago today I went into labor. Six hours of fear and pain later there was a tiny, squealing baby staring up at me with those hungry eyes. Once some of the initial shock wore off, ALL of the feelings overwhelmed me. I held her in my arms and looked into her blue, slightly swollen eyes and felt this tiny person become mine (though Casey will claim she’s his and it’s hard to argue when she looks exactly like him).
I didn’t sleep much in the hospital because that girl needed me. I’d always been the needy, never the needed, so it was a foreign experience but one that suited me well. Even in my sleep-deprived haze, my war-torn body ached to provide for this little gremlin I’d created.
The next few weeks were filled with ‘round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes, with more mom feels and her first head bump, with visitors and baby coos and too much TV (because hour-long feedings). And I was so exhausted and overwhelmed by my New Mommy status that I existed solely by following my instincts and Old Mommy advice.
Then suddenly, I blinked and she rolled over.
Then I went back to work and she started sleeping on her stomach.
Then I made a face and she giggled at me.
Then I went to Target and Daddy taught her to clap.
Then we got back from vacation where she’d been a mere rolly-polly and a week later, she was sitting.
Then I raced to the other room for something and she crawled after me.
Then I sat down to catch my breath and she was standing.
Then I turned around and she was climbing stairs and waiting for me to follow her.
Then I fell asleep and she woke me up yelling, “MAMA!”
Then she sneezed, I said “bless you,” and she said “Tan tu.”
Then I looked up and she was walking everywhere, arms out for balance, right hand tilted down like the sassy thing she is.
Then I blinked again and she was a year old.
And I’ve almost forgotten what it felt like to be pregnant and miserable, to bemoan the whole experience, because my genius, gremlin baby is the most incredible person I’ve ever met. And I made her. I hover over her, afraid to close my eyes or turn around or leave for too long because I know that if I do, she’ll be 18 and leaving for college or work or just because it’s time. And she’ll never know that I had it all wrong when she was born because for that moment and a few brief moments after that, she needed me. But I’ve never needed anyone more than I need her.
Happy 1st birthday, Little Z.