People tell you how fast the time goes when your kids are little. In the weeks after Joan was born, countless mothers of all ages encouraged me to soak up the snuggles, while looking adoringly at my tiny baby. “They grow so fast”, I’d hear. With those words lingering in my mind, I insisted on taking things slowly and strived to be present, savouring the newborn days in all their glory, from the “how can this be real? She’s so perfect” moments, to the “how can this be real? I think I slept a total of two hours overnight” moments. Through it all, I knew the teeny tiny baby-phase would not last for ever. Ben and I were encouraged to say no to lots of visitors and stay in our bubble, and for the first few weeks of Joan’s life we did just that. Friends and family gave us love and support, and we gave in to our new life and Joan’s complete dependence on us. Days with our baby girl were wonderfully slow, filled with hours staring at her face, her hands, her belly…I would feed bubba in bed or on the couch, we’d gaze into her big eyes and eat snacks, and then she’d sleep on my chest. Or if I was sleeping, she would sleep on Ben’s chest. We’d do this over and over and over again, as time moved in two-three hour blocks. Loved ones would bring food and do the dishes so we could stay in our world and survive this overwhelming time with as much grace as possible. Having a baby is a time to call on your village, and we will be forever grateful for ours. Their selflessness helped time pass slowly and gave me the gift of being able to look back on those early Spring days and remember it all…the way my heart felt light and bright at the same time as my body felt heavy and hurt from sleep deprivation…the taste of the peanut butter bars and granola bars my friends Hannah and Robin baked that I devoured at 3am….the way Joan’s body felt as she slept on me, small enough (and frog-legged enough from her hip brace) that she fit perfectly on my chest while barely clearing my belly button. I remember it all, how hard it was and how beautiful it was. “That went quickly”, people would comment when hearing of Joan’s impending birthday, and I feel so blessed that I don’t agree, that for the first ten months of my baby’s life, time moved slowly.
Eventually I saw what they were talking about. Joan was around ten months old and I had recently started working from home and in doing so, began to feel busy…busy in a way that was not related to caring for Joan in the immediate sense. My mind began to think on other things outside of my role as a mother, and I started welcoming work appointments and commitments while still keeping us fed and clean and happy at home. And while I never let myself get too busy, because that does not feel good to me, (I’m not wired that way, and thankfully me becoming busy and frazzled would be a disservice to my family), the little bit of busy I was experiencing started to, ding ding ding!, make the time fly by. Joan is now one year old and all of a sudden my baby has become a toddler. I am realising more and more how important my job is, to encourage an empathetic and secure little person. The days are now less physically demanding and more mentally challenging, as I try to keep up with her development and not “baby” my baby. She can do so much and understand even more. Indeed, the teeny tiny baby days are gone. You often hear parents say they cannot recall life before their kids, don’t you? When I was four and a half months pregnant I wrote this blog post, saying that I didn’t understand how people could feel that way. But, of course, now I do. Or rather, it’s not like I can’t remember a time before Joan, I can, it’s more that I feel disconnected to my previous life (in a way that is surely more than sleep deprivation, because truth be told, I’m feeling pretty well-rested these days). And that sounds sad, but it’s not… it’s just as though my life before Joan was a dream. A wonderful one, with adventure and love and the ups and downs we all go through, but a dream, nonetheless. I think the way in which my heart stretched the day Joan was born made a jolt so big and significant that I too felt as though my life began last year on the 27th of August. The past twelve months has treated me so well, and I am thankful for my slow, sweet and well-supported entry into motherhood. My heart has been filled with more moments of incandescent joy than I ever thought possible. And though my present days are a little busier than the newborn ones, and Joan and I are no longer in our bubble dancing entirely to our own tune, I make sure that we still take it slow, that we still watch the birds, and every morning in the kitchen while the kettle boils, and we dance to our song.
Happy Birthday, Joan. Being your mother, being your person, and watching you grow and explore the world is the most special thing to me. You are adventurous and sweet and thoughtful. You have a rough+tumble nature and are constantly on the go, observing and exploring and investigating. You have an incredibly strong will, which has been evident from before you were even born. You are sensitive and strong, my love, and how wonderful to be both those things. The way you are sensitive to people and your environment will serve you well, as it will encourage you to have empathy for others and meaningful relationships. At one year old, your favourite things to do at home are read books, eat snacks and explore the bathroom. Your current favourite foods are porridge, banana pancakes, scrambled eggs and lamb stew. I am so pleased that our new home has a long hallway because, baby girl, you could run around all day long. You adore “buds” (birds) and love to smell lavender. You enjoy being on my hip and helping me make hummus, pesto and smoothies in the kitchen, however your heart is most happy when you are running, eyes wide, hands in the air, squealing with joy, into a big, open, green field. Oh, my Joan, what a joy you are. Happy birthday.
Here are some pictures from Joan’s first birthday party. Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate, and for all the support we have received this past year. We truly appreciate every bit of love.
• Joan flower letters: follow this tutorial for how we did it. Mum helped me one afternoon (I am SO not the crafty type) and we bought paper mache JOAN letters,a glue gun and fake flowers that weren’t hideous. We cut the leaves and flowers off, assembled them and stuck them on with the glue gun as best we could (turns out the glue gun was a dud and there was hot glue leaking everywhere and frequent yelling of “Just stick it on, just get it done!” from both of us. It was not the most relaxing activity, but hey, now I’ve got pretty flower letters to hang in her room when we move.
• Confetti balloon from a shop in the city and filled with helium at a party shop.
• Photographs from Pocket Prints, hung on string with little pegs from a craft store.
• Bowls filled with chocolate freckles (because they’re pretty).
• Slow-cooked lamb (similar to this beef cheek recipe but with boneless lamb shoulder and loads of tagine-style spices. Done the day before).
• Roasted cauliflower (done the morning of the party)
• Lentils, cooked in vegetable broth with bay leaf (done the morning of the party)
• Fetta cheese
• Sourdough bread (made by my dad)
• Fruit platter and chocolate dipped strawberries
• Classic yellow cake (using this recipe and this site to double check gram measurements, as US and Australian cups are slightly different)
• Chocolate mascarpone frosting (based on this recipe but with a few alterations. I also used melted & cooled dark chocolate in the mix, and ended up using half mascarpone/half Greek yoghurt up when one pack of mascarpone turned out to be curdled)
• Mint leaves and flowers from my parents’ garden
• Orange juice
• Etsy (and yes, she totally left it on for an hour, which is 59 minutes longer than I anticipated).