Caitlin's birthday is always such a milestone for me. That sounds totally selfish, but it's really true. Caitlin made me a mommy. The day she was born was the happiest and scariest day of my life. Because to me that is truly what motherhood is, happy and scary. Every year is another badge of honor and courage that I made it. I waded through the chaos and the bullshit, the excitement and the joy, and survived this adventure of motherhood.
It seems that for Caitlin's entire life I've been looking forward. In those early days and months of motherhood, I couldn't wait for the days to pass. All the books and all the other mothers would say that as she got older, life would get easier. When she was eight weeks, she'd sleep better. When she was three months she be more content. When she was six months solid foods would do something miraculous, crawling would make her happy, walking would entertain her. There was always something for me to look forward to, hope to hang on to, that future where her and I would coexist happily, minus the tears and the night waking and the diaper rash. I held onto those hopes of the future so tightly that my knuckles were white.
The thing about looking forward and always waiting for tomorrow, is that you rarely linger in today. You forget that the chaos and mess you are currently in just may be God's greatest gift to you. Caitlin would now rather watch movies on the iPad than spend the afternoon sleeping on my chest. And sadly I never really cherished those moments. I was always thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of holding a sleeping baby while inhaling that once in a lifetime baby smell. The problem with always looking forward and waiting for them to grow up so things will get easier, is that they grow up, and nothing gets easier. Luckily, you just get better at doing motherhood.
Every year that Caitlin has celebrated another year, I've been able to reflect on how much she has changed me. I have regrets about the first few years. The ones that seemed so incredibly hard at the time. The time spent blinded by the crying, sleepless days and nights, and the literal poop that was involved in them. Instead of finding my happy place among the chaos, I chose to battle it, as if fighting for my life and sanity was the best thing for both of us. As Caitlin grows up, I grow up as well. Into a better human, into a happier one. I regret that I wasted so much time worrying about what everyone would think of a mother who let her children co-sleep. What people would think about a mother who didn't breast feed. I spent so much time with my head in What to Expect, that I stopped acknowledging what was actually happening. My daughter was growing up, and I was too worried to notice. Too blind find joy and comfort in the process.
Cait turned eight, and I did too in a way. Eight years of being a mother. Eight years of really learning life lessons and things about myself that were ugly and beautiful respectively. At eight we have found a little harmony. There are no longer sleepless nights, but there are pockets of time when the rest of our world is asleep, that Caitlin and I can snuggle and watch old Full House repeats. We sneak out for Starbucks, under the guise of a trip to the grocery store. We started reading Harry Potter at her request, laughing as I try to do English accents. At eight, as we do every year, we find a sweeter spot. One that has a touch of ease, one that reminds me that there was nothing sweeter or more joyful than a sleeping baby on my chest. After eight years I finally realize that it's not the future I need to hold on to, but the present. This time, this year. It's the only one we will get, and I don't want to go blindly into it and miss all the stuff that matters. Because the tears matter, the laughter matters, the mess and chaos and bullshit, it all matters. At this point in my mothering life, I'm smart enough to know, it's the here and now I need to hold onto. Tightly, until my knuckles are white.