And just like that, she is one.
She is an explosion of sheer delight, a fluffy-haired ball of light. Our determined, hilarious, sweet, delightful, sparkling, mighty daughter is no longer really a baby, but a small girl, her very own self.
At 7:10am on a sunny Sunday morning precisely one year ago, Frida came bursting out into the world after a long-awaited arrival. My waters had broken on the Tuesday morning and I had been having contractions ever since, but no amount of walking or bouncing would convince her to come leave her nest in my belly, so she was born in hospital rather than at home where we had planned.
It was really and truly love at first sight. Nothing else can compare. Fierce, furious, overwhelming love; a love that feels almost mythical, the kind that would burn cities to the ground, that would go to war to ensure her safety. A love that, impossibly, has grown and grown and grown, just as she has.
This year has been breathtaking, and utterly humbling. Anyone who raises a child will quickly realise that they are so very much themselves. All you can do is nurture and guide and nourish them, and see where they end up. I now understand a bit more what people mean when they talk about a “soul”. Frida’s personality is so strong and so captivating and so pure, and my husband and I are absolutely dumbstruck in love with her. This year has been the most incredible, but also the hardest. Sleep deprivation can form a cloud over the brightest of days, and I have struggled with the lack of time to myself, and to spend with my beloved husband (whom I have fallen in love with all over again watching him bloom into the most incredible father).
Frida is also going through a stage where whenever she wants anything she points and shouts “eh eh EHH” loudly and with frustration. Often when you give her the thing she was pointing at she just throws it and points to a new thing, and the cycle continues. Which is quite tiring when it goes on all day. But I have been striving to be empathetic, to understand why she is frustrated, and to research what is going on for her developmentally, and I emerge from my first year as a mother with my patience in tact, feeling proud that I haven’t raised my voice, or ignored, or dispaired.
So yes, it’s been hard, but also better and more amazing than I had dared wish in my wildest dreams. It’s such a privilege to watch her grow and develop, to be the one to teach her, to adjust my rhythm to hers and as such shape our rhythm as a family. I have adored – I still adore – breastfeeding, the contented eyes gazing up at me, Frida stroking my arm or giving me her hand to kiss. Sleeping together, curled up in the same bed, continues to bring me joy and contentment.
I can’t quite believe that she is one, and that I’ve been a mother for a whole year. As the cliche goes, the days are long (and the nights even longer!) yet the years are terrifyingly quick. And yet I feel like I have known Frida for ever. I suppose in some ways I have.
In no particular order, here are some things I never want to forget:
- She has started to kiss us, spontaneously bringing her lips to our faces. Sometimes she does this so gently, sometimes she grabs my cheeks with her hands to bring my face close. She doesn’t just kiss us, but her toys too: her bunny, her Frida Kahlo doll, her parrot puppet, a knobbed puzzle piece shaped like a sheep. Her kisses are the most precious thing; the first was one of the happiest and most tender moments I have experienced.
- Lying next to her whilst she sleeps, I have a pretty good idea of what she dreams about. One time she exclaimed “boo!” (breastmilk) then proceeded to suck at nothing with her sleeping mouth; another time a soft murmur of “dada” followed by a huge sleep smile.
- Her laughter. Frida is such a joyful child, always playing and smiling and laughing laughing laughing. Wild howls of laughter as she dances with her dada, gleeful chuckles of delight as she plunges her hands into my glass of sparkling water, her scrunched up nose and crinkled eyes as she giggles over the word “dirty”, gasp-for-breath laughing as we rough-house and tickle. I didn’t realise the world was such a funny place until I met Frida.
- She is really trying to talk now, and is imitating us constantly. “Ba-bu” is baby, either on the bus or in a book or in a photograph. She shouts “buh buh” whilst pointing at the magpies and starlings and wood pigeons in our garden, and “noe” whilst bashing my nose (thanks Frida!). She tries to say dog and duck (“duh”), sheep are “baa baa”, a snake is “tsssss”. Kisses are “muh” (mwah).
- She wakes up every morning and after every nap with a huge smile. 5:45am means nothing when I have her huge grin in my face as she jumps on my head. I never thought I could love mornings, but now they bring peace as she plays in the dining room whilst the sun rises and the kettle for my tea heats on the bright morning flame.
- I love her determination. She is such a Montessori baby by nature, determined to do things by herself. The pride on her face as she helps us get her undressed, or as she removes a stubborn key from a lock (a new favourite game), or chooses her clothes for the day, brings me so much joy.
- She adores the playground, pointing at the swings, then to the slide, then to the little tower where she likes to stand. She also likes to try and eat the dirt from the playground floor, despite my protestations, leading to first-time-parent frantic googling about pica.
- She is learning so fast; each day I discover she understands something new. Yesterday it was that she can point to her toes (as well as numerous other body parts), that she can pass me animals from her puzzle when I ask for them by name, and that she can now make the pegs pop up in her pop-up toy. Today who knows what else she will amaze me with! No wonder she is frustrated when she is working so hard to make sense of the world.
- She still smells a bit milky, a year on. Sometimes I get a whiff of her delicious milk breath and I am overwhelmed with visceral love.
- Her relationship with her dada is the most beautiful thing I have seen. She loves him SO much, leaping with joy when she hears his key in the door and launching herself at him with frantic cries of “dada dada DADA”. They spend lots of quality time together, with endless stories and puppet shows and dancing and baths and games and trips to the playground as soon as he gets in from work and special outings to the city farm and dada-daughter lunches out. The light in their eyes as they share a joke together reflects the love they feel and it is amazing. There is something about watching the people you love the most, love each other so much. I am so lucky.