My son turns one tomorrow.
This morning I drank my lukewarm coffee and watched him buzz his toy tractor all around the living room. "Vroom," he said as he chugged along. "Vroom, vroom." He was standing at the coffee table, pushing the tractor along the top and then holding it up with a proud smile for me to see.
I remember when we first brought him home. I remember looking from him to Ethan and back to him again and asking, "What do we do with him now?"
I remember Ethan pushing forkfuls of food into my mouth every night at dinnertime so that I could get something to eat while Theo did, too.
I remember laying face down on the nursery floor, pounding my fists at God and begging him to please just let this kid sleep.
I remember the hours we spent together - hours of the morning and night when sane people normally sleep - rocking and reading and nursing and crying.
Now Theo sleeps through the night and eats solid foods and can move wherever he wants to go. He has four teeth and he loves dancing and waves at everyone and everything he sees.
I guess he's not a little tiny baby anymore.
And now, after my first year of being a mom, I finally realize why first birthdays are such a big deal. It's not just because our babies aren't newborns anymore. It's because we aren't newborns anymore.
When our first babies are born, you could say we are born as mothers, too. But I have to be honest: being 'born' as a mother felt a whole lot like 'dying' to me.
I wish moms would talk to other moms about this part of having a baby. About how it feels when you are so tired it physically hurts, but you still cannot sleep because your baby needs you. About how it feels to come home from the hospital, still traumatized by what happened to your body. About how lonely it feels to be awake at 2:00 AM, when you are crying but no one knows it. About how discouraging it is to cry out to God for help, and to feel like he is ignoring your pleas. About how guilty you feel when someone says, "Isn't being a mom the best?" and inside your answer is, "No."
But then, it's not all death to self and sadness and misery. There are also the moments when you watch your parents become grandparents, and the delight on their faces warms those broken places in your heart. There are times when your baby makes you laugh so hard that you actually pee yourself because, well - that's what happens now that you're a mom. There are junctures where you'll catch your child's eye and they will look back at you and you will feel a love in your chest that is so profound it aches.
And slowly, over time, these moments get bound up altogether and you learn a new way of living. You learn how to be a mom. You learn that you do not live for just yourself anymore. Your selfishness withers and dies, and it hurts to let it go. Your humility grows and abounds, and that hurts too. But you learn that you can live on hardly any sleep. You learn that you can live with shortened showers and cold meals and lukewarm coffee because you learn that loving and serving another is worth it. Even if it hurts sometimes. Or a lot of times.
Romans 5:3-5 says, "...we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
I used to roll my eyes at this verse. I didn't think it was possible to rejoice in afflictions, and I didn't want endurance. I wanted things to be easy. I wanted them to be smooth. That's what I prayed for.
Being a newborn mom taught me that afflictions are simply not optional. And God built up my endurance through them, even though I prayed he would just take them away. I was so angry when he didn't. But now - now my character is being molded because he required me to endure. He's melting away my selfishness. He's stripping back my pride. He's requiring me to turn to him because it's absolutely impossible to be a mom without him.
And here's the part that we can rejoice in: Hope comes after all this. After this painful process of birth and tears and affliction and endurance and character molding, there is this triumphant hope waiting for us. That in all that we've given up, we will not be disappointed. That it's all been worth it. Because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Because the birth of that kind of love is worth more than anything else that we've had to let die.
So. We celebrate. We celebrate a year of this suffering turned to endurance turned to character turned to hope. We celebrate the fact that we have come so far from where we began as newborn moms. We sigh with relief and cry tears of joy and acknowledge that we, too, are one-year-olds on our child's first birthday.
One year ago we were born as mothers, and for that, we deserve a big piece of cake, too.