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A Letter to My Son at the End of His First Year

For the entire first year of your life, Cody, I kept wondering when the wonderment of being your mother would wear off. And after 12 months of diapers and white noise, nursing and nighttime battles, babbles and snuggles and something new learned every day, I've come to the conclusion that it never will.
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Dear Cody,

You recently turned 1 year old, and I've been having trouble telling people. "My son is 1. My son is 1. My son. My son. My son." I trail off when I say those two words out loud, becoming barely audible by the time I get to "n," because it's hard to own something that still doesn't feel real. For the entire first year of your life, Cody, I kept wondering when the wonderment of being your mother would wear off. And after 12 months of diapers and white noise, nursing and nighttime battles, babbles and snuggles and something new learned every day, I've come to the conclusion that it never will. I won't lie -- your first year felt both long and short, hard and effortless, like entering a foreign land but also landing right at home where I was always supposed to be. The one constant throughout this wild ride is that my love for you, bud, just keeps on growing, at a faster rate than you do.

I remember a friend asking me a few weeks after you were born, "How is motherhood?" And I wanted to say, "It's wonderful, even better than I imagined," because that sounded like an appropriate response. But it wasn't the whole truth. So I said, "I'm obsessed with him," because I was. I marveled at your every move and watched your every sleeping breath. I replayed your birth repeatedly, trying to make sense of something that could be someone else's story, but certainly not mine. I had created this living thing, this baby boy. You were a part of me, and yet, you were perfect. I was not only a mother -- I was your mother. My disbelief kept me up at night, even when you didn't.

Despite the sleep deprivation, I tried to make the most of every minute, 'cause everyone warned me your infancy would be gone before I knew it. They were right, but I'm afraid total enjoyment wasn't always possible. When you first came into our lives, Cody, during that newborn stage, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Between the never-ending feedings and never-any-sleep, I wished that time would accelerate. Then you got a little older and your dad and I got wiser, and every day was a wonderful adventure. Already, it's all something of a blur now, as most memories are. But these are ones I'm desperate not to let slip away.

You are presently at a stage where I wish I could freeze time. It is the most fun stage of all, though I'm sure I'll say that about each subsequent one. You are so affectionate and giggly -- and your giggle is more like a cackle. You are flirtatious and hilarious, spirited, silly and smart. Sometimes, when we're looking at each other laughing, I also feel the urge to cry, because you must be too good to be true. I never want any of this to end. Well, except for maybe your biting. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and here we are at the end of your first year. A year in which I've learned that I'm less patient than I thought I was, you are more perfect than I thought possible, and sleep... well, sleep is for the weak.

A year later, I would answer my friend's question the same way, though my obsession looks a little different now that a year has passed. I no longer sit beside you for every nap, watching your chest rise and fall; you go to daycare and I go to work, while I wait for my favorite part of the day: seeing your face when I arrive to pick you up. I am no longer the source of your every meal; you'll try anything and love most everything, particularly if it comes from my plate. You are walking and talking, high-fiving and thriving. And I have a new title that I can barely say aloud, because I've never been so proud of anything. I am Cody's mom. I am Cody's mom. I am Cody's mom.

The learning curve of motherhood has actually been much steeper than I anticipated. Looking back on it, I think I expected being a mother to be a lot like being a babysitter, but better. (Laughable now.) I figured that with my own kid I wouldn't have to worry so much, but about that I was sorely mistaken. C.S. Lewis wrote, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." No one ever told me that, either. But everyone told me that motherhood did. "Are you ready to never have a worry-free night again for 18 years?" a friend asked me when I was pregnant. "Forget 18 years," others said. "You'll worry for a lifetime." And already I know that's true.

I worry all the time. Mostly about things happening to you, Cody, but also about things happening to me, and I don't know if that's just a normal new-mom experience, or if it's because I lost my mom too soon. Now that I'm a mom myself, I think about my own mortality. If it could happen to her, it could happen to me. I try to avoid that reality, but it's constantly on my mind: a tumor discovered too late, cancer that can't be treated, a slippery slide off the road during one of our many New England blizzards, a deadly ulcer from all the stress of worrying about these worst-case scenarios. I don't recall ever being this paranoid before, and I think it's because there was never this much at stake. After my mom died, I really struggled. I was so sad that I felt like I had nothing much to lose. Now I have too much.

I spend most of the evening, every evening, trying to get you to bed, Cody. It usually takes a few attempts. You get fussy and I get frustrated and when you finally succumb to sleep, my sense of relief is palpable. But before long, I start missing you. So I go upstairs and lie next to you. I turn on a soft light, so I can look at you. I stroke your fluffy head and smell your hot, sweet breath -- which I know you'll think is a creepy image when you're old enough to read this, but I can't help it; everything about you is lovable. Your skin is actually edible. I take in your scrumptious potbelly, your rubber-band rolls, your crescent roll neck and crescent moon chin. Your button nose, plump fingers and toes, your pincushion cheeks and fig newton forehead. And that hair, which is heaven. I am overcome.

Feeling your warm, chubby body melt into my arms, I know that I mean ultimate comfort to you, and I never want you to lose that. Watching you dance at the drop of a tune with your now signature moves, hearing you roar with laughter at the most random of things, being the recipient of your sweet, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses -- I never want to miss out on a single part of you. Maybe I write these words to leave my legacy, since life can be short and unfair. Or maybe it's like Natalie Goldberg says: "Writers end up writing about their obsessions." Or maybe it's that I've always been more articulate on paper than I am in person, and I need you to know, Cody, exactly what you mean to me.

You mean everything. And that will never change. No matter what our lives become, my love will always be the place that you can call home. And we will always share a birthday -- January 17th. It happened that way by a scheduled induction, but most people assume it was merely chance. And here's a confession, my Cody: I usually don't correct them. Because I like that it sounds as impossibly lucky as it feels.

Like my mom always said: Love you to pieces,

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