Last night Andrew and I sat on our front porch and rocked for a few hours after the kids went to bed. Theo was still awake in his room throwing toy cars at the door in protest, but he eventually gave in crawled under his covers and the banging stopped. As we sat, our toes tapped the bricks, pushing us back and forth in a gentle sway as we sipped our wine. Looking up and through old the trees weaving overhead, we noticed the summer sky slowly change from a murky white to warm and almost glowing shade of pink. It felt as though we were picked up mid-rock and magically transported to the set of a Woody Allen film set sometime in the 20’s or 30’s. It was beautiful. We waved to hello to neighbors passing by, and talked about the kids, mostly. We chatted about mom and dad things and doted on our little boy, who today is one year old. We revisited the day that our Alfie Francis was brought into the world and about how far we’ve come as a family since then.
To be honest, it doesn’t feel like too long ago when I was in a tailspin, unsure of what to do for myself or our kids as my life was in the grips of an ugly illness. As Andrew and I rocked, we talked about how life-saving it was that I sought treatment during that difficult time, something I continue to do each day even though Alf is twelve months. We talked about our three, our goals, and our hopes. We talked about how we were going to give thanks for today, to celebrate our boy and our family and these three hundred and sixty five days as five. We both decided, first birthdays with all their glory are much more than singing a cheery song and blowing out that first candle. Yes, those things are special and lovely and important, but more so we feel that the celebration is about lifting up and honoring where we are one year ago and what it took to get here today as a famiy celebratingall those memories and mountains that have taken hold of us and have molded a new, grace-filled shape for our family of five.
Some say the first year is the hardest. Some say “hard” hits somewhere around year three. Some say year thirteen. I say it’s all hard. Each year, each day, just in a different way. Parenting is tedious, repetitive and very emotional, no matter the age or number of children you have. Having one or three or ten all lives under the umbrella of “hard,” and boy does it ever require a lot of patience. It’s a job that rarely says, “thank you” with words nor does it give you a break when you need it most. If fact, it is often during those challenging and unrelenting times that it requires the opposite of you and commands you as mom or dad to step up and wade through whatever it is that given day or week or season. It’s the job that wakes you up in the middle of the night and throws up on you too many times to count. It’s the job that makes trips to the grocery store with kids one of the more trying things you’ll ever do and a trip to the grocery store without kids like a vacation. But, and this is a big ol’ BUT, it’s also most beautiful and fulfilling jobs there is, and that right there is enough to wash away all the tantrums and forgone naps and permanent marker blunders. I think being a mother is the most rewarding and life-giving calling out there, and I feel so ridiculously blessed to be able to say that mothering the babies I made with my husband and best friend is what I get to do each day. I get to do this and I love it. I am proud of many, many things in my life, but nothing holds a candle to being a wife and mother. Nothing comes close to touching it.
Yes, because I adore my family. But also because this role I have and hat I wear is work. I know this and recognize it each day because it’s hard work. Because I chose this path, I wanted this path, and choosing each day is an act of devotion and relentlessness, one that echoes a forever kind of love. Nothing comes close to motherhood, because each day as the sun rises you have to get up and make a thousand decisions that affect not only yourself in this world of a million doubts and concerns but also the lives of little humans that fully depend on you for safety, nourishment, guidance and care. Parenthood, it’s full of joys and little treasures and hundreds of “ah-ha!” moments, but on the other side of that coin, being a mother or father pushes you when you don’t want to be pushed and ultimately reveals more about yourself than I’d say most probably care to know. I think that is why being a mother is the best, hardest job there is. And that’s why we are not only celebrating our Alfie today, but also this past year and all the growth and connectivity and emotional attunement that I as his mother and Andrew as his father have gone through as we have been the steady anchor for our children each and every day of their lives.
Sometimes I think about those dark days last fall and how much I missed out on. Sometimes I’ll scroll through my phone and look at photos on Instagram during that time, so thankful I was able to capture some of good stuff and uncover joy amidst all the muck. There was a lot of muck. Sometimes I am hard on myself and am mad that my body and mind did this to me. Did this to our family for months. I think about what I could have done differently and what I should do in the future if we decide to ever have another baby. That burden frightens me truth be told. Then other times, times like now, I think about how much of a better mother and wife and overall person I am because of what I went through. How I have learned through heartache and hard work that sometimes our best intentions don’t always produce what we envisioned or had planned and that is the beauty of life. I never planned on having to go on medicine, I never planned on having to check and recheck my emotional state and how that interplayed with being home with three very dependent kids each day. I never planned on any of the baggage or postpartum stresses that would continue to surface week to week even though my baby is one and I am months past feeling as low as I did.
But then, like the surprise zinnias I found the other day that somehow seeded themselves in my garden unbeknownst to me, I never planned on being able to feed our baby with my body for a whole year. Surprise! I was hopeful we’d make it to month three. I never planned on Alfie, our third, to be so mellow and easy (so to speak) and full of joy. Surprise! I sort of thought he’d be the rebel babe who boycotted sleep and threw us for a loop. I never planned on feeling this connected to my family. Surprise! One year ago I thought I was as connected as I could be. Turns out there’s always room for growth and connection. Planned or unplanned, life is full of beautiful surprises like this and it’s these wonders that make this job the beauty that it is.
