My sweet Carter,
I can't believe you turn one today. I keep telling myself that since you weren't born until 10:32 pm, you're technically not one yet! I'll hold on to these last official baby moments while I can! But the truth is, you've been with us for a year now and it was the fastest year of my life! I seriously can't wrap my brain around the fact that you're a year old because it seems like not that long ago that I was lumbering around this house pregnant and pained. Deep down I knew you'd come early but I never thought you'd be three weeks ahead of schedule...well, at least, not until those last couple days when I felt so awful that I figured my body couldn't hold up much longer. I think it's sort of ironic that Valentine's Day will always remind me of last year, when I was so uncomfortable that I could barely sit up, yet I had to make it through a day of work, Jacob's last night of soccer, and dinner out. I thought by the end of the day that you'd be making an early appearance, but when I woke up the next morning feeling much better, I thought maybe I was wrong. And then a few hours later you got things moving, and the rest is history. Less than 12 hours later you were in my arms.
You have been the best baby I could have asked for. Given the year we've had with your brother (more on that later), we needed an easy baby and you definitely fit the bill. As much as I wanted a girl, I couldn't have asked for anything more with you...so as usual, it's clear that God knew what he was doing! Aside from a couple rough nights early on, I can probably count the times I've had to rock you for an extreme amount of time on a hand and a half, if that. You've even made it through teething like a champ. You're a great sleeper and a great eater, and while recently you've gotten a little more demanding, you've almost always been good when I need you to be. I just can't get over how chill you've been over this past year.
My maternity leave with you was so blissful. Yes, I was tired, but I made it a point to hold you a lot and take in every moment of your sweet little self. You were so tiny and I spent so many moments marveling at your long fingers, little feet, soft skin and abundant hair! You had so much hair, everywhere, which is rare for babies in my family, at least. Eventually you got rid of most of it, and now you're sporting a bit of a baby mullet because you lost a bunch on the top of your head but the back's been growing in all along. You're still so much darker in general than Jacob was, which never ceases to amaze us.
You and your brother are so different. You don't look very much alike, and your personalities are pretty different as well. Still, sometimes I marvel as I read this blog at how you've both done the same things at the same time. And yet, he had more hair at this point but you've doubled him in teeth. I think you're probably going to walk before he did, too, because you're already able to stand up for a few seconds at a time. You think Jacob is the most amazing person in the world, even though he won't give you the time of day. In fact, lately he's been yelling at you and trying to intimidate you, but you just sit there and smile at him. If I wasn't so ticked at him, I'd be extra amused by your response. Hopefully someday he'll come around, but I'm sorry in the meantime that you're missing out on the love and entertainment that older brothers are supposed to provide.
I do apologize that you had to join our family at this particular time, because you're really not seeing the best of us. You've heard so much yelling and I wonder how much of what you see sinks in. Don't get any ideas from watching your brother beat on us or tell us "no". That is not how you want to do things. I hate that you've had to be around all of this insanity and have a crazy mommy for your first year, but you know what? You have been the bright shining light of this tough year and I don't know how I would have made it through without your smiling face and sweet baby snuggles. You made me love being a mommy again, and brought me little bits of joy in the midst of so much stress and sadness. No pressure or anything, but the longer you can keep that up, the better.
You love people so much and they are instantly drawn to you. I've never seen a baby get so many comments or give confidence boosts to so many random strangers everywhere we go. There is just a light in your eyes that draws people in, and those chubby cheeks are irresistible. Even at Disney where there are more kids than you can count, so many people were drawn right to you. Everyone at daycare loves you so much, and every picture I post of you on Facebook gets so many "likes"!
You haven't been completely drama-free, of course. The decision to stop nursing you when you were six weeks old was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I had to put my sanity and the normalcy of our household at the top of the priority list because I knew that formula could still give you what you needed while keeping my stress level lower. In the end I'm sort of grateful, because I think I was a much more relaxed mom because your survival did not depend entirely on my body. I wouldn't change how I did things with Jacob, but I'm at peace with how our journey went, too, because I wasn't battling my body or blaming myself if things went wrong with you. Of course, once we were used to formula, solids came along and messed everything up again, especially when we figured out you couldn't tolerate rice. That was a complication I never expected, and it became even more challenging when your brother went gluten-free and everything we were eating included some sort of rice flour. I'm still working through that balance, but I think we're doing okay. You're eating a bunch and I haven't contaminated either one of you yet, that I can tell.
As we reach a year, we're eager for a few more milestones. Your first haircut (see the mullet reference above) will be first, and hopefully your first word will be next. You babble "mama" and "dada", but you don't seem to connect it to us yet. Hopefully soon. I'm not sure what other words might come next, but I can't wait to start hearing what's going on in that head. Walking should be coming soon, too, and then we all have to watch out because you are one determined, curious little boy. After that I think sports will only be a matter of time, though it remains to be seen if you'll be as into them as your brother. Right now you seem to like cars and sporting equipment equally.
I feel like there are so many more things I wanted to tell you, but all I can really say is that I feel so blessed to be your mommy. You have been the perfect addition to our family and I just marvel at you every single day. Watching you grow up has been so enjoyable, in part because I'm not as nervous about the parenting fundamentals this time around and can simply focus on how great you are. I can't wait to see you grow and have loved spending this past year with you! I know you won't remember this birthday (or this year), but I can't wait to make memories with you for many, many more! Happy Birthday Carter!