Whole Parenting Family

8 Lessons on My Baby’s First Birthday


birthday beets


I remember blogging about 5 things I’d learned in the first year of our son’s life {Five Things in One Year}, and his second year {SuperBoy’s Turned Two} and sharing SweetPea’s birth story with you all–just about a year ago {Our Daughter’s Birth}. And now it’s time to celebrate her life–one whole year outside the womb! She is the happiest child, all love, laughter, and joy. She’s our sunshine kid, that’s for sure. (Thanks to her Godfather for that nickname!)

Here goes. My eight lessons to contemplate on her first birthday.

1) Cherish details because it goes fast.

How can time fly so quickly? You tell me. The last year is a blur, a blink, one sweet afternoon in our library watching the children crawl on their father. So many happy and sad things have happened in the last year. My brother was married to the woman of our dreams and they’re expecting. My dearest friends’ daughter was called back to Heaven after a very brief time here. We’ve spent many hours together with all my siblings in town. My brother will be deployed in May. AA’s work is going very well. Two good friends from law school are struggling to find work and provide for their families. Life ebbs and flows.

I’ve learned to cherish the moment, be in the moment, and appreciate the days of little people and little challenges. Learning to clip SweetPea’s nails; watching her breathe while she sleeps on my chest; watching her brother kiss her head for the first time; laughing while the dogs bark, the cats meow, and the children cry; snuggling the kids down for a book in bed just after an epic temper tantrum and major meltdown on my part. All these little blessed moments.

2) Different children need different parenting.

SweetPea is a very different person than SuperBoy. She communicates differently, she expresses differently, she feels things differently, and she responds differently. I had to learn to be adaptive in my parenting. For example, a stern look sets her over the edge weeping. SuperBoy looks sternly back. She never cries or fusses unless she has a diaper or is hungry. I learned to become a smarter listener to her signals. She is a peanut and her weight gain has been problematic. We’ve learned to spend quality time offering her food instead of figuring that she’ll eat when she’s hungry–which translated to, she’s always more interested in her brother’s activities than eating! She’s high needs at night so after a half year of cosleeping and a year of waking to nurse her multiple times a night, we’re starting to night wean {Nightweaning Adventures}.

Unlike her brother who loved to sit and read from infancy, she’s a squirmer so you have to hold one book where she can paw and grab at it and then hold the real book you’re reading aloud far enough away so she can’t demolish it. She’s also an earlier mover. She was walking around furniture when he had just begun crawling. And now, just shy of her birthday, she began to walk unassisted!

3) Relax, do what you can, and let the rest go.

I’ve faced anxiety and depression as a stay-at-home parent. I know many friends who work and stay home cope with these feelings as well. I’ve written about sacrifice as a parentreminder you’re a great motherpracticing being present versus survivalsoldiering on as a parent12 survival tips for 2 kids under 2, parenting styles vary and how to get over thatloving and hating stay at home with kids, etc.

I cannot be everywhere at once. I cannot simultaneously care for two children when they have simultaneous needs. Sorry. And I have to also be a person with a healthy marriage, healthy friendships, and healthy me-time. No one is a perfect parent, except probably the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rest of us do the best we can with what we have–after really truly looking and seeing what the best we can is, that’s our standard for judging ourselves.

4) Siblings relationships need shaping but also lots of sunlight.

I’ve written about cultivating sibling love, and amazed at how easily they love each other, and how easily they irk each other. SuperBoy is two and nine months. He can be so rough and rude to his sister! But he also surprises me all the time with his gentle affection and little love pats and kisses. Clearly the love part is from modeling! I’m fairly confident that left to his own devices he would see no need or benefit to be nice to his sister. He’s decent acting because I reinforce how he can and cannot treat her, give him incentives for cooperation (“Oh that was so nice of you to share that with your sister. Now when she returns it, you get a nice long turn too.”), and he sees his father and I show her lots of physical affection.

Along with all this shaping by me, they really do have to grow as the sunlight guides them. I step back sometimes when I want to jump in and adjudicate. I let them figure out who gets which toys. Her shrieks of disagreement really seem to jar him (good!) so she gets her way sometimes too. I want so much for them to always be close and love each other, but that too, is beyond my control. I can just keep them on the path of good respectful behavior and hope for the best.

5) Family is critical for development of the whole person.

