I wrote this post the day my youngest, Rhyd, turned one. It was a bittersweet, strange day.
I remember clearly how Grays first birthday went. I made a cake, wrapped presents, cards etc. and I remember feeling disappointed at the end of the day because, well, he was one. He had no idea what was happening, no idea why were singing at him. No significant attention was given to the presents, in fact, the most excited he got all day was when he was opening and closing his birthday card in front of his face to play ‘peekaboo’.
So this year I knew I didn’t want to make too much fuss. The boys are both in nursery on Monday afternoons and Daddy works all day, so there was no point in my mind trying to disrupt our routine for something Rhyd couldn’t understand.
In the morning the boys and I went to a play date with a friend and sang happy birthday and had a piece of cake. Rhyd had a present from his friends and from some family members, but not from us. I had literally just put some toys away as he had too many! And I got his next sized (Grays old) clothes out of the loft, of which again there seemed more than he could ever wear. What could we possibly buy him?
I dropped the boys at nursery after lunch, sat down at the coffee shop round the corner, and started writing this post.
In the evening, I got a call an hour before pick up time to say Rhyd had had enough. It was only his third day at nursery, I wasn’t surprised. I picked them both up, headed home and made a fun, finger food dinner. Then Daddy arrived just in time for bedtime. It was all pretty normal.
It was the night before his birthday that I found myself lying in bed, part of me wishing I had the energy to feel more. Not that I wasn’t feeling, just that I felt like I wanted to cry, I was just so tired. I wanted to sob and sob that my tiny baby, my last baby, was so big now.
He had been in this world a whole year, yet I felt like I’d missed it.
If I hadn’t been exhausted, I would have tried to summon up the tears. I felt I deserved them. I felt he deserved them. The awfulness of the pregnancy, the trauma of labour, the slow and painful recovery, the ups and downs and stress of bloody 2016.
I had to claw my way out of the depressed funk I had fallen into just before Christmas after we had faced unemployment, financial insecurity, serious health scares, death in the family and all the most stressful things one family can go through within the space of a year.
I looked back the night before his birthday with this awful, heart-breaking feeling. It felt like I had missed his first year. I know we all say they grow so fast, ‘blink and you’ll miss it!’ But in that moment I really, truly felt like I’d somehow… not been there.
Like I’d been away somewhere, watching his growth through snippets of family movies, photographs and the odd visit. Here I was, the night before Rhyd had been in our lives a whole year, feeling like I’d just come home from some long trip away. With this gut wrenching ‘how could I have missed all of this?’ feeling.
I spoke in this post about how stress can affect our kids, easily overlooked when we are under stress ourselves. I just never realised how much it would hurt to turn around and realise stress had pretty much taken over our lives this past year.
Of course I’ve been here. In fact while we’ve had the odd day or evening out, I still haven’t been away from Rhyd overnight.
I know that I’ve held him, fed him, rocked him, played with him, watched him reach milestone after milestone. I know that we’ve spent time as a family, found our daily routine, and watched his gorgeous little personality develop.
So why do I still feel like I wasn’t there for any of it?
I wonder if it’s because, with Gray, he was our first. I still had to return to work before he was one but he was an only child at that point, I dedicated all of my attention and time solely to him. Rhyd has, I hate to say it, had to share and fight for my attention.
Maybe it’s because the stress made everything so difficult and bleak, that I forgot to give those beautiful moments the attention they deserved and while I remember them, they weren’t able to create the deep, lasting impressions they should have.
Or perhaps, it is because it has finally hit me that this is it. My last baby is no longer a baby. My babies are gone. In their places are a child and a toddler.
Growing so fast with such beautiful, strong little personalities. Their bond is so incredible, but hilarious also when we go from loving cuddles to shrieks of ‘he’s touching me!’ within the same ten minutes!
Gray starts school in September and Rhyd is in nursery. May is going to be our last (affordable) family holiday until we figure out how to navigate the out-of-term prices…
I think I understand now why some people just keep having kids.
Letting go of Gray when he was no longer a baby was easier, I knew I would have another baby to fill the gap. But now I have to find a way to be okay with this, this loss.
I’m just not really sure how yet.