motherhood, Parenting

The Forgotten First Year

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Photo credit: Astrid Castro-Mornelli

Why can we not remember being one year old? How can the human brain displace the memory of this almost-magical sprint of time where emotions travel between peaks and valleys in the space of a minute? Where the first infant coos and gassy smiles turn into baby babbling and laughter? Where parents shed self-centered skins and grow their hearts multiple sizes larger? 

It is unnerving… how this extraordinary time of 24/7 care will be tucked away and replaced by scattered pictures of childhood and adolescence. I always knew how much my Mommy loves me, but now I wonder about the long days and nights of feeding me as a little helpless baby while caring for the rest of the family. Did I cause her a lot of anguish? 

Our son just turned one, and I am still coming to terms with the wonder of one-year growth and the loss of precious baby time. As much as I anticipate his bigger milestones and developing independence, I woefully crouch in a corner of my mind, trying to vividly remember each moment that brought us here.

He will not remember how I held him against my chest practically every hour, at times disbelieving, at times wasting minutes to an hour simply staring at him, at times sobbing from adoration or exhaustion or both, at times praying and humming in the dark on a nursing chair. 

He will not remember how his Dada first held him as a newborn and how for many nights as a baby, lovingly cradled him to sleep. He will not remember the original hip-hop composition that came with diaper changes and awful car rides.

He will not remember the 14 flights we took with him to see family and friends from one continent to another, where his Mama and Dada took turns holding him from one hour to 14 hours. He will not remember the first time he had the Filipino arroz caldo, his first gelato in Dubai, and the American breakfast sausage patty–all of which he expectedly took an immediate liking to.

He will not remember how we ended up driving from state to state to keep him asleep, how he made rows of tables at a New England restaurant smile and transform into sweet strangers because of his friendly waves. 

He will not remember one jetlagged night, a little past 1:00 am, when his Dada, who I have never seen cry in all four years I know him, left tears on the playroom’s rubber floor after reading a Robert Munsch book to him. His Dada couldn’t stop crying even while I hugged him, and then we both cried. Our little son just kept playing.

He will not remember how our love for him grew leaps and bounds, and how all the feelings seemed to explode from our chests even while he slept quietly in our arms. 

He will not remember that for many months, pushing him in a stroller and hearing him laugh at the bucket swing in Al Barsha Park was the highlight of our days. He will not remember the times we sank to our knees and crawled with him on Prescott Park, marveling at how weeds excited him so.

He will not remember how we tag-teamed bathing him, and how we couldn’t stop smelling his hair, kissing and nuzzling him all over from his cheeks, neck, belly, thighs to toes. He will not remember our joy and ridiculous feeling of luck each time we woke up with him nestled between us.

I must have taken over a thousand photos in 365 days, thinking they’re for his benefit when he gets older. I suspect now that the photos will primarily serve us, when our souls need the balm of nostalgia. 

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Photo credit: Tina Richards

One year has come and gone. I am here writing this in a desperate attempt to keep breathing life to that one year when our worlds turned, our lives changed, and our everything revolved around a tiny growing human we still can’t believe we created. 

He will not remember this year.

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