So today, on Alfie’s first birthday I propose a toast! A toast to Alfie Francis, our one year old. A toast to a healthy, happy little boy who makes us smile so much our cheeks hurt. To a little boy who makes us melt with that little head shake he does when he’s getting into something he’s not supposed to. Who is a heartbreaker with his big tooth gap and head full of tiny curls. To Alf, who is a daily reminder to me, that I am strong and resilient and a fighter for all that I love, and to know that is important. A toast to him for telling me without words or terms of endearment but only those soulful black eyes who look into mine that despite all my shortcomings and trials this past year, I’ve done alright as his mother.
ashley - so beautifully written amanda! made me tear up as my baby boy also turns one today and i’ve been emotional all day reflecting on this past year with him. what a pleasant whirlwind! happy birthday to your sweet alfie and congrats to you too! xo
Cassie - Happiest birthday, Alfie! And happiest day to YOU, strong mama. I usually wish mamas happy birthday and a wish for them to never forget their strength. But I think you already have that covered. Well done, you. Bravo! May this new year bring yet more peace to your family. Blessings.
Rachel - I love this post so very much…you expressed perfectly the essence of motherhood and I almost feel like these are my feelings too! Just much better written than what I can write….so thank you. Happy Birthday to Alfie! 🙂
Jessie - I have so much I want to say about this post, so much that I just wish we were closer so we could rock on that porch of yours together and chat about all of this ❤️ You expressed your heart so honestly and beautifully, dear friend of mine. I am inspired and encouraged, motivated and moved by your love for your babies and the family you have built with your love, in many wars because I share those same feelings…that same dream. To live the life you imagined and also so much more…oh what a treasured life that is. Even after all of the trying, exhausting days as a mother, I am right where I want to be and wouldn’t dare trade it for anything in the world. When you realize your blessings, REALLY see them before your eyes in present time, that is living.
Hoping today was a day of reflection and joy and celebrating. Alfie is just as lucky to be yours as you are his. A match made in heaven if I do say so myself 😘
Kristin Raugust - This is absolutely beautiful. My 3rd (and last) turns one next week and I’m already close to tears all the time thinking about it! And I’m with you, I am fighting the emotional fight everyday to turn my brain around if it lands in the dumps, to focus on the positive, to know that it’s ok to be sad but I don’t have to feel that way all the time – and I’m glad I’ve learned these skills this year and can continue to practice them as I stay home with my kids! Thank you for sharing. And happy birthday to adorable Alfie!
Liv - We’re adding a third to our little family any day now and I have been more focused on caring for myself post-baby than I ever was with my first two- because I remember my blues after the last and it scares me. As I read this I felt comforted and it reminded me of a quote by Maya Angelou- ‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better’. So much forgiveness and letting go in those words- and in your words. Something we have to do a lot of as parents- forgiving and letting go. Not just with our children but with ourselves every day. Thank you for these words. Your home and family are a testament to how loving and tender you are.
Jessie - so so beautifully said and I agree so very much with your last words about amanda ✨ that quote is one i’ll make a note of 👌🏼 congrats on the upcoming arrival of your littlest one. such an incredibly miraculously experience, welcoming a new life into the world. prayers for you and yours 💛
Pamela - Thank you for this beautiful post that brought tears to my eyes. Our darling son turns one in a few weeks and I’m a well of emotions as that milestone approaches. Wishing Alfie a wonderful birthday and the loveliest of years ahead.
Tara - Happy 1st birthday! My 2nd son turns one in two days. And that hat is so adorable! Mind if I ask where did you get it from?
Claire - What a beautiful perspective. My littlest is 8 months and I am still dealing with that above mentioned “ugly illness” and continue to beat myself up about the days, weeks and months I am missing, but remain hopeful that one day I will be able to look back with such clarity and appreciation for this time and the opportunity for growth. All we can do is pray and hope. Many blessings on your precious family.
Kate B - Beautiful words. You’ve done alright mama, and have 3 beautiful smiling faces that show it! You’re not alone in your struggles. Thank you for your honesty, insight and inspiration. Much love, a fellow mama of 3
Justine - Your words touch me so deeply and I thank you for your sharing. I have certainly gone through some time over this last six months since I made changes that have ultimately allowed me to fulfill my dream of being a stay at home mumma and it still hurts to look back at the time prior and question myself, I get it, but there is grief of time lost……and it is ok. So again thank you Amanda for your words, thank you……blessings to your sweet Alfie xx
Sarah - This line of thinking is so familiar to me. My littlest’s first birthday last month brought so much of the same but we have come SO FAR. It’s as much about her reaching that one year milestone as it is about the intense lessons of grace we learned as a family when mama completely unraveled and had to be put back together again. Rejoice, Amanda! Happy day to your boy and keep doing the work. The rewards are endless!
Laurence - Bon anniversaire Alfie-Francis! Have a beautiful summer full of discoveries…
natalie - I love this so much! Thank you!!
Tanya - Amanda, your words hit home in a lot of ways and reminded me how it was when my babies were tiny and how emotional and vulnerable I felt. I didn’t necessarily have baby blues but some very dark times as my hormones righted themselves over the months, but it’s all a distant memory now and I have four beautiful children to show for it. You always remind me to slow down, savor life a little more, take more time to look and listen and just be, so thank you for that. I’m glad you’re better than you were and I know you will come around to the other side soon enough! Blessings!