In December our youngest daughter turned one. One year old — I literally can’t believe it. Her birthday is on the 20th December so not the best birthday in terms of being at the busiest time of the year, right before Christmas! But hey, you can’t properly plan for these things, as I am sure we all know.
As well as having a just-turned one year old, I have another daughter of four. I have to admit that unlike big sister’s first birthday, our youngest one’s big day kind of crept up on us. We didn’t throw her a big party like we did for our first daughter. This was mostly due to the time of year and the fact that, from experience, a one year old doesn’t understand. Although I do feel like it’s a birthday to be celebrated, even if it is just the parents having a glass of bubbly and saying to each other, ‘we got through the first year!’
I know full well that we’ll celebrate her birthday properly in the years to come, and never let Christmas swallow her birthday up. This does feel very important to me because I understand how some December babies feel. There are many December birthdays on my side of the family, so I am well aware to not ever, ‘wrap up her birthday presents with Christmas paper’ and to, ‘never give her birthday and Christmas presents together’. Not that I am guilty of ever doing that with any of my family!? Maybe we could do her a half year birthday? I personally think that December is an exciting time to have a birthday, with lots of parties, everybody is in good moods etc… hopefully our daughter will feel the same way.
Looking back now, a lot has happened in our youngest daughters first year of life, and it’s been a very different experience for her compared to our eldest daughters first year.
Although our youngest was born in Geneva, Switzerland, just like her big sister, we moved back to England when my youngest was just three months old and my eldest daughter was three years old (See previous blog posts). As a family of four, we have spent this year settling back into life in England, which, as you can imagine, has been quite a change for us after living abroad for over five years. Inevitably, this year has been a bit manic for all four of us: settling into a new area which we have never lived in before, having a new house and making it a home, a new preschool for my eldest, baby groups for my youngest, all of us making new friends and acquaintances and just generally all finding our feet. Its been quite a big transition but its definitely been a positive one, with the highlight being able to spend a great deal of more time with family and friends. This has been so lovely and it is especially so great for the children. Seeing friends and family also means more support. Our youngest is now very used to all of her grand parents, aunties, uncle, and being looked after by any of them. It’s wonderful to see her build these important relationships outside of our family of four. She doesn’t seem fazed at all by new people, which my eldest definitely found understandably more difficult, as she didn’t know them as well at that stage of her life. As I have explained in previous blog posts, we didn’t have that in Geneva, so I would say that is the biggest difference so far and I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t say that it’s been a better experience, just a very different one.
Once it was a few days before our daughters big day I was so surprised at how emotional I felt about my baby girl turning one year. I found myself being very reflective; mainly because this time around has gone so fast. They do say it does with the second child — cliche, but so very true.
Another cliche, which has proved to be correct so far…, is that the second baby tends to be more calm and easygoing. This just sums up our youngest daughter. She’s smily and just goes with the flow. So far, she’s been the type of baby who I can simply pick up and take anywhere and, as I just mentioned, can be left with any of our friends and family. I’m not completely naive though — I’m all too aware of the forthcoming toddler years. She started walking just after her 1st birthday and is now into everything. We shall see… I may have to eat my words!
Our eldest daughter on the other hand has always been full of life with a big and confident personality. She’s amazing, but looking back on her first year, when we were living abroad in Geneva, it was intense. This was obviously inevitable, as I had more time then and I could focus on just her and I of course did just that. I did every single baby class going, out every day meeting friends and was just generally busy. So I of course ask myself now, am I doing enough with my youngest? Have I spent enough quality time with her? Taken her to enough baby groups etc…? You get the gist. I also have still yet to finish her baby book, but I am adamant that this will get done! I am pretty sure this just all fits into ‘mum guilt’. However, I know that the answer is, of course I am doing enough. We have packed days every week, which we also have to fit in with the preschool pickup, but our life works and our youngest seems happy.
So, when the big day did roll around, we celebrated her first birthday, just the four of us, myself, my husband and our two girls, all together. This was perfect and just what we wanted to do. We had a cake and candles and our eldest enjoyed singing happy birthday to her, very loudly might I add! I bought her a few presents all wrapped up in ‘birthday paper’, which again my eldest enjoyed unwrapping, however the birthday girl wasn’t fazed at all by this. She obviously didn’t have a clue that it was her birthday, but she was happy and that in turn made me happy. This then in turn, made me question if she will be my last baby? (Ahh!! maybe I’ll leave that one for another blog post!?)
Although I was totally overwhelmed on her birthday with emotion, they were not all necessarily the ones that I expected. There were and are, many positives too. I would say that the most important one of all is that I am so grateful. So grateful that I have two healthy children. I was always so anxious about this in both of my pregnancies and even more so in my second pregnancy. (Maybe because I was aware of more?)
I am also very happy. My daughter has slotted into our family like a dream and I know its so cliche, (I have been mentioning that word a lot in this post!) but I just cant imagine life without her now. My eldest absolutely loves her and she’s a cheeky little girl always smiling! But I am sure she will keep us on our toes! As I mentioned, she is now walking, and we all know that this is when the real fun begins! Watching her and her sister interact and bond brings me more happiness than I ever would have thought. (Sorry very cheesy I know!)
The emotion that has surprised me the most is the fact that I am excited! Yes, if you asked my hubby, he would tell you that I spent a lot of the day and evening of her birthday, looking back at her newborn pictures and baby clothes etc… But I found a lot of the time that I was looking forward.
As my eldest is nearly 4 she is fun!! We can chat and do things together. She has a proper personality and is my little buddy. I am actually taking her to see Disney on ice for her 4th birthday, and I am so excited to have a proper fun day with her, just me and her. So, I am so excited about having all of this with my youngest. We are over the baby hump, with her sleeping better and us all understanding her a bit more, so it feels like a new chapter for the family. I am also looking forward to family holidays and getting to know my youngest’s personality.
Many of my best friends are now having their first babies and I do admit that I feel a small ache inside of me when I meet their beautiful babies. I still can’t believe that either of my girls were that tiny! But at the same time, I don’t think that I really do miss the early, early days. I am looking forward to all of the adventures we can have as a family of four. As I mentioned earlier, wether we add to our family in the future, who knows?
If I am honest, having two children has been harder than expected. I was often very tired and exhausted, especially in those first 3-6 months, when we had just moved countries and were still trying to figure everything out. I inevitably had less patience with a newborn and I sometimes felt that there was just not enough of me to go around. Most days felt like a huge juggling act. This then led to many days, me feeling like a bad mum to my eldest, as she was no longer the focus of my attention. There was definitely lots for all of us to adjust too. But now at just over 1 year from that, I feel good and positive. Don’t get me wrong, I still have MANY days where I feel completely overwhelmed and frazzled by life, but I generally love the craziness of my little family of four and I am excited for the future. For now, I will just take lots and lots of pictures, and make lots of memories.