Happy Birthday, Leo!

What. a. year!

A year ago, Leo John made me a mother. We brought home this sweet, tiny little baby with dark hair and midnight blue eyes and a small peanut head. Kyle and I didn’t have a clue what we were in for, but we were so in love.

Today Leo’s hair is lighter, his eyes are brown, and he’s still quite a peanut, but he has a BIG personality. We were playing with toys last night, and I looked at him and thought – you are so much fun. He is curious about everything – how will the Google Home respond to our question, what’s on the other side of every door that someone goes through, what’s underneath Daddy’s hat.

And he does not stop moving. If he’s sitting and playing with a toy, his legs are tapping the floor. If he’s in your lap taking a bottle, he’s also playing with your hair. He might not sit still for a book, or for anything, but he is full of adventure. Much like his dad. I’m not giving up on the books, though 🙂

We made it a full year of breastfeeding, somehow. I thought he was done at three months when he wanted nothing to do with it. I thought I was done at nine months and had mastitis. It has not been easy, especially since the only times he has wanted to nurse calmly is in middle of the night, but it has been worth it. I’ve loved those snuggles during the night. I’ve loved that I can count on nursing to calm him during those wake-ups. And I’ve loved that it helped him when he has been sick.

Which has been far too frequently.

Just as his smile expands my heart by 1,000 sizes, holding him down to strap a nebulizer to his face broke my heart in a million pieces. RSV, stomach bugs, fevers – Leo has had all kinds of illnesses with being in daycare. We never got through a sickness without me or Kyle catching it too. Thank goodness for grandparents.

This first year in the (mother)hood has taught me so much about life. So many people in the world have children, and you really can’t feel what that is like until you do it yourself. One year in and I’m just amazed that so many people live this way! It is the hardest, most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and it amazes me that people do it over and over with multiple kids. Part of my overwhelm this year has been thinking about how I’ll ever be brave enough to have a second child, both in birthing again and managing two children. And in potentially risking another year of severe sleep deprivation. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t – I’m definitely not ready any time soon. I do know, however, that I am completely fulfilled as a mother with my sweet little Leo.

This year made me appreciate my “village” in a whole new way. My mom has always done anything for me, but this year she was everything I needed without my asking. And becoming a mom, experiencing what it’s like to care for a child both physically and emotionally, makes me feel even more connected to her. Even my dad has helped out with watching Leo on those days when he’d unexpectedly have to stay home from daycare and Kyle and I would have to work.

Additionally, Kyle’s mom and sister have spent more time out here with us this year. Not only did they help out with Leo and spoil him with love, but I got closer to them than I have in my 9 years with Kyle. It has been a hard year for the Barichello’s with losing John, just 5 days before Leo was born. Thankfully, our happy Leo has put his light on an otherwise impossible year for the family, giving Grandma Sharon something to smile about via FaceTime whenever she needs it.

I’ve felt closer to all my friends who are moms. I wish I could have helped them more when their babies were just born; I never realized what they needed until I experienced it myself. Moms pay it forward, I’ve noticed. They hold no grudge, because I think they had other mom friends who did help them during that time. They’ve all been here for me, responding quickly to my frantic texts and sending surprise gifts and checking in often.

Non-mom friends, you’re not left out of my gratitude by any means. You’ve all been there for me as well and so supportive – thank you for all of your love and ooh-ing and aah-ing over my Leo.

A big thing I learned in Year One was to not have expectations. Of anything. Just because he kind of slept well one night doesn’t mean a darn thing for the next night. Because he did amazing on three flights doesn’t mean he won’t cry for the entire fourth flight (omg). Because he loved eggs for breakfast one day doesn’t mean he won’t give his plate to Yoshi the next.

And to not have high expectations for myself. It truly is a win to make it to the shower as a mom. Or to have a well-balanced meal that doesn’t come in a bar form. Somehow I’ve been running work meetings on 4 hours of sleep, when I can hardly form a full sentence for Kyle at the end of the night. I’ve learned to give myself grace, do things that bring me joy, and take people up on the help they offer so I can rest. Or write. It’s the same to me.

I’ve learned to use exercise for stress relief. While yes I’ve been wanting to get back to my pre-baby weight, I more so have wanted an outlet to release all my anxiety and stress. Orangetheory has been the ticket. High-energy workouts, loud music, and time to myself for one hour on the clock was my most enjoyable way to exercise this year.

Lastly, I’ve learned to do what’s best for our family. There is so much advice out there on how to do everything when it comes to parenting, which is both great and overwhelming and sometimes makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong. Kyle is the best teammate in parenthood, and we’ve done a good job of figuring out how to get each other the sleep we need and the restoration we need so we can both be our best selves.

As the mom, there’s an internal pressure I feel that I am solely responsible for this child. If he cries, it’s my duty to soothe him. If he’s hungry, I must feed him. If he wants to play, I need to be his teacher and playmate. That makes it hard to leave him and go do things to take care of myself. But seeing Kyle with Leo gives me relief from that feeling. He is just as willing to do the dirty work, and he makes Leo laugh like no one else can. I’m grateful that he pushes me out the door to go do my writing or go to my workout, and I don’t have to worry. Everyone is fine.

I’m excited to see Leo become a walking, running, screaming little toddler. We’ll have a whole new set of things to learn and phases to go through. This year has some surprises in it for our family too (again, not likely another baby!), and Leo and I are going to get a whole lot more enjoyable time to spend together.

We had a rough start to 2022 – much like the rest of the country, I imagine – and had to cancel Leo’s first birthday party. But we were able to salvage a small get-together at a park, FaceTiming in Grandma Sharon, and Leo (and Yoshi) got to enjoy a whole lot of birthday cake. It was perfect, and he looked so good in his yellow bow tie.

Here’s to my sweet little one-year-old, and surviving my first year in the hood. Bring on Year Two!

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