My son turned 1 this past weekend. One. An entire year of this kid on the earth and in our lives. I’ve wondered, the past few days or so leading up to his birthday, if I would take some time to reflect on the year, how he’s changed, what I’ve learned, how our lives are completely irrevocably different since he came along.
And I haven’t. Instead I’ve become consumed in the minutia that surrounds a child’s first birthday, and in this case a mother’s first child’s first birthday. Phew. So I wondered, Do I throw a party? Do I decorate the house with banners and streamers? Do I buy him presents? Do I make a giant chocolate smash cake and take pictures while he smears frosting all over his face and hair?
The pre-baby me would have answered a resounding “no” to all of these questions. Why would I subject my kid – and me, really – to the mess of a chocolate cake when we aren’t really sweets eaters? Why throw a party for a baby who has no idea it’s his birthday and doesn’t really care?
But then I had a baby. And I changed my mind.
It seems like there are a lot of things people tend to do with babies that I said I’d never do – but then I did. I said I wasn’t the kind of person to dress my kid in onesies printed with numbers and take pictures for each month of his first year. It just seemed too cheesy and sentimental for me. Yet I did and now I have all 11 pictures printed out. I said I would never be that mom who brought her kid to a restaurant (OK, bar). Get a sitter if you want to out, right? Well, now my kid’s a familiar face at The Dizz, our neighborhood haunt.
Of course, these are small things. There have been a few larger decisions that I was so dead-set in my convictions about that I had to reverse. For example, before baby, my husband and I decided we would avoid antibiotics and medicines for our kid at all costs. No way we were going to contribute to drug resistance by tossing meds at every runny nose. The kid needs to build immunity. No sissies here.
But now he’s on round four of antibiotics for recurring ear infections. We don’t take the decision to medicate lightly, but Pre-baby Sara would have never imaged this many drugs in the first year.
I also said I would never formula feed. No way. Breast is best, it’s natural, it’s beautiful, it’s free, it’s the healthiest option for the baby. But then unforeseen circumstances forced us into Enfamil land exclusively. It was nothing I ever saw coming (and a topic for another blog on another day), and I had to quickly reverse my anti-formula position.
And I am certain there will be more as he gets older. I already have firm positions on watching television, eating candy, and becoming fluent in a second language. But these are all my ardent principles formed by reading articles, talking to parents, thinking of my own childhood. Not by actually having a baby.
So this weekend, we threw a first birthday party. I’ve tried to stay true to myself and perhaps find a comfortable middle ground between Bah-Humbug Pre-baby Sara and the pressures of What You’re Expected to Do When You Have a Kid. We just had a small brunch with friends, just to thank them for supporting us this year and being in our son’s life. And to drink Bloody Marys.
I compromised on the smash cake tradition. I baked whole-wheat banana muffins, smeared his with a simple sugar icing and topped it with a single candle. We sang “Happy Birthday” while he stared in shock and I tried to make sure he didn’t singe his fingertips. And I took a ton of pictures and called it a day.
Sara Michael is a first-time mom with Type A tendencies. She likes rules, makes lists, and follows plans. That all seemed to work out fine until she had a baby. Now she balances her need for order and answers with the desire to enjoy the unpredictable journey she is on with her 2-year-old son (and a second on the way). Her day job? She is a writer and editorial director at a health care media company where she manages content for an online publication. Her journalism background started in daily newspapers, covering health, science and government. Follow her on Twitter @sara_the_writer.