Austin will be a year old on Wednesday. Half of me is consumed with relief, praising God I made it through his first year with my mental health (mostly) intact. My biggest fear as I approached his birth was that I'd relapse and be ill like I was during Alex's first year. Granted, the past 12 months haven't been free from moments of anxiety and forays into darkness, but I don't live in it's oppressive fog like I did back then. Many things have thankfully been different this time around, and the ones that weren't I've been able to address as needed thanks to knowledge and increased self-awareness.
The other half of me is dumbstruck, in search of where the time went. How did it pass by so quickly? I'm not sad necessarily-to be honest as much as I love how adorable fresh life is, I enjoy watching my children get older and find new ways to step into their independence and personhood. From my experience, babies are precious, but hard, especially in those first four months when everything becomes about surviving sleep deprivation and learning who this stranger is that emerged from your body. They then become conduits of wonder between six to nine months, granting you an opportunity to see the world through eyes and a perspective thrilled by discovery and exploration. Teething and rapid leaps in development make the last three months of their first year reminiscent of the first four, leaving you to wonder if you'll ever get uninterrupted sleep or your own skin to yourself ever again. So I'm not sad to see him turn one, even though he's my last. I'm embracing it, eager to watch him chase after his brothers on wobbly legs still finding their rhythm, and hear his first words. I'm just...surprised at how quickly it went. Alex's first year seemed like an eternity, Austin's a nanosecond.
I've been watching him intently these past 2 days, in awe of how rapidly he's becoming his own person, holding his own as the youngest in a family of five. He has this wild joy about him and thirst for living that makes my heart dance. His laugh frees my soul in a way that's hard to articulate with words...it triggers a release from what's binding me, causing me to rise and walk free; revived like Lazarus emerging from the tomb. Perhaps that's why this year has gone by so quickly-joy has been carrying us through it, even during the moments I thought I'd fall and break.
I snapped this photo of him yesterday evening. He was staring out of our hotel window, looking out of the expanse of the city and babbling emphatically as he pointed to various objects in the distant that only he could identify. He would look back at me every so often and clap his hands, a smile bursting across his face and excitement dancing in his eyes, then turn back and bang on the window, letting out a yell, as if to say, "Let me out, I'm ready! I'm coming for you, world!"
It was in that moment that I recognized what I love the most about watching a child cross the threshold of their first year-the readiness. It's in their eyes, lives in their voice, and dominates their body language. It's life-giving to witness, their daily declarations of readiness for what's next in life, their head first leap into further exploration and discovery, their fearlessness and wonderment.
He is my baby but already not so much of a baby anymore. Instead he's a little boy with an emerging independence that tells me when he doesn't need me to be so close, with eyes that ask for a bit of freedom and autonomy every day. I've held him so close to me this first year that watching him at the window yesterday reminded me it's time to start releasing my grip just enough so that he can stand and take on the world-one wobbly step at a time.