Last summer I wrote a 6 month update with the intention of updating again after we celebrated Ross’ first birthday. And, well, somehow three months have passed since then. On January 24th we marked the conclusion of what was easily the fastest (and best) year of my life. The fact that Ross turned 15-months-old earlier this week is something that I am still trying to wrap my head around…
A year ago Ross was changing before my eyes, growing faster than I ever thought possible. Now he is back to doing the same, except instead of making strides in physical ways, his language skills are constantly improving and his grasp of the world around him is growing in leaps and bounds. For the last couple months I’ve been conflicted over how I should be describing him. At what point does a baby become a toddler? Most seem to claim that toddlerhood begins at 12 months, but when I hung up the birthday streamers at the end of January, he still felt like more of a baby to me than anything else.
Since then I’ve watched as more of his baby-ness falls away with each passing day, and although I perceive the change to be rapid and unyielding, it still doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough for him. He is always frustrated that he can’t do more, walk faster, reach further. I wish I could tell him to slow it down a little; there’s no need to wish this time away. But over the last few months he seems pleased to have found that his feet have steadied beneath him, and he no longer reaches up to hold my hand for reassurance when we are walking together outside. His cheeks are a little less round, his thighs a little less pudgy. Eventually I realized that at some point my uncertainty had faded away; he is definitely a toddler now.
So here is a bit of what we were up to over the last several months of babyhood:
When Ross was 7-months-old we quietly acknowledged the end of the first year without Kyle’s mom. Her absence throughout these times has been especially painful, but we keep her photo on the fridge and lift Ross up to say “hello” often. He points to her image now when we ask him where his Mémère is, sometimes putting his hand to his mouth to blow her a kiss.
In October, while he was 8-months-old, we brought home a Chihuahua puppy named Pippa to join our family. We call her Pip, but her older brother affectionately refers to her as Pa (like the second syllable in her name), which he usually says in either a delighted scream or awed whisper. “Pa” receives more hugs and kisses than Kyle & I combined, and, even though she knows how to drive me absolutely crazy, I can’t help but smile when I hear Ross squeal with laughter as she chases the pat-pat-pat of his bare feet.
We fit in quite a bit of travel throughout the Fall months, including a trip to New England to take Ross to the city where we met and the towns where we each grew up. Along the way we stopped in Mystic, Connecticut, the place we were visiting when we first got the call from our fertility nurse that we were expecting Ross. Throughout October and November we spent time with grandparents and great-grandparents in other states, first staying with my parents to give Kyle some space to catch up on work and later surprising Kyle’s dad at his 60th birthday party. At 10-months we flew south to spend Thanksgiving with Elle (our gestational carrier) and her family, which was especially meaningful since it was exactly one year from our trip there for the 3D ultrasound during the end of our wait for Ross. It was the first time we were back in the area where he was born and the first time we’d seen them since they came to visit us when he was 3-months-old.
We celebrated our first Christmas as a family-of-three by doing all the things I’d been dreaming of since Christmas 2011 and beyond. Even in the midst of the stress of Kyle’s finals, we made sure to savor moments of decorating the apartment and bringing home our first tree in years. We took Ross to the mall to meet Santa and paid way too much money for the photo evidence, rode the train into NYC to hold him up in front of the enormous Rockefeller Tree, and found a little wooden snowflake ornament to represent his beginnings as a frozen embryo. On Christmas Eve I soaked up the sight of him in a little plaid dress shirt, completely mesmerized by the flickering light of my candle during the service, and felt at peace.
Then, just a month later, we went to bed one regular night and woke up the next morning with a one-year-old. To celebrate, we skipped the pressure of putting on a Pinterest-worthy 1st birthday party and instead met my parents in Philly for the traveling Jurassic World exhibit. Ross loves animals (including gigantic, animatronic ones) and was thrilled to meet every last dinosaur, even the roaring T-Rex that had “escaped” from its enclosure. After dinner in the city, a treat, and a few presents, we drove an exhausted birthday boy back home while he slept in the backseat.
This year Ross…
- Traveled to 10 States and 6 major cities
- Took 5 flights (and, on the last one, projectile-vomited all over mommy so badly that she cried)
- Cut 7 teeth (plus 4 molars currently coming through)
- Grew 10 inches and put on 14 pounds
- Favorite song: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (followed by Baby Beluga)
- Favorite food: spaghetti and meat sauce
- Started crawling: 5 months
- Started walking: 11 months
- First word besides Mama & Dada: Bye (pronounced with a southern accent that we like to joke he picked up from Elle while in the womb), followed by book, shoes, and dude.
As we enter the world of toddlerhood, I’ve found that I am forever underestimating just how much Ross observes and understands. He has a love for learning new things, and it is amazing to see that what previously took weeks of work to teach him at 8-months-old (such as identifying his nose) can now often be learned by showing him something once or twice. He is initially shy around others, but at home he has a lot to say with a vocabulary of 30+ words– about 4-5x more than the average for his age. On the other hand, his pronunciation, while consistent, could use a little work in some cases (for instance, “auwh” = help). Still, it’s strange to me that this little person I’ve spent my days talking to for all this time can now answer back.
Ross’ favorite new activity is to be helpful around the house. Not long after he turned 12-months-old, I walked away from the laundry for a moment and was startled to hear the machine click on behind me; he knew exactly which buttons to press just by having watched me do it. Now he regularly helps out by standing in front of the washer and handing the wet clothing back to me so I can move it up to the dryer. Once we’re done, I lift him above my shoulders to start the timer before we load up the washer again. He assists in lots of other ways too– by bringing little things to Daddy in another room or “helping” me push the dishwasher door closed. It makes him happy to do the things he sees us do on a daily basis, and we like to complete each of our tasks by clapping for ourselves.
There is still a part of me that’s surprised to find that our seemingly endless wait for a child did, in fact, come to an end. I know that there is no reason we should have been given this gift over others still waiting and feel that the least I can do is strive to never take it for granted. In one way or another, I think about it every day, and there are times when I feel like I will explode if I don’t share just how grateful I am with someone. Sometimes I mention it, but most times the fear of appearing disingenuous leads me to simply squeeze Ross tightly for an extra beat the next time he’s in my arms.
I love being a mom and this messy, wonderful life. I love the inconveniences of a sink full of bottles to wash and little shoes to trip over after bedtime because they are signs of Ross being with us. People often talk about how hard parenting is– and it is certainly not easy– but the years we spent desperately wanting to become parents and believing it would never happen were far more difficult. Now, even the hardest, most sleep-deprived, tantrum-filled of days are peppered with crinkly smiles and the feeling of little arms wrapped tightly around my neck, moments we never had before on even the best of days.