The earth has now made a single revolution around the sun from the time that I had Olive. Well, awesome job, Earth, but I’ve made a trillion revolutions around all kinds of suns since then. I have transformed in ways I didn’t think possible, or even knew about. I have practiced to perfection the ancient arts of diapering, breastfeeding, swing-pushing, baby-wearing, milk-pumping, advice-deflecting, and existing on a very minimum of sleep. I still do not know how to cook. I have made countless mistakes, repeating many of them again. My body has completely transformed — my uterus is 500 times smaller (this is a fact) than it was when Olive was inside it, for instance. As my uterus shrunk my heart grew. Heart growth is a painful endeavor, not to be undertaken by the faint of heart. I now know a love I had never dreamed of.
The first year of parenthood was so much harder and so much better than everyone tells you. It is cultural wisdom that the first year of marriage is the roughest, but when you are young and just starting out like Joel and I were, the first year was full of delight in building a home together and enjoying each other’s bodies. They should leave that warning for the first year with a baby, because this year was a million times harder than 2003. But it was also hands down the best year of my life. I was not at all prepared for how much I would love motherhood, or more particularly, mothering THIS baby.
So, I was a bit emotional on the day of her birthday party. It started in church, when the prayer for that day had to do with letting go of that which passes away, but holding on to that which endures. I thought, “Her babyhood is passing away!”, but I know the love she and I have will only grow. Love endures, even when you’re not feeling it. She is now officially a toddler, no longer a baby, and she has been such a SWEET baby. When I lamented this to other mothers, they all said, “She’ll always be your baby. Always.” But I won’t always have her little baby mannerisms — the adorable dance she does with both arms up in fists, every time music comes on… the way she’ll look up at me while breastfeeding and give a smile that is unmatchable… ah, change. It always makes way for new things, which I know I will cherish just as much.
Today, for her actual birthday, my husband and I both took the day off work to spend with her. We took her to the beach, which she loved, and got her all kinds of fun treats. But the best part of her day was something mundane for us — grocery shopping. We live just a block away from the family owned grocery store, we frequent, Duc Loi. On a whim, I put Olive in the granny cart we use to get the groceries home. What ensued were probably the best 10 minutes of her entire life. She positively squealed with glee, insisting on being wheeled around Duc Loi when we got there (everyone who works there knows her by name and didn’t mind at all) and even riding home along with groceries. Papa was happy to oblige:
I’m not sure if you can see how ecstatic she is in that photo, but she’s wearing red Converse sneakers and totally living it up. Of course, the day was not perfect — she got sand ALL over her at the beach and hated when we had to clean it off, she puked on Joel when we were trying to have a nice walk through Golden Gate Park (he gave me one look and said “We’re going home.”), public transit sucked as always, and at the end of the night, the baby food Joel had made from scratch was destroyed when he put it in the blender while it was still hot and the glass cracked, spraying organic beef stew all over the kitchen. Yum. But that’s parenting — there’s all this pedestrian shit happening all the time and then there’s moments of transcendence, when you least expect them. It has been a whole year of this, and I hope for many more.
One of our friends who couldn’t make it to her party because he was at a retreat, told us he’d be offering the loving-kindness prayer for her: May Olive be peaceful, may she be happy, may she be safe, may she live awake to who she really is, may she be free.
I say Amen to that, as well as, may she retain the amazing qualities of her babyhood the rest of her life: her wildness, her sweet spirit, her curiosity, her ability to love open-heartedly. Her papa and I will try to keep up.