What I didn't know in the first year of motherhood

I didn't know that when you would fall asleep on my chest, it would feel like my heart moved up to greet you.

What I didn't know in the first year of motherhood

Three-hundred and sixty-five days ago, I was marveling at the sunset, so much so, that I paused to take a photo.

I didn't know my water would break six hours later.

I didn't know that when it broke, the fluid would be a greenish/brown color and the midwife would say this was evidence of something called meconium and I would have to throw my entire birth plan out the window and go to the hospital immediately.

I didn't know that it would take about 16 hours after I first stepped foot in the maternity ward to hear someone finally say, "Push!" and I would do just that—with all my might.

I didn't know that 45 minutes after I first heard that call to push, I would be holding a person. My person. Our person. The most important person.

I didn't know how much you would look like my dad.

I didn't know what postpartum anxiety was or that I would have it. I was awake for 90 hours after you were born. I don't know if that's medically possible, but I was and I watched the clock in your room spin and spin around, my mind racing with what-ifs.

At the end of this stretch, at about 3 am, your little owl noise machine said my name. "Antonia!" "Antonia!" It was urgent, like someone yelling for help, because I was in trouble. That morning I told your dad I was sick and he helped me find the support and rest I needed.

I didn't know how many women are up at night with babies, their phone ringers on silent, quietly texting each other words of advice and support. You didn't have a great latch at first. The lactation consultant at the hospital wasn't there to make sure you were fed, she was there to make sure you were breastfed.

I didn't understand why she looked at us like we were wounded animals. It took a good friend finally texting saying, "A lot of people will tell you that you are doing things wrong as a mother. And you need to get to a place where you can smile, thank them for their time, and then do whatever you want. Whatever you know your baby needs." The next day, you had a bottle and I finally got to see what milk-drunk looked like on your beautiful face.

I didn't know that when you would fall asleep on my chest, it would feel like my heart moved up to greet you. To embrace you. And that the world would spin around and around us in that big chair in your nursery and I wouldn't move a muscle, just so long as I got to breathe you in for a bit longer.

I didn't know how you would always manage to tackle a milestone before I was ready—before I had the gates up, before I had the sippy cups bought, before I was ready to let go of that cute teddy bear onesie you had. You were off to the races and no one could stop you.

I didn't know what prolonged exhaustion would look like on me. And that I couldn't do anything until the sleep came. I didn't know that the sleep wouldn't even start to come for the first eight months you were alive.

I didn't know how the news would make me ache. I couldn't separate myself from the mothers in the news stories that were without shelter, without food, and in many cases without hope. I held you and I cried feeling their pain like it was my own.

I would donate to causes and scroll news feeds and weep about their suffering and when it finally got to be too much I called a therapist to talk through what I could control and what I couldn't and then I put my phone down for a very long time.

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I didn't know that you would like music and hummus and just this one monkey but not any other monkeys and red cars and carrots. That you would have such strong opinions.

I didn't know that on your first birthday, your dad and I would celebrate quietly with good steaks and good wine and when we toasted over you in your high chair I would look at him and see him as a person again.

I didn't know that it would be right then and there that I'd fully realize that it had been about 365 days since I last saw him as the man I met and loved and married so long ago. I promised to not take such a long break in-between seeing him again. And he thanked me, but said he understood.

I thought I knew emotions before—love, empathy, hope, sadness—but you peeled back those layers until my soul was exposed to every part of this world, both good and bad.

I looked for poetry and song lyrics and even paintings to try to capture what the last 365 days of knowing you has been like, but nothing does it justice. My sister-in-law probably put it best when she said, "He's taught you so much."

So much. Of everything.

I still don't know where a soul like yours could have come from or why you came to us or why everything happened the way it did. But I am so incredibly grateful. No sunset I ever capture will rival this one, the one that ushered in the age of knowing my baby, my teacher, my love, my Henry.

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