Last night, the night before your first birthday, I sat with you in the glider in your room, fed you your bottle, and then picked you up and placed your head on my shoulder, the fuzzy pink blanket you sleep with nestled between us. Usually, when I try to do this, you sit up and start looking around; you are used to falling asleep on your own in your crib.
But last night, you must have been extra tired because you kept your head on my shoulder and fell right asleep while I sang the verses of "Amazing Grace" to you softly, as I have done almost every night this past year. Your freshly washed hair rested on my cheek, and I could feel the steady rhythm of your breathing against me. By the time I finished singing, you were in a deep sleep, your body resting heavier and heavier upon me. I did not want to put you in your crib yet, wanted to enjoy one of the increasingly rare moments where I get to hold you in your sleep, so I sat with you and rocked you and thought about my almost one year old baby and the year we have shared.
One year ago on a Saturday night; your Daddy and I were busy working in the basement, trying to finish a few last-minute projects before you arrived. I, all nine plus pregnant months of me, was sitting on the floor with a hot glue gun, trying to repair a pull in the carpet, wondering if you would ever come. And then, early Sunday morning, I awoke to my water breaking, and I was nervous and shaking, though I had no contractions yet, because I knew that the next day would change everything.
And change everything it has, my Ellie girl. We've had quite a year with you, and it's been full of many challenges - a labor that wouldn't start, a C-section, breastfeeding problems, food intolerances, too-short naps, battles to teach you to put yourself to sleep instead of standing up in your crib and screaming. In many ways, it's been the hardest year of my life because I've had to learn to experiment, to fail, to not know what the right thing is to do. And for a Mommy who loves structure, order, and rules, it's been hard.
And yet, Ellie, when I look back on this past year, I don't see it as the hardest year of my life; I see it as one of the best. And that's because of you and the joy you have brought to your Daddy and I. There are so many sweet memories from this year: sleepy newborn snuggles, first smiles and laughs, watching you learn to hold toys and roll over and crawl and sit up and stand up and walk, observing your tenacity in all these things. We love how you love life, how you busily engage it, how you don't want to miss a thing. We love how you interact with us, sticking your chubby arms straight up in the air when we say, "How big is Ellie?" and shaking your head back and forth in hopes of getting us to do the same. We love your hugs and your big, wet, slobbery kisses. We love the snuggles we can steal from you every now and then, when you stop moving long enough to pause in our arms for a few seconds. We love you.
There have been real trials this year. There have been deep joys. But looking back, I can't imagine it any other way, can't imagine any other baby being part of our family. The trials and joys are both part of the gift of you, and I am so very, very grateful.