On Sunday, my bouncing baby boy turns one.
I can hardly believe it on one hand, and yet on the other, I can. Completely.
As the saying goes, "the days are long, but the years are short."
When I was pregnant with Liam (and it began to be obvious) I got a lot of comments from well wishers, passerby, store clerks and complete strangers.
(Sometimes no comments, but just raised eyebrows and imaginary comments. You know, in my head. )
They would eye Evelyn, in all of her barely one year old glory, and my burgeoning belly, and they would inevitably ask, "How close will they be?" And there the game would begin. I would tell them somewhere right around 19 months, and they would react.
Either they (or their friend, or their sister, or their mom, or their friend's sister's mom) would have kids that close together (or closer). Alternately, they would know NO ONE with kids that close together and exclaim, "Won't you be busy?" and scuttle away before my fertility started catching.
But if they did - know someone, that is - the general reaction was always, always, "Well, the first year is really, really hard. The hardest, really, but after that...it is so great having them so close!"
And thus began my expectations for this year. It would be hard. The hardest.
And you know what?
It sort of was.
I don't want to belittle the struggles and triumphs of this year in my memory. It was undoubtedly hard. Much harder than the first year with one baby.
Is it always that way with the transition from one to two? Was it harder because of the kids' ages? Was it harder because of dealing with anxiety? Was it harder because I expected it to be harder? Who knows. Certainly not me.
But it was.
It was hard.
But it was pretty damn great as well.
And I don't want to let the absolute and utter exhaustion and cloudiness of mind and stresses and total lack of personal balance of this year outweigh or outshine the blessedly happy and triumphant moments that were here, too.
Seeing my girl become a big sister, who is protective, and loving, and entertaining and silly, and refuses to call her "Baby Brother" anything but that - that was awesome. Seeing all the ways that she grew into herself even more this year. Amazing.
Seeing my tiny bundle of a boy, grow and develop into more of a toddler every day. His first deep belly laugh still resonates in my heart, his little gap between his two front teeth, the perpetual tongue sticking out of his mouth, the way he still, at a few days shy of one, snuggles into my neck and relaxes his whole body with a sigh against me - every single time that he reaches for me and I reach back for him - all those things that make him, him and such a different child than his sister. That was undoubtedly joyous and life changing.
Realizing that I could love a child who is so incredibly different than the one that I was already so head over heels in love with, just as deeply and in an entirely new and yet altogether the same sort of way. That was soul changing.
It was hard. But it was good.
And even in the last couple of weeks, I'll be honest...I have felt it getting easier. Like a weight, literally being lifted off of my shoulders. Sure it is still stressful, any mom or dad still has stressful days with their kids, no matter the age. Part of the job description, in fact.
But it's getting easier in a different way. The "I can now leave them in a room together alone and at least if Liam can't exactly 'defend' himself he is still quick enough to get away from Evelyn if he needs to..." sort of way.
And as it gets easier, and the sleep has somewhat returned (Dear God, please, please let that continue.) I have already started to sort of (sort of) miss the hard parts.
Don't get me wrong, in the moment, those days are draining beyond belief.
Not just the monotony and the trapped by different sleeping schedules and all you want to do is go talk to grown ups and equally all you want is to just be alone to hear yourself think or read a book and not have to think at all. And the ping ponging between tiny souls and hearts who need you at exactly the same moment, and feeling so touched out by the end of the day that you want to crawl out of your skin and oh yeah, your spouse might need a small part of you, too...
But it is draining because it is good work. You are doing good work in those moments and it takes everything you have in you to step up to the challenge.
So, at the end of those very long, very hard days, you at least have the satisfaction of a well fought battle. Sure, you are inevitably too hard on yourself, and think about all the ways you want to be better tomorrow (if you can muster the energy), but still, you have fought the good fight of the day and come out on the other side.
And as tough and hard as that day has been, when you have a couple of minutes and inevitably go look back in on those sleeping faces, you know that there have been good moments too, because those little souls still make your heart ache and stretch and grow and thump and soar...even after they have tried you in every way possible.
So yeah, it was the hardest year.
But it was also the best.
And the totally overwhelming, humbling and amazing part, is that there is still so much left to come.
Evelyn Rae is two and a half, Liam is two days shy of ONE YEAR OLD
...and if you, like me, are type A and struggle with feeling like you are accomplishing nothing in your life some days because you are just too busy being a Mom, please go read this post. I definitely needed to read it. And I may have shed some tears while doing so.