Today, my newborn baby Rat is one year old. To be precise, she will be exactly one year old today at 5:56 p.m. That’s the first time I heard her sweet little mewing cry, a sound I wish I had recorded because it’s growing increasingly difficult to remember what this busy little girl looked and sounded like as a tiny, helpless baby.
She is already everything I always hoped I would be. And no, I don’t mean that in a weird, vicarious sort of way, like I just gave away my nefarious plan to mold her into a NYCB dancer in my basement lair, but she’s fiercer, braver and mightier than her mama ever thought about being.
My daughter has changed my life for the better in more ways than I could list in a book, let alone on this blog. Being her father’s wife and her mother are the two greatest things I’ve ever done and ever will do, and if anyone thinks that’s hopelessly un-feminist or that I’ve lost my sense of self or, frankly, my mind, well, I can live with that. I am an integral part of a family. I am important and necessary in ways I never thought I would be. I finally have some sense of my own worth in the eyes of God, and that is what Harper Nell Powell gave to me on her birthday.
Lest you think I’ve completely gone down the rabbit-hole, I’ll tell you that I still adore my job(s), and I expect I always will. (I told Blake the other day that I don’t ever plan to “retire.” Sure, I’d like to work less and with less pressure, but giving up writing and photography would be the exact opposite of a happy retirement.) I love that I get the opportunity every day to be creative (and get paid for it!), and I love interacting with other adults in a professional setting. I even love the minutiae of running a business. It’s just that I love being a wife and mom more. And if there’s just one thing I want Harper to know always, it’s that I love her and I love being her mom. As I sit here, I know that my own mother loves me more than anything in the world, but I don’t think she was particularly fired up about being a mom in general. I, on the other hand, relish it. I love washing Harper’s little clothes, I love picking up her toys, I love thinking of what to feed her for meals, I love reading books about child development, I love socializing with other moms, I love taking her to church even though it’s exhausting, I love sewing and crafting things for her, I love changing her diaper in the back of my car and I love planning her birthday party (which has been the main reason for my recent unplanned blog hiatus).
That sounds like a lot of distractions from work, and it is, but being Harper’s mom has given me and my photography business a clarity and a focus that I never knew I could have and that, to be bluntly honest, very few who know me personally, including me, thought I was capable of. What used to take my all day can now be done in a couple of hours, i.e., during naptime. And although I try never to speak for The Guy, I think he would wholeheartedly agree that, although he has always loved his job, he has a whole new level of enthusiasm and confidence about it, in part because of his role as a father. If you were to distill it down to a single reason, I guess it’s that there are far fewer hours in a day that we can spend focused solely on our work, so we have to come to our jobs with a laser-like focus and take care of what’s important and eliminate what’s not, which has made both of us more efficient, more creative and more motivated.
This first year has not been easy. Joyful, yes. Easy? Not on your life. There has been an enormous learning curve for me and The Guy to overcome, and I’ve said more than once that, when we have another baby, I’ll feel kind of bad for Harper, because she’s the one who had to be the guinea pig. Every baby is different, so there’s no guarantee the next one will be smooth sailing, but having the first one is like riding a roller coaster in the dark; you never know what’s coming next. At least the next time around, we’ll have SOME idea what to expect. But Harper’s the one who made us parents, and because of that, she’ll always be special.
I’m so excited to see how she’ll grow and change and learn and develop in the next year. Yesterday, at Thanksgiving dinner with family, she more than held her own with her two- and four-year-old boy-cousins, so if I had to guess, I’d say we’re probably going to have more snails and puppydog tails than sugar and spice in our lives. And that’s just fine with me. It’d be great if she were a Girlus maximus like her mama, but if she’s not, then my five-year plan involves turning Harper Nell Powell into a spider-killing, attic-exploring, four-wheeler-riding machine. Which I am most definitely not. Although I did kill a spider yesterday to keep it from getting in her room. (If it had been anywhere else, I totally would have screamed, slammed the door, run away and waited for The Guy to get home. So yeah, I can unload a 9 mil into a splatter target with a pearly-white smile on my face, but smooshing a spider gives me the shivers for 45 minutes. Sue me.) So on top of everything else, Harper makes me brave.
She’s asleep at the moment, no doubt passed out face-down in her crib, drooling on her Winnie the Pooh doll that’s becoming more of a constant companion by the day, but when she wakes up, we’ll look at her Global Babies book that Linda and Elaine gave her (it’s the first thing besides Pooh that she wants every morning – I think she’s checking on them), cuddle her “Tiger Tail” (a little purple-and-yellow plush football with a striped tail attached), scatter blocks and maybe even rip up a fresh magazine (there’s very little Harper likes more than a brand-new, pristine magazine). She’ll babble to herself and say “Uh oh,” “BOOM!” “bo,” “I love you” (sort of), and, if I’m lucky, “good girl.” And that she is, my friends – a good girl. So I better go and fix another cup of coffee. It’s going to be a busy day.
P.S. Want to see the many ways this nugget has grown and changed over her first year? Go here!