For my daughter on her first birthday
Millie Bee Boudreau, it’s been a year since I hurled you into this world, with a violent scream on the bed under my rear.
There was blood, there was shit and there were tears. All up in here.
You were wiped down with a 20 year old Barbie towel that no longer fit around my ass, your white vernix and goos sticking to her faded face. While the evening sun shone in on our foggy window, our neighbour took a load of old tires to the burn pile on his tractor, as has been his ritual every week since.
It was so usual a day for the rest of Middle Cornwall, and for the rest of the world. But it was exceptional for me.
Because on May 28th of last year while the apple blossoms bloomed and the black flies swarmed, you gifted me with your presence, but also granted me a new state of mind.
Last May 28th, my Millie Bee, I stopped giving fucks on a whole new level.
Since your conception, really, my fucks being given have decreased on the daily, and I have you to thank for it.
Since I got pregnant, I stopped shaving my legs. Not because I physically couldn’t, though that’d be a good excuse, but because I thought to myself one day, ‘Hey, what if?’
Since I was pregnant, your sister and I have snuggled to bed every night. Not because we’re cute and not because it makes bedtime go any quicker. Not because any book recommended it or because it’ll make for some lofty longterm healthy sleep habit. But it’s because we like it, and because one day I thought to myself, ‘What if.’
What if, I thought to myself, I ditch the hospital and plan to squeeze a living being from my loins right in my own home, after walking my own trail while wearing my own clothes with my husband’s hand in mine- just ‘What if.’
Since your arrival on May 28th I’ve slept with you on or against my breast, your soft exhales against my skin and your dimpled hand on my collarbone. Each and every night. And when you wake between three and 16 times a night you find your way back to your passionate place, and sometimes I notice, but more oftentimes I don’t. And that’s what works for us.
And I do that because back when you were born I made a promise to me.
I made a promise not to care about whether you’re hitting your milestones (which, by the way, the doctor informs me you are not), I made a promise not to keep a sleep log, a promise not to worry about fully balanced meals all the time and a promise to cast away my own self-doubt.
When you were born, I made a big commitment to you, but I made sure this time around, to make a commitment to me, too.
To trust myself. To do what works for us. To smile and nod and validate other people’s parenting styles, but to honour our own.
Because you are you, and I am me, and we need to care for each other. And we need to do it in a way that feels healthy for us.
So what if you’re a year old and you’re still immobile and the doctor thinks you’re not meeting your milestones.
So what if we are four humans living large in 450 square feet.
So what if we picnic alongside chicken shit and stray toddler underwear.
So what if I can’t quite remember what day you bathed on or whether you ate anything but bread today or at what time you napped, or how many pounds you weigh or inches you’ve grown since last month.
Little Zill, I don’t remember which day you started sitting up or the day you flashed Wren your first smile- though I know the warm feeling that comes over me when you spot her in a crowd. I can’t recall when you got your first, second or third tooth, but I know well how they look when they peek out from your mouth, agape on my arm, trapped beneath your sweaty curls.
I may not have recorded your firsts in any traditional sort of way, but what I do remember specifically about you this past year is the way you’ve made me feel. I feel messy, but I feel empowered. I feel worthy- and that feeling is worth more than the misplaced $9.99 baby book.
The gift of a second child is not having the time to care to impress. Not having the time to feel guilty. Not having the time to second guess.
And so the gift for me, on this your first birthday, is about more than the right to eat most of your half assed cake and is even better than the wine my husband will think he’s surprising me with.
Your greasy little bug bitten face, with your daddy’s green-grey eyes and your grandfather’s smile, is my year round reminder to just do us- because time goes too quickly to care otherwise.