I’m doing something a little different today. I’m sharing something intensely personal on this here blog, which is not something I do very often. It’s not that I don’t want to share this side of me with all of you. I do. But it takes a heck of a lot of guts to do it, and I often second guess myself when it comes to opening up. Chalk it up to my introverted, shy personality. My son turning one, however, is an event I want to shout about from the rooftops. So bear with me here. The yummy food returns in a few days…
Today has been a day of emotional highs and lows. Today, my baby boy turns one. The ultimate bittersweet experience has to be watching your children grow up. I know I’m still relatively new at the whole parenting thing, but man. This first year has been a completely overwhelming and fulfilling and crazy experience. My teeny baby went from a 8-lb blob of sweetness to a 20+ lb little boy with seemingly endless energy and loads of personality. It is insane how much they change in the first year. It feels like just yesterday that we were bringing our little lovebug home for the first time…having no idea what to do or what was in store for the next several months. No one can truly prepare you.
I always knew that I wanted to be a mom. No question about it. Of course, like anyone who has never experienced parenthood, I had no idea what I was in for. The good and the…difficult. Nothing can prepare you for the intense feelings of love, anxiety, inadequacy, guilt, joy, exhaustion, uncertainty, and exhilaration that flood your life when you bring your first child into this world and into your home. Nothing I can say here can adequately explain what it’s really like to those who have yet to experience it. It is A LOT to process, and at times, is all-consuming and tiring. I remember feeling completely uncertain of so many things, of myself, during those first few weeks. I remember thinking to myself “No one told me how hard this is. No one prepared me!” I remember floundering under the pressures of around-the-clock breastfeeding while functioning on very little sleep. I remember feeling lost and lonely and helpless. I remember losing my sense of self. I remember feeling resentful because I was no longer able to be selfish. I remember the struggle. The struggle was oh so real.
I also remember sobbing out of total exhaustion and frustration all while feeling like a failure (breastfeeding did NOT come as easily to us as it does to a lot of moms/babies), and then taking one look at my sweet sleeping baby in my arms and suddenly crying a different kind of tear. The grateful, beyond-happy kind of tears. The “OMG, I can’t believe I am so blessed to be this tiny person’s mom” tears. The “it is so worth it” tears. I would cycle back and forth a lot between these emotions in the first few months that we had Kieran. It was a draining yet incredibly gratifying experience. I hope I get to experience it again someday. All of the negative somehow is balanced out by the love. By the humbling joy. By the gratitude.
Like today on its own, Kieran’s first year was also filled with plenty of emotional highs and lows. When he was only a couple days old, we were informed that he had a developmental condition known has hip dysplasia. It’s fairly common and certainly not life threatening, but as a brand-new-first-time parent, hearing that your newborn has a hair out of place can send one into a tailspin. The littlest thing can seem like a catastrophe. We were thrown for a huge loop right off the bat. I still remember hearing the doctor tell us the diagnosis in the hospital room and breaking into huge sobs. Combined with our early breastfeeding struggles, my little baby was in and out of doctor’s offices and imaging appointments almost constantly for the first couple months of his life. I have never second guessed my abilities more. Everything felt like my fault. I was uncertain and stressed at every turn. The GUILT was a lot to take. Coupled with sleepless nights, I was an emotional wrecking ball. I am a perfectionist (hellloooo, Virgo!), and when I am not good at something, I instantly don’t like it. Early parenthood was no different. Or at least it FELT that way.
At around three months, Kieran was placed in a hip brace to correct his dysplasia. Thankfully, it worked and he was able to be taken out of the brace about two months later. Doctors were confident that the problem had resolved. We were right as rain and ready to conquer the next chapter. Within two weeks of removing his hip brace, Kieran developed SEVERE eczema all over his face, neck, arms, and back. It was February, and the winter elements were not in our favor. Once again, my child was afflicted and there was nothing I could do for him. It’s a horrible feeling. Because I was still exclusively breastfeeding at that point, I went on an elimination diet to figure out if an allergy to something I was eating was causing his skin issues. Nothing worked. Nothing changed. We spent hundreds of dollars trying every ointment and lotion and bath treatment known to man. We changed our soaps, our laundry detergent, our cleaning products. Nothing changed. More doctors appointments ensued, and eventually, we resorted to taking him to a pediatric dermatologist. Within a few days of seeing the dermatologist and starting Kieran on a new skin regimen, most of the oozing, cracked skin had healed and our screaming, uncomfortable child, who I feel never got to show his true personality before then, was suddenly a happier one. No more hip brace. No more itchy, painful skin. It was a major high for all of us.
