You didn’t sleep last week.
You’ve been sawing logs like a pro for quite some time now, but last week you just couldn’t do it. You would go down for the night easily enough, but soon after you drifted off you would wake up screaming, and I could practically hear the words, “Mommy, come hold me!” in those screams. I would come pick you up, snuggle you until you were snoring again, lay you down gently, and tiptoe back to bed, only for you to wake up again as soon as my head hit the pillow. Several times you popped back up the second your cheek hit the mattress, your chubby little arms reaching out for me and the very near comfort of my shoulder.
I didn’t sleep last week.
I was planning your first birthday party, the one birthday when I actually scour Pinterest and check off lists and cut cardstock pennants and tie fabric scrap high chair garland (it was a lot cuter than it sounds) and bake the three-layer cake and tint the icing and buy the Wilton 1M icing tip to create the perfect ombre rosettes. (For the record, your Lovey actually handled all things cake related. But I was standing right over her shoulder with a helpful “Atta’ girl,” and “Please don’t screw this up” the entire time.) I resent this culture of Pinterest perfection we live in, the culture that suggests moms allocate 374 pre-party hours for planning, sewing, stenciling, baking, crafting, decorating, and spending a chunk of her life savings all for a birthday party. FOR A TODDLER. Granted, some moms can do this on a budget and with a smile on their face, like my friend who threw a knight-themed party for her four-year-old and made a 3-foot castle, complete with steeds, wizards, and working catapults, out of oatmeal boxes, clothespins, rubber bands, and cheerios. I’m pretty sure you already know this, but I AM NOT THAT MOM.
And yet there is something about the first birthday, probably the fact that it feels like a celebration for everybody. We brought a tiny, helpless human into this world, completely wrecking our life as we knew it, and we watched that tiny human transform from someone incapable of holding her head up on her own to this wild, stubborn, spitfire of a girl who makes her own decisions, begs for string cheese, swings her hips, laughs hysterically at her sister’s fart noises, and gives the biggest, sloppiest, open-mouth kisses a mama could dream of. That’s the stuff of miracles.
So I go all in for the first birthday and I devote the 374 pre-party hours and I forego rest for at least a week before the big celebration. This year I was also secretly organizing your dad’s 30th birthday surprise notebook, so my winks were even fewer and further in between, and I was okay with that. Until you stopped sleeping.
Of course this is the week she goes through a sleep regression, I silently despaired as I rocked you early one morning. I had worked on party decor until 1 am, and you had awakened the moment I put my project away and headed for bed. It was now 2:30 and I was exhausted, delirious, and desperate for rest. I stewed about the situation a little longer, begging God to knock you out for the night. And then I leaned down to smell your freshly-washed hair. And placed my cheek on yours. And listened to your heartbeat, and covered you in kisses, and felt your soft breath tickle my cheek in its steady rhythm. In and out… in and out… in and out…
And I started to cry, and I thanked God for one more chance to rock my baby before she left babyhood forever. I cried because these are the moments I beg God not to allow me to forget. These are the moments I will look back on with longing when you are a big girl in your big girl bed, a tangle of long arms and gangly legs and emerging beauty and youth, a woman-child learning and growing and drifting away from me at an alarming rate.
I know this is true because I can already hear the opening strains of that heartbreaking symphony when I look at your big sister, the epitome of long arms and gangly legs and emerging beauty and youth.
Babies don’t keep.
Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite writers, penned her mama heart’s desperate pleas in a book I read when Laynie was just 6 months old, and I cried and cried when I read her words then. They are doubly painful to read now, phrases at once dripping with beauty and sorrow and gratitude and longing:
“Love’s a deep wound and what is a mother without a child and why can’t I hold on to now forever, me here and her here, and why does time snatch away a heart that I don’t think mine can beat without?
Why do we all have to grow old? Why do we have to keep saying goodbye?”
What is a mother without a child, indeed? And what is a mommy without a baby?
These days are long and I am often overwhelmed by the pressing needs of two living, breathing creatures who rely wholeheartedly on me, not just for nutrition and protection and love, but for guidance and discipleship and wisdom and training that will determine the type of young women they will become. The pressure is intense, and I find myself repeating the mantra, “The days are long, but the years are short, the days are long, but the years are short…”
And yet despite the pressure, I also find myself grasping at time, at seconds and minutes and hours and days, at milestones and celebrations that visit once, then are gone forever.
What is a mommy without a baby?
God, don’t let me forget…
Don’t let me forget her scrunchie face, her Shirley Temple curls, the way she bear-crawled all over the house before she learned to walk.
Don’t let me forget the way her piercing babbles turn into laughter every morning when she sees the hall light peeking in under her door and she realizes I am about to come snuggle her.
Don’t let me forget how she looks in her bed each night, sprawled out as far she can stretch, her arm curled tightly around her stuffed lamb.
Don’t let me forget how she gazes into my eyes as I hold her bottle, how she slowly smiles as milk runs out of her mouth, how she holds it up and offers me a drink.
Don’t let me forget how she loves playing with her big sister, how she loves crawling and flopping on Mommy and Daddy’s bed, how she signs the word “more” when she’s hungry and will only drink out of cups with straws (because that’s what Big Sister uses, of course).
Don’t let me forget how she ooh’s and ahh’s over sparkly things, how she says, “Whassat?” when she passes gas, how her laugh is the most hilarious, unladylike cackle, how she loves to sit on her bottom and scoot backwards across the tile, how at mealtime she somehow manages to throw food onto every square inch of floor within a 3-foot radius.
Don’t let me forget how she giggles and takes off as fast as she can when she’s found something she’s not supposed to have, how she imitates burps, how she plays “peek-a-boo” with her bib, how her entire face lights up when she smiles, how she dramatically throws herself backwards and then starts laughing when she’s in trouble.
Don’t let me forget how she throws up her arms and shouts “Da!” (ta-da) when she’s proud of herself, how she loves to blow kisses, how she points to the computer and makes monkey noises when she wants to watch Baby Einstein, how she clucks her tongue and trills her “r”’s like a little Mexican baby.
Don’t let me forget how she screams when her hair is washed, how she laughs and dances when we sing “Sisters,” how she toddles into the bathroom and says “Boo!” when I’m getting ready in the morning, how she looks and smells when she’s fresh out of the tub and snuggled in her footie jammies, how she yells “Nay-nay!” when she’s looking for Laynie.
Don’t let me forget these days, God.
Don’t let me forget my precious baby girl.
Crosbie Kayt, you are the little stinker I thought would be my easy one. You are independent, feisty, spirited, and stubborn. You have made me stronger, driven me to my knees, and brought me so much joy through a year full of change and uncertainty. You are fun, funny, and fearless. You were created for a divine purpose, and I thank God every night as I rock you to sleep for the honor and the privilege of being your mommy.
You have taught me so much about life and joy and challenges and blessings over the past year, and I am truly thankful you did not turn out to be nearly as “easy” as I anticipated. Because strong and challenging and outspoken and fierce are so much more rewarding than easy, aren’t they?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what your future holds.
And as you grow and change and walk forward into the wonderful plan and purpose God has laid out for you, I will be cheering you on every step of the way, delighting in my wildfire daughter and in the beautiful story of her life.
Crosbie Kayt, I cannot wait to see who you become.
But even as you grow and change and walk forward into the wonderful plan and purpose God has laid out for you…
I’m going to miss who you were.
Happy First Birthday, Sweet Cobbies. You’ll always be my baby.
I love you every day.