I’ve blogged about my amazing sister, Tia KK. Without her and my parents right close by, I know my children would not be as well developed. I read a study lately that talked about the benefits on a child’s brain of attaching to multiple close adults, and how that trust developed creates neuropathways to love and trust for others as they grow. SweetPea loves my dad, her Baba. She wriggles out of my arms to get to him. He has spent countless hours talking, reading, and snuggling with both children. And my mom is a saint. A total saint. Case in point, she’s been up with her helping with the night weaning for the past few nights. And still bustling around doing things all day with us. Ah-mazing.

6) Sleep deprivation isn’t as bad as you would think.

I know Ranger Training involves lots of sleep deprivation because my brother earned his Ranger Tab. It sounded like sheer hell. But I have to say, despite rotten sleep for the last year, given that it was in the comfort of my climate controlled nice home, it wasn’t so bad. I mean, yes, having a newborn and a toddler at the same time and being alone with them starting at 6:30am is hair-ripping-outing. But given that I live in a first world country with good heat & water, I cannot really truly complain about sleep deprivation. Even though I did. Especially about my wrinkly eyes. Multiple times. To you. Thanks for listening.

7) Two is better than anyone said it would be.

When I was pregnant with her, I heard a lot of rotten things about pregnancy, children in general, etc. {7 Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman} I did not hear many moms say that two was better than one. And I’ve found that two is SO much better than one. Harder? Yes, obviously. Better? YES, undeniably. And closer together is actually easier in many ways. I’d recommend it.

8) It’s her journey and I’m her guide.

I’m struck by how blessed I am that SweetPea is part of our family. Her loving sweetness, her long looks with a smile, her eagerness to clap and laugh, her insatiable appetite for her Dada, her humming along if I sing while she’s in the carrier, her delight at everything that her brother does, her hatred for being taken away from her Baba, her squeals as she started to walk this past weekend, the way she tries to say “cheessssus” for Jesus, all of these echo in my heart. She’s on a journey with many paths, roads, and options. And we get to guide her. Such a gift! Such an incredible gift.

Happy birthday to my sweet baby girl! And happy birthday to me too! And now, enjoy a few photos from the last year with dear friends & family.



tiny babe

grand tia & nunu



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bigger and bigger

double trouble

tia & tio


tia & v




tio &tia




  1. Peg Conway on April 10, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Beautiful!!! Happy birthday to you both! Your wise words and lovely images evoke so many memories for me as our oldest (a boy) and middle (a girl) are only 20 months apart. My son felt the same way toward his sister, and I enforced similar expectations! Turned out ours have such different personalities, and the closeness of early childhood gave way to separateness, distance even, as they grew. Now they are young adults, and I delight in observing the continuing evolution of their relationship. They are not exactly close, but it’s clear that they care about each other. They keep in touch from their respective colleges and offer support to each other.

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 10, 2013 at 7:36 am

      I love hearing that! What a beautiful thing to behold–your child’s love for your other child. At this point with two it’s as though there are two parts of my heart walking on little legs and when they hug, my heart is full!!

  2. Susanna S. on April 10, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Happy Birthday! That is pretty cool. My first was born the day after her dad, but only by five hours. 🙂 Two is definitely better than one. Three is tougher, but I am hoping to find it is better also. 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

      5 hours shy of sharing a birthday! Maybe three gets easier when they’re a little older?

      Love your blog, by the way!

  3. sarah marie on April 10, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Your blog has such great content! Thanks for including links to past posts — makes it easier for a relative latecomer to your blog like myself to catch up on some of the good stuff. My Nell will be one in May… seems like just yesterday I was walking the neighborhood in labor with her. It makes me feel all choked up just thinking about how quickly it flies by, in retrospect.

    I especially like your numbers 7 & 8!

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

      I’m so glad you like it! Isn’t it amazing how quickly they turn one? And then they’ll be off to the prom before we know it.

      I love your blog too 🙂

  4. Alba on April 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Such great observations Nell! Buon compleanno ( happy bday)! What a delight to read your thoughts…especially in the wee hours while rocking my second child back to sleep. Especially agree with your comments on how two is FABULOUS! J’s 18 months, A’s 2 weeks and our home couldn’t be happier…very busy, but SO rewarding. And the sibling love blooming…what an incredible blessing! Can’t wait to visit (eventually). Looking forward to seeing KK later this month. Auguri a tutti (best always)!

    • Natural Mama Nell on April 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      I’m so so so happy for you guys!!! Looking so forward to meeting A! Two is so wonderful. I’m so glad you are doing well. Lots of prayers! Share your birth story with our Birth & Parenting Series if you’re up for it (in all your spare time).