Happy First Birthday, Mama

Photo by Jenny Smith on Unsplash

By Kristen Drumgoole

Dear Mama of a One-Year-Old,

Happy first birthday. I know, it’s your baby’s birthday, not yours. That teeny-tiny bundle you brought home from the hospital is now looking suspiciously like a toddler. You are not OK with this. Nevertheless, he gets bigger by the day, his curiosity continues to explode, and his smiles and giggles melt your heart more than ever.

Happy birthday, dear mama, because however much you roll your eyes at the cutesy saying – “when a baby is born, a mother is also born” – it’s true. You were re-birthed with the arrival of that little one. Somehow in this pandemic year cum first year of motherhood, you have been baptized into yourself in ways that you never could have predicted. There is so much to say about this, so much growth that took place, that you may never be able to mine all of it. But here are a few of the ways you are different, more alive, more yourself now than you were a year ago, and I’m so proud of you for the person you’re becoming:

You learned to slow down and quiet yourself. That baby will not be hurried, and there’s no use trying to make him hurry. Adapting your pace of life to fit his turned out to be a radical gift. In slower rhythms you began to hear and to see, from yourself, from God, from those who matter most to you.

When you learned to really listen to yourself, you discovered how much of your life you’ve been living to fit someone else’s standard – of beauty, of success, of intelligence. You floundered a little when you realized that staying home with a baby meant you weren’t staring down that external standard on a daily basis. But oh, here’s the glory. You started asking yourself who you want to be. What makes your heart sing. What you want your life to look like. And while that still looks, to some extent, like career goals and professional accomplishments, it also looks like baking pie. Brewing kombucha. Reading books for the sheer pleasure of learning new things. Moving your body for no other reason than because it feels damn good.

And on the subject of bodies, can we just celebrate again (and again and again and again) the miracle that is your body? It created and sustained and nourished a whole human being, and that is excellent and praiseworthy. It still bears the wrinkles and stretch marks and puckers of the breaking forth, and therein lies the miracle. The breaking forth did not break you, but it left an indelible mark as a reminder of the long journey. That miraculous body deserves to be fed and loved and hugged and kissed and celebrated, never shamed or looked on with disgust. No matter how big or small, no matter how smooth or wrinkled, no matter. It. Is. Good.

And yeah, you’ve learned some hard lessons too. Like the fact that it is brutal and glorious to love a little person with an aching, insistent kind of love that you’ve never experienced before. And that the incredible privilege of getting to spend every day with that baby is heaven and also really freaking hard. And that sense of obligation you have about contributing to your household financially, the twinge of embarrassment when you tell people you don’t work full time…a year later, it lingers. But now you know, this is a season. It won’t last forever, and you will cry heavy tears when it’s over. So for now, acknowledge the incredible privilege of it, and just breathe it in. Keep growing, keep listening to yourself, keep showing up. 

Both of you were born that day. Both of you deserve to be celebrated. So celebrate, and remember, and love hard. I’m so proud of you.

Happy first birthday, mama. With all the love in the world.

*Love this essay? Buy me a coffee. It’s like a tip jar for our writers.*

Kristen Drumgoole is an exvangelical thirtysomething, married to Emmitt and mama to Langston (almost 1) and Sadie (7, and four-legged). She has never met a warm beverage she didn’t like, and she spends her free time teaching dance fitness and baking pie. Kristen is a social worker and a progressive Baptist (whatever that means). She lives in Kansas City.

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