A few days before Juniper was born Brian and I went on a slow, waddling walk through our neighborhood. It was mid-September and autumn was sashaying onto center stage. The days of just the two of us were numbered.
As we walked in the crisp, evening light I felt sad, nostalgic for the good life we would soon trade in for a new, untested one. To tell the truth, I was mourning the loss of our life without a child. I was afraid of what was on the other side.
Once, before I had a child of my own, a friend tried to explain parenthood to me. After a few stops and starts she finally threw her hands into the air and said, “It’s just so much of… everything.”
It is so much of everything. So much energy, so much frustration, so much work, so much joy and so much love. Juniper has turned our world into an exhausting, colorful, noisy, busy life of Love with a capital L. My love for her has given me a clarity I did not have before. What matters? Love and all things that lead to love. What does not matter? Everything else.
This morning Brian found me at my desk. “I’m trying to write about Juniper’s birthday,” I told him. “And what it’s like to be a parent.”
“I was just thinking about that,” he said. “I was thinking of the day we brought her home from the hospital and…” his eyes went glossy and distant. “I was just trying to remember it all.”
That’s another way to sum up my experience so far, I’m just trying to remember it all. The diaper bag and the doctor’s appointments, of course, but also the perfect, tiny chubbiness of Juniper’s hands, her mostly-gummy mouth, the heat and weight of her body as I hold her in my arms. It’s the cliché of all parenting clichés, I know, but It. Goes. So. Fast.
I think of the woman I was when I took that walk last September, standing on the edge of parenthood. The fear I felt then was no different than the fear that’s arisen each time I’ve taken a scary, unknowable risk. Parenthood is the ultimate risk, after all, an irreversible roll of the dice into an unpredictable and uncontrollable future. And just like all of the other times I’ve taken a big leap into a different way of living, I have picked up a few bruises along the way. I’ve torn a hole or two in my jeans, skinned my knees, drawn a little blood. There has undoubtably been some stumbling. But I am a bigger, wiser, more openhearted person than I was last September. I have Juniper to thank for that.
My baby is one year old and I have been a mother for 365 days. I show my daughter the way the world works. I teach her the sounds that the animals make, point out the color of the leaves, and sing her the ABC’s. And in turn she reminds me to kiss for no reason, to gasp when the wind blows, to laugh at all of the small, delightful things (there are so many!). We are growing together, but most days I think I am learning more.
Happy birthday Juniper. We love you.