Happy 1st Birthday to my best baby girl! At 9:03 am on November 24, Caroline Elizabeth entered our world with her full head of dark hair, rosebud lips, and even a blister on her wrist from sucking in the womb. Instantly we fell in love and grew to a family of four.
As I was glancing over my post for her 11 month "birthday", I realized there haven't been many changes,....except we have a walker. Now if that isn't a big enough change! It has been completely captivating to watch Caroline's determination to master this new skill. Rylan walked so late (at 17 months) and he cruised for so long on the furniture, that his transition to walking on his own wasn't very dramatic. Just as she has shown us her entire life (you would think I would have caught on in a year's time), Caroline does things her own way. She will stand up all by herself in the middle of the floor and once she feels sturdy enough, she starts traveling. We counted nine steps last night. Each day she gets a little more balanced and can take more steps in a row before falling. The last few weeks she has been content to climb straight up the stairs as fast as she can. Now that is too boring and she wants to try turning around, standing on the steps, and contemplating taking a flying leap. Mom doesn't think that trick is nearly as cool as she does.
A few weeks ago, we had a rough time with teething as Caroline completed her matched set of four top and four bottom teeth. While those nubs were pushing through their gums, she became very nippy and I nearly had to wean her. We had a few attempts at nursing where both of us were in tears because of her biting and I was feeling really discouraged. I was just about ready to call it quits, then realized that she was probably teething and that was making everything worse. After that horrible night, she was much nicer to her mommy and I was glad I hadn't cut her off permanently just yet. After her newborn stage, Caroline has never been a very contented nurser. I will spare you all the technical details, but lets just say nursing isn't a source of comfort for her. I have agonized over the decision, mostly because it hasn't been my decision to wean. I had hoped we could have shared that special cuddling time for much longer since we aren't planning for another baby any time soon. I think this is just another one of those areas where God is gently reminding me how to embrace the differences in my children and love them well, even when they don't behave exactly the way I wish. So you see, this paragraph isn't really about breastfeeding like you thought. :-) Or really much about Caroline's birthday except that this has been a recurring theme over her first year as I have muddled through parenting two very different children.
The other day, as I spent some time with each child individually before putting them down for naps, I was struck with how intensely I love both children, and love how they are incredibly unique. I had heard the saying that love multiplies when you have more children, but before Caroline was born, I couldn't imagine feeling as strongly about another baby as I did Rylan. He was my first-born, a life-long dream fulfilled, the answer to years of prayers. He was an even-tempered, mellow, cuddly baby.
Caroline was our surprise baby; the source of intense fatigue and nausea during our cross-country move and other major life changes. I first got a hint of her spunkier personality during all those night shifts I worked during her pregnancy. Those were some of her most active times, spent wiggling, kicking, and dancing all night long. Even her birth was more painful than with Rylan's because I chose to deliver without an epidural. Almost every evening for the first seven weeks of her life, Caroline would cry for hours, inconsolable. I would walk the floors with her until she would finally pass out from exhaustion. Later, when she wasn't screaming in the evenings, she would still fuss and push away when I rocked her before bed. Caroline nursed because it was the only way to fill her belly and as soon as she was satisfied she was ready to move on to more interesting things.
I didn't fully realize it until months later, but sometimes I felt rejected by my own baby, inadequate as her mom. The things that had worked to comfort and soothe Rylan only seemed to annoy her. With Rylan, I felt an instant, intense connection as soon as I knew I was pregnant, with Caroline the bonding process was a more gradual, deepening love. Over time, I stopped expecting her to be respond like her brother and made a deliberate effort to study her unique personality. I figured out that she preferred to be held upright, on my chest. She liked being carried in the Moby wrap and we both enjoyed that closeness. I noticed that even though her anger was intensely loud, she also expressed her joy with her whole heart and deep belly laughs. Caroline will never rest in my arms for an hour, but she gives the tightest neck hugs, the sweetest nose rubs, and even gentle kisses. When we play together on the floor, she invariably crawls over to climb on me and lean her head on my shoulder while sucking her thumb. Even though it only lasts a minute, because she is busy conquering her world, it is still precious.
Caroline is such a bold, adventerous, determined little girl; sometimes I just watch her in amazement. I wonder what God has planned for her life and am blessed that God has chosen me to be her mom. I pray that He will always help me to love her unconditionally, to teach her about Jesus' love for her, to be a good model to show her how to treat others, and to help her develop her own talents and interests. It is a scary responsibility and I am glad God is a big God who loves my children even more than I do. He handpicked this fiesty little girl to be my daughter and to shape my character in the process of mothering her.
So happy Birthday again, my sweet Caroline. I can't wait to see what God has in store for you in the years to come. I love you, my precious second-born. You see, even though we didn't "plan" for you, God gave you to us in His perfect timing.