Austen turns one today. At 3:36pm, to be exact. The Thanksgiving weekend brought back memories of this time last year, when I was debating whether to run errands or sit on the couch, but now that Austen's birthday is finally here, it's difficult to connect it with November 30 of last year. I was awakened at 5:30am this morning just as I was last year, but this time it was by a hungry Austen rather than my alarm clock. Around this time (10:30am) last year, I was asleep in a hospital bed; today I'm blogging in the dining room while Austen sleeps in the stroller. I guess that's mostly what's different: I'm at home. I'm not pregnant. I'm not anxious. I'm not hungry. Oh, and it's not all about me anymore, much as I'd like it to be; there's the little matter of the Beaner who follows me around.
It's difficult to completely reflect on the full year gone by in the sleepy state I find myself (mostly because of a late hockey game last night), but my overall impression is that it's been interesting. I might be able to blog more effectively about this crazy year tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe on December 4 (which is the day we brought Austen home last year); right now, all I can really describe is how I feel... well, right now.
When Austen smiles, he can light up a room (not to mention my heart). When he buries his head into my shoulder and squeezes me around the neck, I feel so loved that I want to burst. When he laughs that full, throaty, gaspy, whole-body laugh, I can't help laughing too. I love inspecting his teeth and stroking his chubby little cheeks, chasing him around the kitchen and dining room, and holding him upside down. I don't mind taking an hour to go five blocks because he wants to walk next to the stroller.
On the other hand, when Austen smashes his head into my cheek or my chin, he can completely ruin my day. It seems odd to say it, given that I still remember well the incredibly painful early days of breastfeeding, the Sleepless Nights of Solidarity, and being snowed in back in February, but I think this past month has been the hardest one of all so far. I'm sure I'm just forgetting how bad it was at times over the past 12 months, and I'm sure some day I'll look back and laugh that I thought this was tough. But for now, it is tough.
The sunny disposition Austen shows to practically every friend and stranger we meet tends to disappear behind the clouds when we return home. While most days are partly to mostly cloudy, there are days of extreme overcast and sudden thundershowers. On more than one occasion this month, Al has come home to a driving downpour, unsure of whom to console first.
This has been the month when all the reasons I didn't want to become a parent have been smacking me in the face on a daily basis. (My cheeks are pretty fucking raw, I must say.) The days of, "hey, I'm pretty good at this after all!" seem to have been some kind of cruel April Fool's joke. My emotional barometer seems to be stuck in the low-pressure zone of frustration, anger, and guilt, with occasional dips into complete inadequacy. I'd say I was suffering from post-partum depression, but after 12 months, that doesn't seem very likely.
It's hard to reconcile all these sad-end-of-the-scale feelings with my love for Austen, and I'm afraid with all the morose introspection I've been engaging in lately (mainly as an alternative to screaming, yelling, and crying), I'm going to miss some really great moments and milestones from this stage of his life. I've already noticed that I have fewer photos of him from the past month than I've taken in previous months, though to be fair that's partly because he doesn't sit still anymore. It's much more difficult to take photos of a baby who's (a) running at you; (b) might dash into the street while you're lining up your shot; (c) sticks his hands in the VCR or pulls plugs out of their sockets while you're reviewing the last couple shots you just took; or (d) won't stop crying. I suppose taking photos of the tantrums might be worthwhile for historical purposes, if nothing else, but all that screaming tends to chase thoughts of the camera out of my brain.
I did get several photos today while the babysitter was here to help corral Austen and keep him from running into the street; I'll post those with notes about this month's developmental milestones later tonight. As you'll see from those photos, he was pretty cheery today. And thank god, because a little sunshine goes a long way.