I don’t mean to sound like being a parent was all negative in the beginning. It wasn’t. Kieran was a light in our lives from the moment he came into this world. He made everything different in many, many wonderful ways. I would be doing myself (and a lot of other new parents) a disservice, however, if I glossed over these tougher times to say “Oh, it was just the best.” I think a lot of my early feelings of guilt came from a place of “I’m the only one who feels this way” and “I am awful for thinking such negative things about being a parent” and so on. The more and more I spoke to people about these feelings, the more they were validated. I learned that everyone struggles in some ways with becoming a parent…because…really, it’s the biggest transition of our lives. We need to give ourselves a little grace. A little forgiveness. Pretending it’s easy all the time doesn’t accomplish anything for anyone. It just makes those living the truth feel badly about their doubts. That’s a huge reason I felt the need to write this post. Not only to share the TOTAL JOY this little boy has brought into our lives (I mean, really, look at the sweet grin in the next photo! Gah. I melt.), but to shed some light on the reality of having a newborn…a newborn who had some struggles early on.
Anyway. I digress.
Once we got over the six-month hump and the medical issues finally seemed to subside, things only got better. My baby started to blossom. Kieran became more engaged, much happier, and we fell even more in love with him (something I didn’t think was possible). And while his eczema continues to be an issue to this day, it finally feels manageable. My emotions finally stabilized. I finally got into a groove. Yes, it may have taken me longer than some moms to “figure it out,” but I also think that we were dealing with some issues, albeit relatively minor ones, that a lot of parents and their babies avoid. I distinctly remember my husband asking me in the midst of the hip dysplasia/eczema saga if I thought it would ever end. Would it ever get easier. And it did. SO MUCH EASIER. Thank the heavens. We finally had a chance to ENJOY our time as parents.
These past few months have been some of the most FUN ever. Our baby has evolved into this little person. A person with a funny, strong personality (with an inherited, built-in Irish stubborn streak), the most heart-warming grin ever, and more energy than we know what to do with (seriously, I think he might go straight from standing to SPRINTING. No walking will be involved, hah). He is such a happy little boy who enjoys exercising his vocal cords loudly and frequently, waving hello/goodbye, climbing the stairs, anything musical, anything on wheels, watching airplanes, clapping, Elmo, and Mickey Mouse. He loves his bananas and tolerates his green beans. He is mischievous and determined, sweet and shy, and most importantly: my son. MY BABY. My love. When I think back to those first few months now, I am grateful. Grateful that we got through them. Grateful that we got to experience them. It may sound contradictory, but really, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a parent, as challenging as it can be.
Last week, Dan and I set up an at-home photography set and did a cake smash with Kieran to kick off the birthday festivities. It was so much fun and incredibly entertaining, and I’m so glad we decided to do it at home with just us. I’ve included the baby-friendly smash cake recipe below. Yesterday, we had a small shindig with family and close friends to celebrate Kieran’s turning one. I am a firm believer in keeping birthday parties simple until kids can actually ask for what they want in a birthday party. I didn’t want to do a huge elaborate celebration. Having the people who love Kieran the most by his side as he smashed his (second) cake was most important to us. Focusing on HIM and not the festivities was how we wanted to celebrate. We kept the food simple, the decorations minimal, and the love abundant.
Today is Kieran’s actual birthday, and we’re not doing much except enjoying his company. Just the three of us. And the dogs. Our little family. All my blessings together.
Happy first birthday, my darling boy. You are the greatest thing to ever happen to me, Kieran James, and Da-Da and I are so proud of the little guy you’re becoming. We can’t wait to see what’s to come in the year ahead. We love you.
For the Cake:
- ⅓ cup evaporated cane sugar (actual amount may depend on the ripeness of your bananas)
- ¼ cup agave nectar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup mashed bananas (the riper the better)
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or extract)
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1¾ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup whole milk
For the Buttercream:
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup mashed bananas
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3–5 cups powdered sugar
- All-natural, all-organic food coloring, optional (I use these)
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 2-cup oven-safe glass bowls (I used these) and place on a baking sheet.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, agave, and butter together over medium speed for a couple minutes. Add in the bananas, eggs, and vanilla.
- Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium sized bowl.
- Alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Beat until just combined.
- Pour mixture into prepared bowls. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Once baking time is complete, transfer baking dishes to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, remove cakes from the baking dishes.
For the Buttercream:
- Cream together butter, banana, lemon juice, and vanilla. Slowly beat in powdered sugar, adding more as needed to make a spreadable, creamy buttercream. Stir in a the food coloring, if using. Frost the cakes once they are completely cool.