I became a mother 10 years ago. It was a moment in time that was both joyful and exhausting.
With the new year, people have been looking back at the last decade to note how their lives have evolved. What's changed? What's stayed the same?
For me, a lot has changed since that day, but the feelings of joy and exhaustion remain — just in different hues. But I've started looking at my son in that appraising way, since this past decade perfectly follows the arc of his life.
When Declan was born, he was tiny — like a shrunken and hairless old man wriggling and swimming in a newborn one sie. I don't know what I thought my baby would look like, but I did think he would have hair. Instead, hair was something I would have to patiently wait for.
The first time we took him out into the Midwest winter, we bundled him up in a yellow infant snowsuit. As we readied his car seat, he lay swaddled and furiously crying on the floor of our living room, only his face peeking out through all that winter gear. I remember thinking he looked like an angry starfish, with his five perfectly defined appendages coiled in fury at the interruption of our peaceful home with a cold trip outside.
Sometimes, when my son gets frustrated or angry now, I spontaneously giggle, which doesn't help the situation. "Mom! It's not funny," my now-10-year-old boy will say. Oh, but it is funny, because I remember the very first time I saw you make this face, and it will always make me laugh.
He's still a challenging kid to feed. When Declan was a baby, he was diagnosed with reflux. Doctors called him a "happy spitter," since he didn't show any signs of discomfort from all the puking he did every single time he ate anything. I'm happy to report he no longer pukes upon eating, but has shown he's not afraid to gag if I serve zucchini or some other non-approved food.
He loves to laugh. I remember the excruciating wait for Declan's first smile. Friends who had similarly aged babies were posting all over social media about their little ones' first smile, and I was practically green with envy. And as a professionally trained comedian, I was a little offended that mymaterial didn't work on my own child.
Then, one sunny day as he was laying on my lap in a chair, he did it. He smiled and made a noise — his first "laugh." He has remained a laughing, happy-go-lucky guy in all the years since.
When he was a baby, he would use his whole fist to grip onto my finger. In 10 years, his hands have grown, but what I love is his willingness to still hold my hand. I will go to take his hand — in a parking lot, on a crowded street, sometimes even on the sidewalk leading from school — and his hand is still there to take mine.
A lot can change in a decade, but I hope his willingness to take someone's hand isn't one of them.
Happy 10th birthday, Declan! Love, Mom.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM's "Big Party Show" in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.