Tomorrow, our Charles Kolbe will be one year old. One year ago today, I woke up after a restless, nervous night, suspicious that I’d go into labor soon.
I worked from my living room couch that day, wrapped up some last minute things, and shut my computer at 3:00 P.M. because I was falling asleep. I took a two-hour nap on the couch, asked Dave to run out and get me some chicken noodle soup for dinner, ate it with Saltines left over from my first trimester, and then snuggled up with Dave on the couch to watch Return of the King (we’d been working our way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a distraction). I started feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions growing stronger around 8, and by 9, I told Dave to turn off the movie because I couldn’t focus anymore. By 11, I knew this was the real thing. I had had grand plans of showering and straightening up the house and eating a breakfast sandwich when I was in labor, but my contractions were so strong from the start that I could barely stand through them, let alone get anything productive done. We didn’t sleep at all that night, and finally left for the hospital at 5 in the morning…the most surreal drive of my life, knowing that the next time we were in the car, our baby would be there with us and nothing would ever be the same.
And it hasn’t been. After 18 hours of labor, Charlie was born at 6:28 P.M. on Thursday, September 22, 2016. The first day of fall, and a new season in every single way. I had thought that having him would mean adding “mother” to the list of titles I already held…Catholic, wife, sister, daughter, writer, etc. What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t just an add-on–becoming a mother changed and impacted every facet of who I was and who I am. Nothing–no part of me and no part of my life–has been the same. That idea scared me so much when I was pregnant, but as I’ve seen it come to fruition over the last year, I’ve seen God’s hand in my life more gently and lovingly than ever before. He has guided me into this new role, and this vocation that He chose for me, from the day I saw the word “Pregnant” and almost fainted on my bathroom floor, to the day the midwife put the tiny dark-haired, blue-eyed boy on my chest, to now, when I’m watching that same precious boy, asleep in his crib, on the baby monitor while I type this.
No one has ever said motherhood was easy, and it is not. This has been the hardest year of my life…but it has also been the best. I have collapsed into bed sobbing at the end of the day, exhausted and frustrated and disgusted by the selfishness I’ve seen in myself, convincing me I’m a terrible mom and that God grossly overestimated me by giving my son to me. I’ve looked into Charlie’s perfect blue eyes and felt my heart pounding practically out of my chest with love because in him, I see my incredible husband who I have never loved more, and I see myself, and I know that it’s because of our love that this boy exists, and that is breathtaking. I’ve watched Charlie learn so many new things and I’ve gotten to know him as a unique little person, with gifts and passions all his own that are yet to be uncovered. I’ve ugly cried in the shower more times than I can count because I don’t know what I’m doing and I want to be a good mom SO BADLY and sometimes, I feel like anything but. I’ve knelt beside Charlie’s crib in the middle of the night and watched his sweet little lips fall open, his hands curled up beside him, his soft curls falling over his forehead, and I’ve begged God to help me remember this, him, just as he is now, because I’m so painfully aware that before I know it, it’ll be his last night under my roof before going to college and right now, I can’t even bear the thought. There are days that I wish away and days that I literally want to live in forever and ever. Will motherhood always feel this profoundly bittersweet? I think it might.
Charlie, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I like to think that you will someday. It is because of you that I am becoming who God created me to be, and for the rest of my life, I hope to help you become who God is calling you to be too.
Happy first birthday, my sweet baby. We love you more than life.