The Darling Has a Birthday

The other day I was running on a trail that goes along a dry wash here in Tucson. It was gorgeous out, seventy-something degrees, and I was listening to RadioLab, a podcast I'm crazy about. The most recent episode is called 23 Weeks 6 Days, and the whole hour is about a couple who has a baby at that point in gestation, and the difficult decisions they face, and how science lends insight to those decisions (or doesn't).

When I turned around to head back to my car, the woman was just about to go into labor and they couldn't hold it off anymore, and she and her husband were talking to doctors about their options and the various risks. And suddenly I was bent over on the trail, sobbing. Everything about my difficult pregnancy flooded me, and my gratitude that we were spared those difficult decisions was so humbling that I wasn't sure I could finish the run. It seemed like I should sit right where I was, far from my car, and not move for a very long time.

Henrietta on her first birthday, visiting a farm.
Greeting Goats
Checking out the smelly sheep.
Henrietta turned one year old almost exactly a month ago, on October 9. And since then I've been trying to figure out how to capture it, or what to say about it that would be meaningful. It was both a very big day--almost a sacred day, to me--and fairly ordinary. On her actual birthday we took her to a farm with a petting zoo and pumpkin patch, and on the way home we got her a small cup of vanilla ice cream. And it was a sweet day, but of course she didn't understand any of it. 

Henrietta and the Chickens

In the big barn, walking with her dad and grandmother.

That Saturday we threw her a small party and I made her a kitty cat cake, and while she really loved the balloons and her cake, she didn't understand any of that either. We had a friend tell us that the first birthday is really for the parents, and it gets progressively more about her as she gets older, and that seemed true. We made it to a year; we're here; we're a family; she's changed absolutely everything, so let's just stop and think about that for a second.

Kitty Cake

Birthday Girl, with Crackers, I

Birthday Girl, with Crackers, II
With her dad, and cupcake.
 She changes so quickly now that I feel like I can't keep up with recording what she learns. She's such a spunky, vibrant, vocal, curious soul. She spends all day walking through my mother-in-law's house, picking up items that strike her fancy, putting them into other objects, stopping to consider, and then taking them back out and going on her way. She laughs a lot. Sometimes she sits on my lap and I manage to get her giggling, and then we both just giggle, and I am astonished all over again at how lucky I am that she's here. She is literally the greatest pleasure of my life, and how can I possibly capture that? How can I possibly thank her and thank God and thank whoever or whatever else is responsible? 

When I got done with my run, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home, so when I came in I was bustling around the kitchen trying put everything away and trying to get us lunch and therefore trying to keep Henrietta from attaching herself to my legs. I was saying things like, "Okay, I know Sweetheart. Just give Mama one second." And though my tone was kind, it was my kind tone that isn't authentic; it's my tone that channels the nice mommy I know I'd like to be, and not the really nice mommy. But when I went to put away a head of celery, that podcast popped back into my head, and I put the celery down, and picked Henrietta up, and held her, and kissed her, and hugged her and told her I loved her and thanked her for coming to be my kid, and my voice was breaking and Sam was asking what was up, and Henrietta was squirming to get down, having received enough attention, thank you very much. 

I don't know why were spared the difficult decisions and heartbreak of a very premature birth. We were expecting one, and trying to prepare as best we could. And if she'd come very early, we would have fought with her and for her and would have been glad to do so, though it would have drained us. And I guess I don't have anything more profound to say than that about her first birthday. This has been the fastest and best year of my life, and I am grateful, more grateful than I've been for anything in my life, to have my dear and darling Henrietta Plum. 


Kids change everything. That's the truth. And then as they get older everything is new again--the emotional roller coaster doesn't stop. One hard thing about parenting is realizing that while your kids are your whole world, you're only their whole world for a few brief years, then other things take your place. And that's okay. You'll always be their mom & it's nice to know no one else can quite replace that role.

So fun to see all the pictures of miss Henrietta Plum. She's gorgeous.
Genevieve Beck said…
Just love all of this and all of the pictures. What a fun girl!
belann said…
Well, you had me in tears again, as I relived the fears I had during the whole pregnancy. Henrietta is definitely a gift we are all thankful for.
Terry said…
She is truly a blessing and a gift to you and to the whole family.
Emily said…
Happy birthday (a month + late) to Miss Henrietta! Isn't that strange how a little thing like that can bring it all back? For me it was watching an episode of Call the Midwives w/ a very premature baby. I'm glad she's in your life. I'm glad you're in mine (at least in the blogosphere :)
Amara said…
I don't see her very much, but I am in love with her anyway. I told Jeff tonight that I don't like instagram video really....unless it's of HP. I'm always disappointed in a simple picture now!
Giuli said…
It is so adorable when they start to "get" birthdays. After kiz's second, she began to associate every cupcake with her birthday. If she was eating a cupcake then it must be her birthday. The concept of an entire year is baffling to her at this moment. The fact at my baby is going to be eight in a few months blows my mind. Sigh. Henrietta is adorable. Give her as much sugar as you can ( the kiss variety).
Lisa H. said…
Yes! I also listened to that podcast and cried. We are lucky people, you and I. It reminded me of how things could have so easily gone (and the way all the doctors thought things would go).

Happy Birthday, Henrietta! I wish all of you were here so we could celebrate the momentous occasion with you. Perhaps Lars & Maud and H.P. can have a virtual play date soon.

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